For the first 34 minutes 20 seconds of action on Sunday the Michigan State Spartans looked like their were going to head into the holiday break frustrated. The Spartans had battled back twice from one-goal deficits, yet once again found themselves trailing 3-2 to the visiting Clarkson Golden Knights. A Clarkson team ranked 11th in the country in scoring defense (2.00 goals against/game) and that had scored three goals in a game just three times. Then, Ron Boyd found a wide open Joe Cox at the Clarkson blue line and fed Cox a pass from the Spartan zone to his stick. Cox entered the zone, stumbled momentarily and withstood a vicious two-handed baseball swing to the back before sliding the puck under Clarkson goaltender Ville Runola.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>This is the incident that resulted in a five-minute major for Clarkson... <a href="https://t.co/PKlBzvd1pL">https://t.co/PKlBzvd1pL</a></p>— Jashvina Shah (@icehockeystick) <a href="https://twitter.com/icehockeystick/status/544276978246103040">December 14, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Initially the ref signaled for a penalty shot while Cox lay in pain on the ice, having missed the puck slide across the goal line. After the play was reviewed, Cox had his first goal of the season, the game was tied and the Spartans had five minutes of uninterrupted power play time, as Tyko Karjalainen was assessed a major penalty for slashing. The Spartans would score twice on the ensuing power play (Cox and Thomas Ebbing) and would hold on for a 6-4 victory that looked in doubt for the first half of the game. All in all the Spartan power play connected for three goals on eight opportunities and three Spartans scored their first goals of the season.
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Looking back at the 3 keys to Spartan success
- Penalty Kill Rebound- After an awful weekend against Minnesota, the Spartan penalty kill returned to their successful ways. The best penalty kill is to avoid penalties and the Spartans only gave Clarkson 2 power play opportunities on the evening, holding the Golden Knights from scoring on each opportunity. The discipline showed was encouraging as Clarkson is an extremely physical team and some liberties were taken all night. If the Spartans can maintain that discipline all season it is extremely encouraging.
- Feed Mackenzie MacEachern- 0 points for the super sophomore and with Matt Berry out of the lineup you would think that spells doom for the Spartans. However, the depth scoring finally shined through as Joe Cox (2G, 1A) and Thomas Ebbing (1G, 1A) got their first goals. In the third period Ryan Keller (1G, 1A) scored his first of the season to extend the Spartan lead to 6-4 after Clarkson had pulled within a goal. The third line of Keller, Ebbing and Brent Darnell looked great all night and since the Spartans dressed seven defenseman and not a complete fourth line, when Connor Wood was able to find ice time he was great as well. Wood was robbed by Runola from scoring his first goal in the third period.
- Shots, Shots, Shots- Another game, another night with over 30 shots for the Spartans and they won the shot battle 31-24. That was also with a ton of blocked shots by the Golden Knights as they are an incredible defensive team who packs it in tight. This is a game the Spartans outplayed Clarkson for long stretches and is something to build on after the shootout win over Minnesota last weekend.