It doesn't take advanced stats to find a quick reason as to why the Spartan hockey team was unable to earn a victory at home this weekend. They didn't score three goals. After a pair of 2-2 games this weekend, the Spartans are now 0-12-6 when scoring less than three goals in a game. Three, right now, is simply the magic number for this team and when you are saddled with the 53rd ranked offense in the country, that means you aren't going to be winning too many weekend series.
The Spartans offense is in the company of teams such as Sacred Heart, Army, Princeton, Merrimack and Alabama-Huntsville at the bottom of the NCAA in scoring. Even Penn State, a program playing in only its second season at the varsity level, scores more goals per game. Penn State's 2.29 goals per game isn't exactly great by any stretch but hey its better than 2.19. This is the second season in a row the Spartans have had an offense ranked in the 50s and the lack of a true. reliable scorer is evident.
Hockey isn't a game that has clear divisions of labor for its coaches. There is no distinct "offensive coordinator". If there was one for the Spartan hockey team, he should probably be getting his resume out there. Torey Krug isn't walking through the doors of Munn Arena to carry this team, like he did in coach Tom Anastos' first year. It is on the current staff to find some way to get the talent on the team to finish their chances, find ways to score and frankly find a way to help goaltender Jake Hildebrand. It isn't fair to ask a goaltender every single night to hold a team under 2 goals, not when you play in a league with 4 teams who average over 2.8 goals per game. This isn't the make or break year for this staff, but continued lack of offensive development for the second year running will make for an interesting 4th year in 2014-15.
The Spartans actually played a pretty good 45 minutes against the Buckeyes Friday night, outside of continued offensive struggles of course. The first period saw no scoring but featured some great back and forth chances between the teams. In the second period senior Lee Reimer struck first for the Spartans after one timing a pass from Greg Wolfe. It was a great individual play by Wolfe, who had a great weekend overall, winning a battle for the puck in the corner and finding Reimer wide open in front. The second period featured 14 shots for each team and was full of great saves by Hildebrand and Buckeye Christian Frey.
The third period started off well for the Spartans before it totally unraveled. Wolfe scored his first of three goals on the weekend on a beautiful 2 on 1. After a Buckeye defender couldn't hold the puck in at the blue line, Wolfe raced up the ice for a 2 on 1. He held the puck long enough to fool Frey into cheating towards a possible pass and then ripped a wrist shot that beat Frey glove side. That goal was one of only 6 shots the Spartans got on net in the period, which is good for 1/3 of the 18 shots the Buckeyes took.
The collapse for the Spartans took place with under 3 minutes to go. First Joe Cox took an interference penalty with 3:31 remaining. With the goalie pulled for the extra attacker Tanner Fritz had plenty of time and space to get open in the slot and rip a shot past a screened Hildebrand. With 39 seconds remaining a weak hooking call was made against Matt Berry to once again give the Buckeyes a 6 on 4 advantage. After winning an offensive zone face-off with 10 seconds remaining the Buckeyes transitioned the puck from the point to below the goal line. Nick Schilkey wrapped around the net and centered a pass that found its way to teammate Alex Szczechura who tied the game with only 1.7 seconds remaining. In the shootout Spartan Mike Ferrantino was the only Spartan to score in five rounds.
Ohio State at Michigan State - Men's Hockey Highlights (via bigtennetwork)
After a tough loss Friday, there seemed to be a hangover effect for the Spartans early on Saturday afternoon. Buckeye forward Matt Johnson finished off a 2 on 1, after blocking a Spartan shot in his zone, by beating Hildebrand with a backhand goal. Johnson's goal was one of 19 Buckeye shots in the period. With the help of the goal posts and the stellar play of Hildebrand, the Spartans were able to leave the period only down 1-0.
With the help of some Buckeye penalties and two amazing shots by Greg Wolfe, the Spartans were able to claim a 2-1 lead in the 2nd period. Wolfe scored on a slap shot 41 seconds into the period and at 18:46 of the period. Both goals were on the power play and were absolute bullets that Frey had no chance of stopping.
Unfortunately, just like Friday night, the Spartans could not hold onto their lead. A misplayed puck by Spartan defenseman John Draeger in the neutral zone led to a 2 on 1 break, which ended with Johnson scoring his second goal of the game for the Buckeyes. In the third period the Buckeyes once again outshot the Spartans by a landslide, 17-7, and the Spartans were lucky to get through overtime and to a shootout to guarantee themselves at least one point. Unfortunately, no Spartans could beat Frey and the Buckeyes won the shootout 1-0. So, the Spartans are now in 5th place in the B1G, 3 points back of the Buckeyes. It is looking very likely that these two teams will meet at the Xcel Energy Center in the 4-5 game at the B1G tournament.
Looking Back At The 3 Keys To Success
- Tame Ryan Dzingel- Held the B1G's leading scorer to only one point on the weekend. This was a much better effort than the torching Dzingel gave the Spartans in January.
- Net Traffic- The Spartans did not have enough net traffic and certainly didn't rattle Frey. All the Spartan goals were from outside shots.
- 2nd Line- The Cox-Ferrantino-Berry line was actually promoted to first line this weekend. No points were registered by the line as the Wolfe-Reimer-Keller line was the best all weekend. If the Spartans could get more than just one line contributing each weekend, they may register more than 3 goals consistently.
Around the B1G
Wisconsin swept top ranked Minnesota in a pair of 2-1 home victories. Penn State won their first B1G game ever beating Michigan Saturday 3-0, after losing to the Wolverines 7-3 Friday.
The Spartans will play their first ever series at Penn State next weekend.