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Hockey Series Wrap-Up: New Hampshire Wildcats

The Spartans miss out on the chance to earn a road sweep

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Hockey is a fickle and perplexing sport. One night you get outshot 45-20 but win because you have a 20% shooting percentage and the next night you win the shot battle 24-21 but are blown off the ice. That was the story this weekend for the Michigan State hockey team, as they went on the road to Durham, New Hampshire and split their series with the New Hampshire Wildcats. The team continues to score much more frequently than last season's squad and even scored a power play goal each night. Progress is being made but until they can put a whole weekend together it's hard to get too high of hopes this season, Then again, with the B1G looking like it may only have one great team and a bunch of mediocre teams, the chance is there for the Spartans to raise their ceiling as well.

Friday Night Michigan State 4, New Hampshire 3

New Hampshire Wildcats vs. Michigan State Spartans
3 Goals 4
45 Shots 20
1/5 Power Play 1/3

Tyler Kelleher (2, 3), Grayson Downing (3)

Goal Scorers

Travis Walsh (2), Michael Ferrantino (PPG 2,3)

Mackenzie MacEachern (SHG, 3)

The Spartans utilized a fast start to the game Friday night and held on through a barrage of third period shots to earn the victory. After not scoring in 80 career games, defenseman Travis Walsh made it back-to-back games with a goal when he scored 3:30 into the first period. Walsh took a heavy slap shot from the point that bounced into the air and fell back down off the back of goaltender Adam Clark into the net. A little over five minutes later, while on the power play, the Spartans used great down low passing to double their lead. Joe Cox utilized the boards behind the New Hampshire goal to bounce a pass to Matt Berry, who turned and forced a pass quickly to a streaking Michael Ferrantino, who put home his second goal of the season.

New Hampshire would answer before the end of the period on a power play goal of their own. Great low to high  passing in the zone led to a cross zone pass from the defenseman to a forward open down low. Jake Hildebrand made a great sliding save, however the rebound fell to a wide open Tyler Kelleher in the slot who made no mistake putting the goal away with just 38 seconds remaining in the period. New Hampshire then knotted the game at two less than five minutes into the second period  when Matt Willows split the flat footed Spartan defensemen to go in on a breakaway. Once again Hildebrand made the initial save but could not stop Grayson Downing from putting home the rebound. The Spartans regained the lead when the New Hampshire goaltender turned the puck over on a power play, passing it directly to Mackenzie MacEachern, who then shot a rising puck over the goaltender's shoulder for a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.

The Spartans were outshot in the final frame 19-4 but did score on one of their four shots. Ferrantino scored his second goal of the night on a 3-on-2 rush where he goes to the net hard and finishes on the backhand after a beautiful pass from Cox. This goal came a mere three minutes after Hildebrand made probably the save of the season so far (2:30 mark on the video below). New Hampshire would answer with their third goal exactly one minute after Ferrantino's when Kelleher redirected a puck out of the air and after a review the goal was deemed not to be played with a high stick.

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Saturday Night New Hampshire 5, Michigan State 2

New Hampshire vs. Michigan State
5 Goals 2
21 Shots 24
0/2 Power Play 1/3

Andrew Poturalski (3) Matt Willows (3)

Tyler Kelleher (4), Dan Correale (2)

Grayson Downing (4 ENG)

Goal Scorers

Mackenzie MacEachern (4)

Michael Ferrantino (PPG 4)

Saturday night's game appeared to be far less open than Friday nights, with far fewer shots on goal. The first period ended with New Hampshire leading 1-0 on a great passing play goal when Tyler Kelleher skated into the zone, faked a shot freezing Hildebrand and then fed a pass across the zone to Andrew Poturalski who had an empty net to shoot into. The Spartans responded early in the second when, just over two minutes into the period, Mackenzie MacEachern once again jumped on a Wildcat defensive miscue, picking the puck up after a defenseman missed it and put a wrist shot home to tie the game. The Spartans actually were able to get the lead when on the power play Michael Ferrantino would score on a wrist shot from the side of the net. The goal from a bad angle was Ferrantino's third of the weekend.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, they could not hold on for the weekend sweep. Later in the second Matt Willows and Kelleher scored just two minutes apart from each other. Willows' goal was on a breakaway started by a pass of the boards while Kelleher put away a goal in the slot from a no look between the legs pass by  Warren Foegele. In the third the Spartans would come close to tying it up when JT Stenglein rang a shot off the post. Less than thirty seconds later Dan Correale scored for the Wildcats and the game was essentially over. Add in an empty net goal and you get another series split, as the Wildcats defended their home ice winning 5-2.

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Looking back at the 3 keys to success

  1. Gap Control- Saturday night a few New Hampshire goals were scored off of odd man rushes where gap control was a minor issue. Overall not a bad weekend on a big ice surface.
  2. Get A Lead- Great start Friday night to rattle the freshman goaltender and the Spartans battled back to get a lead Saturday. However, they could never stretch the lead to two goals like they had Friday night.
  3. Jake Hildebrand- Seven goals on the weekend doesn't look great, although I'd say none of the goals were bad goals to give up. Hildebrand held them in the game Friday night and was a big reason the team got a series split.
Around the B1G
Minnesota continues to be the only great team, as the top ranked Gophers swept Notre Dame at home 5-0, 4-2. Ohio State blew a 3-1 lead Saturday night to be swept by Nebraska Omaha 4-1, 4-3. A rebuilding Wisconsin dropped to 0-6 on the season, as they were swept by #2 North Dakota 4-3, 5-1.
Next Up
The Spartans play one game next week, against Boston College Friday night at Munn Arena. The Eagles (4-4) will fall from their #3 perch this week after losing to Connecticut 1-0 and Boston University 5-3.