Spartans' Effort Rankles Coach
by James V. Dowd/CHN Reporter
DETROIT This time around, Michigan State coach Rick Comley's mood wasn't quite so optimistic at the podium after the Spartans 5-2 CCHA semifinal loss to Michigan.
Comley's team has met their instate rival six times this season, going 2-3-1 against the Wolverines, but has always appeared ever confident, even after a close loss or a tie.
It has been several years since Michigan has been able to pull off such a convincing victory, and Comley knows this is not the time of year to see your team falling by the wayside in a rivalry game.
"I told them to sit tight in that locker room until I get back because this is disappointing," Comley said. "I want to make sure some people are accountable for costing us some goals here. I don't want to leave this building. I told them not to turn their cell phones on and put them in their hip pocket, because right now they are going to talk to me."
Comley realizes that a loss tomorrow could jeopardize his team's NCAA tournament berth, where a win would likely lock them in and knows his team has lessons to learn from tonight.
Having seen Lake Superior State play with a renewed passion in recent weeks, Comley knows his former team — he both played for and coached the Lakers — will certainly not lay down and die in their seniors' last game.
"Our season's not over," Comley said. "If we win tomorrow, we'll be in the national tournament, for sure, and depending on what happens around the country. So we have to play this game like it's a very big game for us tomorrow. We have to play this game like it's a very big game for us. We have got to put that disappointment behind us."
Just what were his players finding in their locker room self-examination?
According to captain Chris Lawrence, they realize they must minimize the mistakes which cost them dearly against a talented Michigan offense.
"You've got to give them credit," Lawrence said. "But we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and they were able to capitalize and put it in the back of the net. It was kind of too little too late."
Heading into tomorrow night's game however, will be an entirely different battle. Whereas Michigan is known for its speed, Lake Superior State is better known for a physical, defensive style of play.
Michigan State forward Justin Abdelkader credits Michigan with a strong forecheck which forced mistakes by the Spartan defensemen tonight.
"We didn't do what we wanted to do with the puck," Abdelkader said. "Against a team like they are, you can't really turn the puck over, especially with their race horses. They're going to jump both defensemen, sometimes one or two defensemen. So that's just playing right into their hands."
But if they can take one thing positive from tonight's loss, it would be the physical nature of their play — a part of the game they'll need to succeed against the Lakers.
Even if they can stand strong against Lake Superior State, Lawrence knows they must also improve puck handling in general to have a chance.
"I think we played fairly physical," Lawrence said. "We probably could have played a little bit more. But I think our lack of respect with the puck burned us four times."