Disastrous may be a word too strong to describe the first half of the season for the Spartans hockey team, but disappointment seems to not fully cover the results. The Spartans sit at 5-10-2, without a road victory and 1-3 in the B1G standings. The conference slate includes being swept by Penn State handily, a program that hired their coach to begin the program around the same time the Spartans hired bench boss Tom Anastos. The Spartans squandered chances at getting signature wins for the NCAA Tournament by going 0-8-1 against teams in the top 20 and now most likely will only make the tournament drought end with a conference tournament championship.
Needless to say, after the frustration culminated with a 3-0 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers last Saturday, the holiday break may be coming at a perfect time for the Spartans. Most importantly the Spartans have a chance to enter the break fresh off a victory, after they travel to Boston, MA. to take on the Northeastern Huskies tonight. The Huskies of Hockey East are a team that knows frustration more than the Spartans, as they had a 13 game winless streak sandwiched between two victories over Colgate. Those two wins are the only victories for the Huskies on the season as their record currently stands at 2-12-3.
The Huskies are led up front by Zach Aston-Reese (5G, 10A) and Nolan Reese (7G, 5A) but don't sleep on senior forward Kevin Roy who may have just 5 assists this season but is one of the most talented forwards in the nation. Roy scored 44 and 46 points the previous two seasons and may be in the lineup after not playing since mid November.
The biggest issue this season for the Huskies has been finding a steady goaltender. Derick Roy (2-3-1) has the only wins on the season for the Huskies but has started less games and holds a .833 save percentage. The main starter this season for Northeastern has been freshman Ryan Ruck with a only slightly better .889 save percentage and a goals against average over 3.00. You would like to think Jake HIldebrand clearly tips the scales in net towards the Spartans but with defensive lapses in front of him Hildebrand has seen his worst numbers in his career.
Games like these are hard to predict, one off road games with a break looming ahead. The opponent will not help the Spartans find motivation as the Huskies are far from a national power this season. Neither team consistently scores and both teams have trouble keeping pucks out of their own net. If the Spartans can find the energy they had in their 4-3 victory over Wisconsin last season they should be able to get to the break with a win. I'll say that Mackenzie MacEachern scores twice and Jake Hildebrand makes some key late saves as the Spartans win 5-4.
Note: This game will be a part of a Michigan State day at Matthews Arena. The Spartans 24th ranked women's basketball team won 77-51 at Matthews last night and the men's team will play the Huskies at 12:30 today. Both the basketball and hockey games will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network with the puck dropping at 7:00 P.M.