The Michigan State hockey team operates a little differently than the other sports on campus. While the other sports get to sing the fight song after victories, the hockey team can only sing once a series sweep has been achieved. In the last season of the CCHA last year and the beginning of B1G hockey this season, the Spartans had never once gotten to do the fight song after a league series. That changed this weekend as Michigan State picked up it's first two B1G victories in sweeping the Penn State Nittany Lions at Munn Ice Arena.
Friday night saw Butler, Pa. native Jake Hildebrand dominate the Nittany Lions, making 48 stops en route to a 3-0 shutout victory. Not many of the Penn State shots were grade A scoring chances, as the Lions were down almost the whole game and were firing shots from everywhere. Even with the chances not being dangerous, it was great to see Hildebrand rewarded for how well he has played since the first month of the season. The scoring was carried by the senior line of Dean Chelios, Greg Wolfe, and Lee Reimer. Each forward had a goal Friday night, with Chelios getting the game winner, and each senior also got 2 assists on the night.
Saturday night saw the Spartans improve to 8-1 when scoring three goals, as they defeated the Nittany Lions 3-2. Shots were more even on Saturday night, 32-31 in MSU's favor, and twice, the Nittany Lions fought back to tie the game. The Spartans opened the scoring on a backhand shot by Michael Ferrantino just 1:33 into the game. A late scramble in the defensive zone led to a tip-in goal for Penn State forward Taylor Holstrom. Junior Tanner Sorenson, playing in his 3rd game in a row after missing time between suspension and healthy scratches, scored his 1st goal of the season at 7:06 of the second period. Sorenson had 13 goals and 21 points last season and could be a contributor for the Spartans down the stretch, if he can stay in the line-up.
The Spartans entered the 3rd period with a lead for the 5th consecutive game. Just like last weekend against Ohio State, the Spartans lost their lead early in the final frame,as Penn State scored a power play goal at just 1:18 of the 3rd. The Spartans showed some growth however, as, unlike in Columbus, they took the lead back in regulation with Lee Reimer tipping home the game winning goal just over two minutes after Penn State had tied the game. Michigan State withstood 13 shots in the 3rd and Reimer won a key defensive face-off with 21 seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Spartans. With the 6 points this weekend the Spartans jumped idle Michigan for 3rd place in the B1G, 2 points back of 2nd place Wisconsin and 12 points back of leader Minnesota
Looking Back At The 3 Key's For MSU Success
- Quick Start- Michigan State did this both nights, jumping out to early first period leads. Penn State has struggled all season playing from behind, as they are now 1-9-1 when trailing after the first period. With Jake Hildebrand seeing the puck as well as he is right now, if the Spartans can get off to quick starts, they can have a successful B1G conference season.
- Power Play- Friday Michigan State did not get one power play opportunity, as all three penalties called were against the Spartans. Saturday the Spartans went 0-4 including not scoring on a 5 minute power play in the 3rd period. This could have been costly as the Spartans were up 3-2 and were handed a good chance to put the game away. The power play has been a weak spot all season long and likely won't get to the 20% mark where you would like to see it.
- Depth- Last weekend against the Buckeyes it was the 2nd line of Matt Bery, Joe Cox and Mike Ferrantino carrying the offense. This weekend it was the senior 1st line that scored 4 of the 6 Spartan goals. Depth is starting to shine through for Michigan State, as will be needed for the stretch run. The all freshman 3rd line of Haag, Ebbing and MacEachern hasn't scored in 4 games and that is a little concerning. However, the last time that line scored was against this week's upcoming opponent, the Michigan Wolverines.
Around the B1G: Michigan and Wisconsin were both idle this past weekend. Minnesota swept Ohio State 1-0, 4-2.
Next Up: Michigan State will play a Thursday-Friday series against arch-rivals Michigan. The games will be Nos. 296 and 297 in a series that stretches back to 1922. The Spartans recorded their 127th victory against the Wolverines in the 3rd place game of the GLI 3-0. That means that, between Spartan hockey and basketball, there are 3 straight days pitting MSU vs. Michigan. It's hate week, folks. Enjoy it.