Hockey Weekend: Ugly But Productive

Sparty fights to stay awake watching Spartan hockey - Kevin C. Cox

Spartans take 5 of a possible 6 points in poorly played series with Penn State

It was ugly, frustrating, mind-numbing boring and all too familiar of a weekend for the Michigan State Spartans hockey team. This weekend was different in two ways; the Spartans won their first road game and they found a way to win a game they scored less than three goals in. It was far from a good weekend and is probably the worst B1G series since the Spartans were swept by Michigan. Jake Hildebrand continues to be the only consistent player on the entire roster and frustration with Tom Anastos' guidance of the program seems to be picking up steam. On a weekend where the rest of the nation was captivated by Team USA's hockey performance in Sochi, Spartan fans were subjected to more of the boring hockey they have come to know the last two seasons.

Through all that there is something to be said with playing poorly and still getting positive results. Good teams do it all the time (you could say Minnesota did this playing Michigan State) and the Spartans were able to grind out 5 points on the weekend, leaving them just one point out of third place. The Spartans have played in close games all season where bounces didn't go their way and have taken their fair share of losses where they possibly deserved a better outcome. This weekend the reverse happened as the Spartans were given positive outcomes in games that they were outplayed in.

Friday Night 2-2 Tie (MSU wins shootout 1-0)

Penn State vs Michigan State
2 Goals 2
27 Shots 34
1/5 Power Play 0/6
DeRosa (5), Richard (3) Scorers Reimer (6) Ferrantino (8)

While Friday night will go down as a tie, it was the better game on the weekend for the Spartans. Michigan State outshot the Nittany Lions 34-27, carried the pace of play for long stretches of time and didn't give Penn State many great scoring chances. The Spartans took the lead in the second period after a great effort play by captain Greg Wolfe. As a Spartan penalty was expiring Wolfe pressured a Nittany Lion defenseman and forced a turnover into the neutral zone. Fellow Senior Lee Reimer picked up the puck in the neutral zone and scored on a breakaway, beating Matthew Skoff low on the blocker side. It was great recognition by Reimer knowing that Skoff is a stand up goalie who doesn't like to get into the butterfly position (covering the low part of the net) and shooting the puck where it would be difficult for Skoff to make a save.

The second period was even the whole way, save for a two minute stretch where the Nittany Lions scored their two goals. Four minutes after Reimer had put the Spartans on the board, Penn State winger Ricky DeRosa scored on a pretty pass from leading scorer Eric Scheid. Scheid forced Spartan defenseman John Draeger to make a defensive turnover, skated into the zone and made a drop pass into the slot for DeRosa. DeRosa held the puck until Hildebrand had gone into the butterfly and ripped a wrist shot past the glove of Hildebrand. Just a mere minute later, winger Dylan Richard got the puck on his stick, after a fortunate bounce and was able to score his 3rd goal of the season into a wide open net. With the Spartans on the penalty kill the Nittany Lions won a faceoff back to their defenseman, who took a shot that glanced off Draeger's leg (tough weekend) and the puck went to Richard at the side of the net. With Hildebrand already sprawled out for the initial shot, this may be one of the easiest goals Richard will ever score.

It looked like the Spartans were going to be the second B1G victory in a row for the Nittany Lions as Skoff was shutting the door on all chances in the third period. However, with four minutes remaining the Spartans took advantage of a bad play by a Penn State defensemen leading to the tying goal. Matt Berry and Mike Ferrantino came into the zone on a two on one as Berry took a perfect shot that went off the goalies pads to a wide open Ferrantino, who finished the rebound for his 8th goal on the campaign. The teams played an uneventful overtime and offensive futility carried over into the shootout as neither team scored for 6 rounds. In the top of the 7th Spartan Brent Darnell was finally able to beat Skoff, followed by Hildebrand making his 7th stop, meaning the Spartans would get their 4th shootout victory and the extra point.

Michigan State at Penn State - Men's Hockey Highlights (via bigtennetwork)

Saturday Night 2-1 Win

Penn State vs Michigan State
1 Goals 2
29 Shots 13
0/2 Power Play 0/3
Koudys (2) Scorers Cox (6) Berry (6)

That is not a misprint folks. The Michigan State Spartans, a Division 1 varsity hockey team were only able to muster 13 shots on goal in a regulation game. This stat is made worse by the fact that in the first period the Spartans only had 3 shots and followed that up with 2 shots in the 2nd period. Now maybe the Spartans were fatigued as this game started only 16 hours after their last game had ended (although same conditions for Penn State), but that is a level of awful that is unlikely to be matched.

The highlights in this game (outside of describing how awesome Jake Hildebrand is) are pretty light. Penn State scored their lone goal just 43 seconds into the game. That was the only goal in the game until freshman Joe Cox scored a lucky goal for the Spartans at 10:19 of the second period. Cox was trying to send a pass to the front of the net but it instead hit a Nittany Lion defender and snuck past Skoff. It looked like the Spartans were heading to their fourth overtime game in a row until Cox once again made a great play. Cox entered the offensive zone with just over 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd period. He made a great toe drag to elude a defender and sent a wrist shot towards the net. Matt Berry was in front for the Spartans and batted the puck past Skoff for the game winning goal. The Spartans had to survive some great chances with the Penn State goalie pulled and due to the fact that they couldn't score into the empty net, the Spartans won their first game when scoring less than 3 goals.

Spartans beat Penn State 2-1 (via MSUSpartanAthletics)

Looking Back At The Three Keys To Spartan Success

  1. Score 3 Goals- Didn't happen either night. The Spartans are now 1-12-7 when scoring less than three.
  2. Depth- The Spartans did get scoring from two different lines on the weekend. The Cox-Ferrantino-Berry line had three while the Wolfe-Reimer-Keller line had one goal. For the first time in forever Tom Anastos broke up the all freshman Haag-MacEachern-Ebbing line on Saturday. MacEachern and Keller swapped places as Keller played with Haag and Ebbing.
  3. Control The 1st Period- In neither game did the Spartans start fast. Saturday they surrendered a goal 43 seconds in. They let Penn State stay in the game all weekend and were lucky to leave with 5 points.

Around The B1G

GP Record S.O. Wins Points
Minnesota 14 10-2-2 0 32
Wisconsin 14 8-5-1 0 25
Ohio State 14 5-6-3 2 20
Michigan 12 6-5-1 1 20
Michigan State 14 3-5-6 4 19
Penn State 12 1-10-1 0 4

Minnesota swept Michigan at home this past weekend and Wisconsin earned a split at Ohio State

Bonus Olympic B1G Hockey Update: Team USA is 3-0 and has been seeing contributions from B1G players. Phil Kessel (Minnesota) had a hat trick in the Americans' 5-1 win over Slovenia Sunday. Joe Pavelski (Wisconsin) had a goal in the game against Russia on Saturday and Ryan Miller (Michigan State) earned the victory in net over Slovenia.

Next Up: This weekend the Spartans travel to Wisconsin for a weekend series.

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