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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Men's Hockey 5, Michigan State 3

State of recovery


Friars rally to bump MSU in eventful third period


DETROIT- At 13:18 of the second period, on its 65th shot of the tournament, Providence College broke its weekend-long goose egg. Freshman Kyle MacKinnon guided a blocked shot by Cody Wild out of his own end and broke for a two-on-one with senior captain Jon Rheault.



McKinnon’s snapper from the near circle wiped the near post and plopped onto the back half of the crease, where Rheault arrived to bury his team-leading ninth strike of the season and knot the Friars with Michigan State, 1-1.



Later, two minutes after John Cavanagh re-knotted the game, Rheault kindled a go-ahead goal that effectively paced his associates to a cathartic 5-3 triumph in the consolation game of the Great Lakes Invitational.



MacKinnon, one of Rheault’s fast-blossoming understudies, joined him in the multi-goal club when he tossed in the eventual winner and an empty netter.



“I was proud of the way we responded from last night,” said Rheault. “We played well last night, had some good chances, but we didn’t really stick with it. Tonight, that was different. We stuck with it the whole game this time."



Goaltender Tyler Sims, despite taking the bulk of Friday’s 6-0 Michigan scorching, got the nod once more Saturday. MSU would be less constricted breaking into his property, but found a generally more alert crease custodian than the Wolverines had.



The Spartans, somewhat drained from their 4-1 arm wrestling falter to Michigan Tech in Friday’s nightcap, authorized an early shooting edge for the Friars. PC toned down the rabidity it had displayed against Michigan, but nonetheless sculpted a 9-4 shooting edge by the seventeenth minute of Saturday’s action and eased Sims into the action more consistently.



Citing the three-week deceleration for exams, head coach Tim Army said, “For a goalie, it’s most difficult for them, so it was a little bit of rust for Tyler, and for a goalie it’s difficult not to see a lot of action.



“He came right back tonight, managed the game really well, and gave us all a chance to get back on track."



But at first, shortly after Wild’s adventurous near-miss in the MSU slot, PC’s last bid of the period, the seasoned, ring-bearing Spartans broke out –visually and statistically. They sprinkled six unanswered stabs within the final 3:30 of the opening frame and seized the upper hand at the 19:04 mark.



Finally able to settle an attack, far side pointman Ryan Turek tapped a lateral feed to his defensive associate Justin Johnston.



Johnston’s subsequent boomer rang the boards and landed in the clutch of winger Chris Mueller, who laced it around the cage to Dustin Gazley



Gazley, who one shift previous had a close shave similar to Wild’s, dropped a simple flicker over the head-spun Sims’ mitt.



Sims fused his borders to resist four bullets on a penalty kill early in the second, after which the Friars authorized four more Spartan shots whilst whittling away at mighty mite stopper Jeff Lerg with comparably more bite. By their second adjournment to the locker room, they held a 24-18 edge on that front and had pulled even in key category.



Returning to yet another fresh sheet, though, MSU flipped the tables once more to regain the edge at 1:11 of the third. Matt Schepke froze a loose clearing attempt at the far outer has marks and shipped it to Michael Ratchuk at the center point. Ratchuk’s trickling attempt was guided home by a screening Nick Sucharski.



A blinding salvo –at least for the contesting stoppers- ensued. Providence outshot the Spartans 21-12 through the closing stanza and gave its petite contingent of fans another round of CPR with 12:11 remaining.



Off a draw to the right of Lerg, PC’s Austin Mayer tapped the disc back to Matt Taormina at the far point. Monitoring Taormina’s nimble blast to the cage, Cavanagh was stationed at the backdoor to lob home a backhander.



“What we did better tonight was we stayed with our game a little bit more,” said Army. “Even when we fell behind late in the first, we came out in the second a lot more poised composed and kept at it.



“Jon’s goal got us on track. You could feel it really lifted our bench. And even when we fell behind again in the third we just stuck to what we need to do well and we got rewarded with the tying goal (again).”



With 10:12 remaining, Rheault accepted Wild’s breakout feed and bolted down the near alley to the MSU goal line. Reaching that depth, he turned to the slot to find Greg Collins, whose rebound skipped past Lerg before Rheault polished the play.



With little more than four minutes left, MacKinnon extracted the puck from a scrum and hustled loose on an end-to-end rush with Pierce Norton hanging back. A quick back-and-forth exchange resulted in a 4-2 edge.



Such an effort proved vital in the final minute when Matchuk and Schepke recollaborated to cut their deficit. Matchuk beamed down the Broadway lane to insert a diving tip-in of Schepke’s feed. But PC stifled MSU’s six-pack attack thereafter before MacKinnon made the facile insurance strike in the game’s waning seconds.

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