This Michigan State hockey team is a hard team to cover. There is plenty of effort, the players have certainly not quit, yet they are not talented enough to compete in the B1G. An offensive rush up the ice takes great effort, more than should be needed by a Division 1 program. Watching Jake Hildebrand in net have to fight off so many shots, knowing that just 2 goals against is a death sentence is exhausting. The Spartans are clearly below the tier of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and even Ohio State in the B1G. While there is only 2 weekends of play left before the post season it looks like relief is far from sight, as speculation of where the program is heading and who should guide it will dominate the summer.
|Wisconsin Badgers||vs,||Michigan State Spartans|
Mersch 2 (17,18), Zengerle (7),
Navin (4), Kerdiles (11)
|Scorers||Reimer (7), MacEachern (7)|
Friday night actually began positive for the Spartans. Although they were late in arriving to Madison due to travel issues they actually struck first. Lee Reimer caught the Badgers in a bad change on the power play and skated the length of the ice down the right boards before beating Badger goaltender Joel Rumpel. The fact that the Spartans scored while killing a penalty would be prophetic for how the weekend would go. Special teams was the theme of the weekend, as the Spartans would find out a little over 2 minutes after Reimer's goal. The Spartans once again found themselves in the box and this time Michael Mersch redirected a perfect pass in front of Hildebrand tying the game.
Early in the second period the Spartan penalty brigade continued, as Matt DeBlouw took a slashing minor, which lead to another Mersch power play goal. In fact the Spartans had taken 5 minor penalties by the end of the second period, while the Badgers had only received one penalty. The Spartans looked like they were going to be able to get to the third period down by only one but they surrendered a goal with just 3.9 seconds remaining.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Of MSU's 15 goals allowed in final 2 minutes of a period, 10 of them have come in the last minute & 4 of those in the final 10 seconds.</p>— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) <a href="https://twitter.com/chrissolari/statuses/437068497005604864">February 22, 2014</a></blockquote>
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The momentum from that late goal didn't seem to carry over to the third period as the Spartans pushed play early on. Rumpel kept the score 3-1 with a great glove save on Mike Ferrantino less than a minute into the period. All the good work the Spartans were doing was undone by a complete defensive breakdown in their own zone. The Spartans lost track of Brad Navin after a scramble in the slot and with 15 minutes to go the Badgers were up 4-1. Mackenzie MacEachern would break his scoring drought with just over 2 minutes to go and Nic Kerdiles added an empty net goal for the Badgers, bringing the score to it's 5-2 final.
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Michigan State at Wisconsin - Men's Hockey Highlights (via bigtennetwork)
|Wisconsin Badgers||vs||Michigan State Spartans|
|LaBate (10), Mersch (19)||Scorers||N/A|
While the Spartans were held scoreless Saturday night, they actually played better than they did Friday. They outshot the Badgers and earned three more power plays than the night before with their aggressive play. Unfortunately, the Spartans penalty kill once again gave up 2 goals and that was all the difference in the game.
After Joseph LaBate had started the scoring for the Badgers it looked like the Spartans had actually tied the game on a power play of their own. Matt DeBlouw let loose a wicked one timer from the blue line that was able to beat Rumpel. However, Lee Reimer who was screening Rumpel, was said to have impeded the goaltender's ability to make a save and the goal was waived off. This was a weak call as Reimer was at the top of the crease and all that was effected was Rumpel's stick positioning. With the Spartans struggling to score on Rumpel it was impossible for them to score on Rumpel and a referee crew.
Matt Berry hit a post later in the game and the Spartans actually registered double digit shots in both the second and third period, but to no avail. Michael Mersch's power play goal in the second period was enough insurance for the Badgers as they won the game 2-0. The shutout brought the Spartans goal average down to 2.10 goals per game and 1.81 goals per game in conference play.
- Defenseman- Certainly didn't contribute offensively but they played undermanned all weekend. The Spartans lost RJ Boyd before the game Friday to injury and were playing with 5 defenseman. Then Brock Krygier took a shot off his knee and left the game in the second period, leaving the Spartans with only 4 defenseman for over half of the game. Somehow, Krygier made it into the line-up the next night to bring the Spartans to five defenseman. Hard to blame the D for 4 shorthanded goals but the breakout of the defensive zone is non-existent and that blame is placed on the defenseman.
- The "Blue Line Danger Zone"- There were no bad turnovers by the Spartans in the danger zone.
- Coaching Adjustments- The penalty kill did not make improvements from Friday night's game to Saturday night. Inserting Matt DeBlouw into the line-up this weekend worked Saturday, after he knocked off the rust Friday night. With 2 weekends left and not many options on the roster, it looks like this is the line-up the Spartans will go down fighting with.
Around The B1G
In the only other series in the B1G the Penn State Nittany Lions split with the Michigan Wolverines. The Nittany Lions scored with 5 seconds remaining Friday night to force overtime and scored the game winner in overtime with less than a minute remaining, to win 5-4. The Wolverines responded emphatically winning 5-2 Saturday night. Former Spartan Duncan Keith was the only B1G player to win a Gold Medal in hockey, as Team Canada defeated Team Sweden Sunday.
The Spartans are off from B1G play this weekend. They host the US National Under 18 Development Team Saturday, in an exhibition 7 p.m at Munn. The NTDP features a roster with 22 college commitments. Spartans fans will want to keep an eye on Edwin Minney (G, Wind Gap, PA) and Dylan pavelek (F, Marysville, MI). Both of those players are committed to play for the Spartans next season. Also, the NTDP roster features 5 other B1G commitments, including Dylan Larkin (Michigan commit) who has 42 points in 43 games played.