In a series sweep over Princeton, the Spartan hockey team showed signs of offensive talent that hadn't been seen in 2 years. In a tie and loss against top ranked Minnesota, the Spartans played toe to toe with an elite team and were not intimidated. It was looking like there was some excitement in the program again, a great sign heading into the holiday break. However, in their last game before the break, the Spartans were suffocated by the 4th ranked Ferris State Bulldogs in a 2-0 loss at home Saturday night.
The Spartans were held to an unacceptable 16 shots on net and went 0 for 6 on the power play. The power play that had shown signs of life the past two weekends, reverted back to early season form. It brought about the return of the 4 forward-1 defenseman power play line combination. However, this combination brought no more of a threat to the man advantage, as shots were blocked, sent wide or never even attempted. Multiple times on the power play the Spartans couldn't break out of their own zone or entered the zone offsides, bringing play to a halt.
Ferris State got the scoring started in the first period with a goal by Chad McDonald. Spartan freshman defensemen Brock Krygier lost his stick on the play, and attempted to kick the puck behind the net. Ferris forward Kenny Babinski tipped the puck before Krygier could get to it, to a wide open McDonald in the slot, who wristed a shot past Jake Hildebrand. The game continued to not have much going offensively, as both teams were held to under 8 shots in the period. Michigan State had three consecutive power plays in the first period, but could only generate one quality scoring chance on those power plays.
In the second period the Spartans had to deal with some adversity three minutes into the frame. Matt DeBlouw was whistled for a 5 minute major for boarding, giving the Bulldogs 5 minutes of a man advantage. This call was controversial, as it was extremely similar to a hit taken by Jake Chelios earlier in the game. On the Chelios hit, Bulldog Kyle Scempp was given a minor penalty for boarding. I believe both calls warranted a two minute minor and to see the refs treat the two hits differently was disappointing. On the ensuing 5 minute power play the Bulldogs scored their 2nd goal of the night. After Justin Hoomaian made a weak clearing attempt on his backhand, Bulldog defenseman Ryan Lowney fed the puck down low to Gerald Mayhew. Mayhew walked out from the corner and passed to a wide open Justin Buzzeo in front, who banged home his 8th goal of the season.
With seven minutes remaining the Spartans were given a 5 on 3 advantage for a full minute. There was a lot of passing on the perimeter and one shot that went wide of the net. In fact the Spartans never got a shot on net during the five on three, and had zero shots after the first penalty expired as well. For the second week, in a row the Spartans were held to three shots in a period, the 2nd period against Ferris and the 1st period last Saturday against Minnesota.
The third period saw no Spartan power plays (which may not be a bad thing) and no goals on either side. Ferris had the highest shot total by either team, in any period, by outshooting the Spartans 8-7. The final tally in shots were Ferris 22 shots to the Spartans 16. To put the games 38 shots into perspective, the national leader in shots per game, Minnesota, averages 36.8 shots per contest. This was a defensively tight game, which fits what Bob Daniels' teams like to play and stymied the improving Spartans' offense. The Bulldogs were handed two mistakes by the Spartans and buried their chances. That was the difference in the game, as the Spartans finish the first half of the season with a 5-9-1 record.
Looking Back at the 3 keys to MSU's success:
- Time of Possession: This went poorly for the Spartans. When they had zone time they had trouble getting shots on net, with many shots blocked or going wide. Ferris played a strong defensive game and did not give the Spartans any great scoring chances.
- Jake Hildebrand: Hildebrand played well and can't be blamed on either Ferris goal. He continues to look better than he did early in the season. Now he needs help, with the Spartans not turning the puck over in such dangerous spots.
- Discipline: The Spartans once again surrendered a power play goal. While I don't agree with the 5 minute major call on DeBlouw it did prove costly for his team.
Next Up: The Spartans will not be in action again until Friday December 27. The Spartans will be playing the 49th annual Great Lakes Invitational with the Michigan Tech Huskies, Michigan Wolverines and Western Michigan Broncos. The Spartans open play at 3:30 PM against the Huskies. The Huskies swept the Spartans earlier this season in Houghton 3-0, 3-2 (OT). This year, the GLI will be played outdoors at Comerica Park, as a part of the Winter Festival leading up to the NHL's Winter Classic.