There are many faults to pick with the guidance of the Spartan hockey team under Tom Anastos compared to previous regimes at Michigan State. The offense for the 2nd season in a row is stagnant and in the bottom ten teams in the country, the power play is uncreative, the team lacks skill to possess the puck for long stretches of time and its fair to question the staff's ability to develop talent. What is not a fault in this program is it's resiliency and effort displayed by the players each weekend. As someone who watched plenty of games in the last two years under predecessor Rick Comley, seeing the drive of players under Anastos is the biggest factor that keeps me believing with improved talent he can turn the record around next season.
This weekend that resiliency was on display for the Spartans as they rebounded from an awful 7-1 outing at Yost Arena on Friday night, to overcome 2 separate 2 goal deficits on Saturday and come out with a 4-3 victory.
|Michigan Wolverines||vs.||Michigan State Spartans|
Derek Beblois (6), Luke Moffatt (10), Zach Hyman (6)
Phil Di Giuseppe (10), Andrew Sinelli (2,3,4)
|Scorers||Matt Berry (7)|
There is no way even Tom Anastos could sell you on Friday night's game, it was awful for the Spartans in every phase of the game. The first period started terribly with Deblois scoring the game's first goal, just 56 seconds from the drop of the puck. About seven minutes later Michigan State made a terrible play off an offensive zone faceoff, leading to a break the other way for Luke Moffatt. Moffatt raced down the right wing boards and beat Hildebrand with a shot that rang off the post and in. The Spartans played well the rest of the first, outshooting Michigan 11-6 in the frame and getting a power play goal from Matt Berry to bring us to a 2-1 score after.
The second period is where the game unraveled for the Spartans. They were able to only get one shot on net in the entire period and the Wolverines scored three goals to blow the game open to 5-1 after 2. The third goal was a delection by Zach Hyman that Hildebrand had absolutely no shot at stopping. The 4th goal for the Wolverines resulted from Di Giuseppe trying to center a pass on an offensive break and having the puck carom off a Spartan defenseman and into the net. To continue the hard luck period for Hildebrand the final Wolverine goal was a wrist shot by Andrew Sinelli that hit defenseman Travis Walsh's stick, skipped off the ice and bounced above Hildebrand's shoulder. Hildebrand couldn't be blamed for any of these goals, yet was pulled from the net to start the third period.
Often a goalie is pulled not to punish them, but to try and spark a team and show that they will not be embarrassing their tender any further. This did not work Friday as the Wolverines continued to control play in the 3rd, outshooting the Spartans 13-10 and adding two more goals. Sinelli, a one time Spartan commit, finsihed off the hat trick with two goals in the final frame. The first goal of the period Sinelli was fortunate to have a wide open net to shoot at, after a net front scramble. The 7th goal for the Wolverines was Sinelli blasting a one timer from the point past senior goaltender Will Yanakeff.
|Michigan Wolverines||vs.||Michigan State Spartans|
Luke Moffatt (11) Cristoval Nieves (3)
Phil Di Giuseppe (11)
Greg Wolfe (12), Lee Reimer (8)
Michael Ferrantino (9) Mackenzie MacEachern (8)
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Spartans Beat Michigan 4-3 (via MSUSpartanAthletics)
The game Saturday night started about as poorly as possible for the Spartans. Just 1:15 into the game Luke Moffatt took a turnover from defenseman Travis Walsh in the slot, and beat Hildebrand with a shot that went between his arm and midsection on the blocker side. This is a shot that, when he is on, Hildebrand probably stops most nights. Less than three minutes later the Wolverines pounced on Spartan mistakes again to get a 2-0 lead. After the Spartans failed to clear the zone twice, Boo Nieves found himself with a one-on-one battle with Jake Chelios near the slot. nieves slid the puck through Celios' legs and easily got around the defender, before roofing a backhand shot above Hildebrands' glove. Senior captain Greg Wolfe would help claw the Spartans into the game by making a great effort play, beating a coasting Michigan defender to the puck in the corner. He then turned and fired the puck off that defenders' leg and got a furtunate bounce beating Wolverine goaltender Steve Racine for the Spartans' first goal. However, just like Friday night the Wolverines would respond again before the period was out. This time Phil Di Giuseppe took a slap shot form the top of the circle and beat Hildebrand along the ice under his legs. This was possibly the softest goal all season allowed by Hildebrand and once again led to him starting the next period on the bench.
Unlike Friday night, senior Will Yankeff shut the door on the Wolverines and the Spartans were responsive to the goalie switch. In the second period the Spartans cashed in on their only power play opportunity of the night. Matt DeBlouw found himself with some space on the point and let go a one timer that was deflected in front by Lee Reimer. DeBlouw had been a healthy scratch most of the season up until the last B1G series against Wisconsin. He has looked great since returning to the lineup and has made an impact as the forward playing on the point on the Spartan power play.
The third period saw the Spartans take control of the game with 2 goals in 1:13. It started with sophomore Michael Ferrantino making a great effort play and crashing the net on a John Draeger rebound to beat Racine. The play started with defenseman Draeger forcing a turnover in the neutral zone and transitioning to quick offense. The same happened a minute later with Jake Chelios making a stretch pass in the neutral zone. Brent Darnell made a great one touch drop pass, while absorbing a check to spring Mackenzie Maceachern who finished with a snipe low on Racine to give the Spartans their first lead all weekend. When the defenseman make plays like they did in the third period, this is a forward group that can score well above their sub 2.50 goals per game average. the Spartans survived the final 1:30 with Racine pulled and pulled off an emotional series split.
Around The B1G
The top 2 seeds and a bye in the B1G tournament have been decided. Minnesota took four points on the weekend by beating Ohio State Friday night and losing in a shootout Saturday. The Gophers secured a bye in the B1G tournament and need just one point next weekend to clinch the inaugural B1G Championship. Wisconsin also secured a first round bye sweeping last place Penn State 4-2 and 3-2 (OT).
The Spartans will play their final series at Munn Arena this season hosting Wisconsin next weekend. The Spartans are locked in to 4th or 5th place in the standings and will play Ohio State in the 1st round of the B1G Tournament at the XCel Energy Center in Minneapolis on March 20th.