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IceBreaker: Maine, Michigan State Draw Even in Wild Special Teams Affair

Blaine Byron
Blaine Byron
Matt Dewkett

Portland, Maine -- For fans of special teams, the second game of Friday's IceBreaker Tournament between Maine and Michigan State was a thing of beauty. Fans witnessed four power play goals, including one with an extra attacker, a shorthanded goal and just one tally at even strength.

The game will go in the books as a 3-3 tie, but the Black Bears won in a shootout for tournament purposes only thanks to Steven Swavely's forehand winner on the final attempt.

Both coaches, Michigan State's Tom Anastos and Maine's Red Gendron, noted the lack of flow to the game due to the incredible amount of penalties called.

"I thought it was a pretty good game. Both teams competed really hard. It was difficult to get in any flow, per se, because of all the special teams play," said Anastos.

"When you've got to kill 11 [penalties], it's not ideal," added Gendron, who subtly referenced the amount of penalties called several times during the press conference.

The Black Bears came out inspired, taking just 3:10 to give the home fans reason to cheer. Some nick puck movement on the power play by Eric Schurhamer and Sam Becker at the point led to open space for Blaine Byron, whose blast on net hit Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand right in the helmet. Will Merchant swooped in to quickly bury the rebound for a 1-0 lead.

"Those are tough shots to handle when it hits the goalie in the head. It went right to the guy and he made a nice play," said Anastos.

Undisciplined play by Maine later in the period allowed the Spartans to knot the score at one after the first 20 minutes. MSU couldn't capitalize on the 5x3, but finally cashed in on the one man advantage when Maine goaltender Matt Morris was without a stick and his defense scrambling in front of him. Zach Osburn's shot from the point cleanly beat Morris at the 15:13 mark.

Maine took a 2-1 lead with 9:20 remaining in the second period after picking up momentum on a power play. The Black Bears hit the post and crossbar on the preceding man advantage, but couldn't capitalize. Less than a minute after the Spartans regained full strength, the Black Bears found the net. Eric Schurhamer patiently waited for a MSU player to go down before intentionally sending a puck wide of the net to Brian Morgan who tipped it home.

For the second time in the game, a Maine offensive zone penalty led to a power play goal for the Spartans. MSU's puck movement had Maine defenders out of position. Joe Cox buried a juicy rebound off a J.T. Stenglein shot from the right side.

After giving up two shorthanded goals earlier in the game, something good finally happened for Maine on the penalty kill. Cam Brown jumped on a loose puck and went on a two-on-one rush with Blaine Byron. Brown sent a perfectly timed saucer pass across to Byron who blasted it home.

Zach Osburn scored his second goal of the game with 1:09 left, the third power play tally of the game for the Spartans, to even the score, 3-3. The goal came after a questionable interference call to Blaine Byron that sent the junior right back to the box seconds after his first penalty expired.

Michael Ferrantino, Cody Milan and Stenglein came up empty for the Spartans in the shootout. Nolan Vesey and Byron were denied for the Black Bears before the heroics of Swavely.

Morris stopped 33 shots for the Black Bears and left his coach impressed with his composure and ability to stay mentally tough after giving up the tying goal.

"Matt Morris is over there by himself and no matter what happened, he just kept playing. That was really cool. Matt Morris gives up a power play goal and they tie the game in the last minute, but then he makes it real easy in the shootout. As a coach, I look at that and the mentality to do that and I think it's pretty cool," said Gendron.

"Matt Morris played a nice game. Before they finally scored a power play goal, he made some huge saves. He made some great saves on the five-on-three," Gendron continued.

"I thought their goalie played a real strong game," Anastos added of his team's opposing goalie.

Hildebrand, a preseason candidate for the Mike Richter Award, made 26 saves for the Spartans.

Michigan State will face Lake Superior in the first game on Saturday while Maine and North Dakota will meet in the nightcap.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.