Jan. 3, 2009

Courtesy of Michigan State

EAST LANSING, MI - Michigan State scored twice in the final four minutes of regulation to post a big 2-1 victory over visiting Alaska on Friday night at Munn Arena. Dustin Gazley and Daultan Leveille each had a goal and an assist, while Jeff Lerg made 35 saves to post MSU's second victory in three games. The win also snaps a eight-game losing streak in CCHA games for the Spartans, who are now 6-12-3, 3-8-2-2 overall. Alaska is now 9-6-4, 7-5-3-2 in conference play. The teams will face off tomorrow at Munn Arena in a 7 p.m. puck drop.

MSU's goals came from the duo of Gazely and Leveille in the waning minutes of the game, turning a frustrating offensive effort into a victory for the Spartans. Leveille's goal came on a power play, just seconds after what appeared to be a tying goal for MSU; Gazley's tally was not only a bit of redemption for a snakebitten winger, but came as the Spartans worked hard in their offensive zone after losing a faceoff. MSU also killed off a penalty against Jeff Petry in the final 1:44 of the game to preserve the 2-1 victory.

Alaska opened the scoring with a goal at 17:16 of the opening period, on its 14th shot of the night. Defenseman Joe Sova launched a slapshot from the left point that was going just wide, but the puck ricocheted off an MSU defender in front and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Nanook lead at the first intermission.

The Spartans drew a five-minute power play early in the second frame, as Scott Enders was whistled for hitting Andrew Conboy from behind at 2:44. At 3:11, the Spartans went up two men when Adam Naglich was called for hooking, but MSU couldn't get anything past Johnson and the Nanook defense.

Alaska had its own five-on-three chance at 15:29, as Andrew Conboy (contact to the head-elbowing) and Brandon Gentile (cross-checking) were in the box together for 1:44. The Spartans killed the advantage, but Conboy was sent back to the box at 17:30 for boarding; MSU killed off that penalty as well and maintained the one-goal deficit into the second intermission.

MSU started the third period strong, with two good scoring chances; Dustin Gazely was thwarted on a two-on-one when he attempted to toedrag across the top of the crease, and Petry had a nice slapshot from the top of the right circle.

Alaska continued to pepper Lerg with shots, but the senior netminder held his ground and kept it a one-goal affair. MSU pressed in the other end as well, but Lerg's counterpart Johnson was just as solid in his own crease. The Spartans got a late power-play chance when Derek Klassen was whistled for contact to the head-roughing at 14:28. They had a great chance with just 12 seconds left, when Ben Warda had a shot on the doorstep that went to replay to confirm whether it went in, but Johnson managed to hold it over the line and play continued.

Just nine seconds later - and with three seconds remaining in the man advantage - the Spartans got the equalizer. Gazely had the puck behind the net and put it in front to the goalie's right, and Leveille backhanded it from the far post for his sixth goal of the season.

The same line connected less than 90 seconds later to give the Spartans their first lead of the game - this time, it was Gazely getting the marker off an assist from Leveille.

Lerg was again outstanding, making 35 saves. Johnson made 25 for the Nanooks.

NOTES: The Spartans snapped an eight-game winless streak in conference games and won at home for the first time since Oct. 31, a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan ... The Spartans have now won two of their last three games after an 11-game winless streak haunted their pre-holiday schedule ... MSU failed to score first for the first time in six games ... The Spartans held the Nanooks off the boar d in five power play chances ... Lerg has averaged 38 saves per game over his last six outings (228 saves) ... Matt Schepke's four-game goal-scoring streak came to an end ... Daultan Leveille ranks second on the team in goals (6) and third in points (10) ...