After a season that saw the Spartans finish towards the bottom of the country in offense, Tom Anastos' crew probably hoped for an offensive outburst this weekend to start the season off right. Unfortunately for the MSU hockey team, the season opening series at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst brought many of the same frustrations. The Spartans stand at 0-2 after losing 3-1 Friday night and 5-2 Saturday night at Mullins Arena.
Friday night's contest started off pretty encouraging for the Spartans. After the first period, MSU had outshot the Minutemen 15-10. To put that into context, the Spartans averaged only 25.6 shots per game last season leading Anastos to make shooting more often a focus this offseason. At 3:26 on the 2nd period, the theme of the weekend made its first appearance. Branden Gracel opened the scoring for the Minutemen on a power play, the first of 5 power play goals Amherst would score out of 13 opportunities on the weekend. The Spartans entered the third period trailing 2-0 after giving up a late even strength goal and pulled within one after senior Greg Wolfe scored with 7 minutes remaining. The Spartans would pull Jake Hildebrand for an extra attacker and give up an empty net goal to Gracel leading to the final score of 3-1.
On Saturday night, Anastos went to his goalie rotation by inserting senior Will Yanakeff between the pipes. The first period once again was the best period for the Spartans as they held two leads, 1-0 and 2-1, and outshot the Minutemen 14-9. Sophomore Michael Ferrantino opened the scoring for the Spartans 5 minutes in with a wrist shot from the slot. After Amherst scored their first of four (4!!) power play goals, Greg Wolfe answered with a 5 on 3 power play goal for the Spartans that held up for a 2-1 lead after one.
The second period left room for improvement for MSU and that's an understatement. The Spartans were outshot 14-8, surrendered three power play goals and an even strength goal and never got back into the game after leaving the ice trailing 5-2 after 2. Clearly a focus this week will have to be penalty killing after having a horrendous 61.5% kill rate. For a team that is so offensively challenged you simply cannot afford to allow opponents to score on nearly 40% of their man advantage opportunities.
Positives From The Weekend
- Both nights the team got above the 30 shot mark, recording 32 Friday and 33 Saturday
-Impressive to outshoot a home team in the first period both nights. That bodes well for the season as slow starts are even more daunting when confidence in scoring is not there
-Hildebrand starting off the season riding the momentum from his hot finish last season with 32 saves Friday night
- Senior Captain Greg Wolfe getting a goal each night. Last season's top 6 scorers were underclassman and senior scoring is a nice boost to see
B1G Hockey Recap
- Penn State was swept on the road at Air Force, Wisconsin was beat 9-2 Friday by Boston College and 7- 3 Saturday by Boston University. Minnesota swept Bemidji State at home, Michigan traveled to New Hampshire and earned a tie and win, and Ohio State had the weekend off.
The Spartans continue the B1G-Hockey East Challenge with two games at Munn Ice Arena October 25-26. Friday brings the scuffling preseason No. 1 team Massachusetts Lowell (1-3) into East Lansing. On Saturday, Boston University rolls into town after playing in Ann Arbor on Friday.