CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- With Boston College's Thatcher Demko and Michigan State's Jake Hildebrand between the pipes, one might expect a low-scoring game on Friday night at Kelley Rink.
Well, dead wrong.
The teams combined for seven goals in the third period with the second-ranked Eagles emerging with their eighth straight win ― a 6-4 decision over the Big Ten Conference foe, visiting BC for the first time since 1996.
"In tonight's game, certainly two really good goaltenders," BC head coach Jerry York said. "There was relentless effort from both teams around the goal mouth, so there were more goals scored."
Junior Ryan Fitzgerald scored twice and added two assists for a career-high four points on BC's six goals. The Eagles, which had started 8-1 three times in the last five seasons, upped their mark by one with the win.
Hildebrand was the biggest star of the first period, making saves on all 17 shots he saw to keep the game scoreless. The Eagles took control of the game early on and finished the period with a 25-9 advantage in total shot attempts, but the senior stopper made his presence known on every test.
Freshman Miles Wood had one of the period's best chances in its latter half. With about six minutes to play, Hildebrand managed to flash his shoulder on Wood's shot from the right circle.
"The first period, we kind of weathered the storm," Spartans head coach Tom Anastos said. "I thought they had a really strong period and we were kind of expecting that, and I thought for us this was the fastest pace game we played this year."
BC broke the ice at the 4:30 mark of the second as freshman Colin White poked home the game's opening goal on a puck that sat free for an instant at the top of Hildebrand's crease.
Junior Matthew Gaudreau was credited with the primary assist after Fitzgerald created some strong offensive chances that led to the goal. The goal extended White and Gaudreau's point scoring streaks to five games apiece.
"They're an excellent team, which we knew coming in," Anastos said. "I liked a lot of things that we did, but didn't like falling behind. I liked how we fought to come back and give ourselves a chance."
The Spartans did not waste much time ― just 11 seconds, to be exact ― to level the score again as Blues prospect Mackenzie MacEachern rung pipe on a shot from the low slot that was a result of a nice feed from senior captain Michael Ferrantino.
White netted a highlight reel goal to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead at the 15:12 mark, letting a nifty backhander go from the bottom of the left circle. Off assists from Fitzgerald and senior Travis Jeke, the Hanover, Mass., native deposited his second goal of the night and sixth of the season over Hildebrand's blocker.
BC scored the first two goals of the final frame to take what seemed like a commanding 4-1 lead, but the visitors scored three goals in less than three minutes in the period's middle stages to tie the score once again.
Fitzgerald put the Eagles up by a 3-1 count at 1:29, stepping ahead of the defense, deking Hildebrand to the ice and tucking the puck inside the left post.
Sophomore Alex Tuch scored his second goal in three games at 12:13, coasting ahead for a breakaway goal that found the back of the net from right between the circles.
"I thought Michigan State showed a lot of resolve, down 4-1 away from home with not much time left in the game," York said. "They got right back and made a terrific run at us. ... There's always lessons to be learned through the season, and certainly that was one of them."
Junior J.T. Stenglein brought the Spartans within two on a top shelf snapper at 12:43 before freshman Brennan Sanford took advantage of a defensive misplay at the doorstep 14 seconds later.
The Spartans knotted the score at 14:15 as freshman Mason Appleton was left alone at the goal crease to cash in on a rebound. Ferrantino's initial shot bounced off the end board and right onto the winger's stick for the goal.
"I thought we were getting better as the game went on, frankly," Anastos said. "I thought we played a pretty darn good second period even though the score wasn't in our favor after the period. But I like the character of our team, and I thought it showed in situations tonight."
MSU junior assistant captain Joe Cox took a costly penalty at 17:04, and the Eagles' power play went to work and came through with the go-ahead goal just over a minute later.
At 18:06, Wood redirected junior linemate Austin Cangelosi from high in the offensive zone for his fourth goal of the season and first career game-winner.
BC added a cushion at 18:56 as Fitzgerald filled the empty net with a long shot from the left side, officially completing the comeback in what turned out to be a very tough test.
"It was almost like a heavyweight bout," York said. "We talked to our players about it. We took a pretty good punch, got knocked down and were reeling late in the game. But we came back and showed some resolve of our own. I feel good about our club tonight."