Coming into this weekend's games the Michigan State Spartans hockey team had scored 13 goals in 6 games. The 2.17 goals per game had the Spartans in familiar territory, ranking in the bottom third of the nation. This weekend the Spartans hit their stride in a big way, scoring 12 goals in a sweep of the New Hampshire Wildcats.
Friday night saw the Spartans get goals from five different forwards in a 5-0 victory. Michigan State controlled the game from the drop of the puck, outshooting the Wildcats 18-5 in the first period and leading the game 1-0 on the strength of freshman Mason Appleton's first career goal. The play began with Appleton dumping the puck deep into the zone and heading towards the net. Mackenzie MacEachern passed the puck to Michael Ferrantino who cut behind the net, and dished the puck to a wide open Appleton who beat Wildcats'goaltender Danny Tirone on the blocker side.
The Wildcats managed to keep the game close as Villiam Haag scored the lone goal on the 2nd period on the power play. It was once again Ferrantino and MacEachern teaming up on a pass play below the goal line, with Ferrantino catching Tirone cheating post-to-post a little early and feeding a backdoor pass to Haag. Haag made no mistake roofing a one-time shot into a nearly empty net.
The third period saw New Hampshire outshoot the Spartans 12-10 but be outdone on the scoreboard 3-0. JT Stenglein continued his breakthrough season with a backhand goal after a great play by Joe Cox forcing a Wildcats turnover at the offensive blue line. Joe Cox would net himself a goal three minutes later shorthanded, when he forced a turnover at center ice skating through two defenders. When he broke into the zone Cox gave a beautiful toe drag, forehand to backhand, to get separation from the confused defender and held onto the puck long enough to open up a spot to beat Tirone on the backhand. It was a beautiful individual effort.
The game was capped with another first career goal when Cody Milan, once again on the heels of an awful defensive zone turnover, made a nice shot to beat Tirone blocker side. It was also a second consecutive shutout for Jake Hildebrand, who now has 12 career shutouts.
Saturday night saw the New Hampshire offense finally arrive arrive in East Lansing, but unfortunately for them they could not locate any goaltending or defense. The Spartans opened the game with Joe Cox scoring on an absolute snipe from the left circle just 32 seconds into the contest. Mason Appleton continued his strong freshman campaign scoring nine minutes later when he drove to the net and got a bit lucky as the puck bounced to him with a wide open net after a scramble in front with Ferrantino and Travis Walsh getting the assist. At 13:50 of the first period Chris Miller ended the shutout streak for Hildebrand with an even strength goal.
The second period saw another streak end, as 2:36 into the period Tyler Kelleher scored on the power play, ending the successful kill streak at 29 straight for the Spartans. The goal was somewhat sloppy as the Spartans were caught scrambling after twice failing to clear the zone. The Spartans would answer with a power play goal of their own at 14:58 as Villiam Haag was in the right place at the right time in the slot to score into an empty net, with the assists once again going to Ferrantino and MacEachern.
The third period was eventful and full of goals, beginning with the Spartans pushing their lead to 4-2 3:53 into the period as JT Stenglein continued his goal streak when he one timed a Jox Cox pass over the shoulder of Tirone from in tight in the slot. New Hampshire at 9:17 would once again score on the power play thanks to Dan Correale and with 8 minutes remaining they tied the game on a goal by Andrew Poturalski. The Spartans showed some development over past seasons by not only stopping the bleeding when faced with adversity but actually answering, with freshman Brennan Sanford getting his first career goal just over a minute after New Hampshire had tied the game.
The Spartans extended their lead four minutes later when Ryan Keller scored his first goal of the season on a rebound off the boards behind the New Hampshire net. Mackenzie MacEachern added an empty net goal with just three seconds remaining to bring us to our final score of 7-4.
Looking back at the 3 keys to success
- Penalty Kill- The Spartans were just 4-of-6 on the weekend but mostly held down the Wildcats. The best penalty kill is to avoid taking penalties in the first place and the Spartans continue to be an incredibly disciplined team.
- Joe Cox defensive specialist- Joe Cox was great all weekend, mostly shutting down the top line of the Wildcats and chipping in for a goal and assist each night.
- Jake Hildebrand- Hildebrand didn't have to be the star this weekend but held the Wildcats scoreless Friday night as the Spartans didn't really pull away until the third period.
Around the B1G
Wisconsin earned a surprising weekend split against top ranked North Dakota winning 3-1 Friday before losing Saturday 3-1 in Grand Forks. Minnesota was at Notre Dame losing 4-3 Friday night before rebounding for a 4-1 victory Saturday. Penn State played one game Friday tying Niagara 1-1.
Next weekend the Spartans play just a single game, travelling to Chestnut Hill to take on #2 Boston College on Friday.