Friday night was a disaster for the Michigan State hockey team. They looked flat and disengaged, losing to a three win Wisconsin team 2-1 at the Kohl Center in Madison. While it was a missed opportunity for the Spartans to jump to their own spot in second place in the league, the resolve they showed to comeback and dominate on Saturday night was encouraging. The Spartans left little doubt on who was the better team Saturday night, defeating the Badgers 3-0 in front of 12,715 fans.
The game began with a dominating first period for the Spartans, out-shooting the Badgers 13-4 and taking a 1-0 lead after the first twenty minutes. The Spartans' goal came courtesy of Ryan Keller, his fifth of the year. Keller followed up on a rebound and sniped a wrist shot past Badgers' goaltender Joel Rumpel with Michael Ferrantino and Travis Walsh getting assists. Keller would strike again just a little over four minutes later when he gathered a pass from Brent Darnell on his forehand, spun his body to his backhand and slid the puck past Rumpel. It was a beautiful goal with Keller using the spin move to get away from a Badgers defenseman going in for a poke check.
The second period yielded no goals and led to a tense early part of the third period for the Spartans. Just 44 seconds into the final frame the Spartans were on the penalty kill, with one of their best penalty killers Travis Walsh in the box. The Spartans did a great job to kill off the penalty (they would kill all five on the night) and they rode that momentum to a third goal in the game. At 4:57 of the third period Thomas Ebbing scored his third goal of the season on a great team effort play. David Bondra pressure a Wisconsin defenseman going below the goal line to retrieve the puck and forced a turnover in the dangerous ice in front of the net. Joe Cox quickly retrieved the puck and sent a backhand pass across the slot to a wide open Ebbing who had an empty net to shoot into. The Badgers did out-shoot the Spartans 17-7 in the third period but that will happen when a Tom Anastos team has a three goal lead late in a game.
Overall it was a weekend where the Spartans would have liked to, and should have gotten a sweep. This is an improved team that still has to mature to not take a team like a struggling Wisconsin lightly. A split is frustrating but to rebound on Saturday with a performance like that feels good heading into yet another big series this week.
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Looking back at the 3 keys to success
- Quick Start- Friday was a disaster and put the Spartans against the wall on Saturday. They did get two first period goals on Saturday to help relieve some tension early.
- Berry-DeBlouw-MacEachern line- They were held off the score sheet and will need to rebound this week against a tougher opponent.
- The Power Play- 0/2 on Saturday so not many chances to get things going. Did score the lone goal on Friday night.
Around the B1G
Michigan rebounded from a terrible Friday night as well by earning a series split with Ohio State, winning Sunday 5-2. Minnesota lost in overtime to Penn State 4-3 Saturday, losing the chance to have the only series sweep in the league on the weekend. With the other two series' ending in splits, Michigan State has to feel really dejected in their Friday night effort.
The Spartans will hit the road again traveling to Minnesota for a Thursday-Friday series. Both games will be on the Big Ten Network with 9:00 EST start times.