For those of us looking to watch Michigan State hockey on the Big Ten Network Thursday night, well all the best parts were aired exclusively on BTN2Go. After the Spartans and Golden Gophers basketball game went to overtime the hockey game was not broadcast until the last 5 minutes of the first period (of course after taking time to show a handshake line and post game coach interview). The Spartans were up 3-0 on the 15th ranked Gophers, having taken advantage of a freshman goaltender making his first career start. The Spartans built their lead on just four shots, a power play goal by Joe Cox, an absolute soft goal by Brent Darnell and a wrap-around goal by Cox.
If the Spartans could have gotten out of the first with a three goal lead maybe tonight would have been different but the Gophers changed momentum before the end of the first period on an effort goal by Travis Boyd. The second period saw the Gophers score two power play goals and take a 4-3 lead heading into the third period. The Spartans could never get enough pressure on Nick Lehr in net, who still looked shaky on the rare times he needed to make a save.
The third period was an uneventful period, especially with Michigan State showing close to zero urgency to get a goal, Their best chance was a shot from outside the blue line by John Draeger that sat under Lehr's foot in the crease for a few seconds with no Spartans able to get there to poke the puck in. The Spartans got just 6 shots on goal in the entire frame in a period where they needed a goal. Minnesota would add an empty net goal to bring us to a 5-3 final.
|Michigan State Spartans||Vs,||Minnesota Golden Gophers|
|Joe Cox (4,5) Brent Darnell (7)||Goal Scorers||
Travis Boyd (16) Mike Reilly (6)
Hudson Fasching (9) Sam Warning (9, 10)
So that was frustrating huh?
It was frustrating for me from the beginning. I know hockey is less important than basketball but I don't understand sticking with a coach interview while you have a live event going on right now. Yeah I'm extra salty because MSU basketball could have let me see the whole hockey game if they closed things out but BTN still got my ire. Listen 3-0 was great but MSU had no right getting that big of a lead. If Adam Wilcox is in the game it's probably 1-0 maybe 2-0 if they are lucky. The Spartans built a lead and then went extra conservative (like they need it) and it burnt them.
Most frustrating to me is hearing announcers pump up this team for blocking pucks. Look I played hockey, I was a defensive defenseman and I know seeing seeing a teammate block a shot energizes the bench and all. But, hanging your hat on blocking shots as a program cornerstone tells one thing, you are not possessing the puck much. Block shots sure, but make it the entire definition of your team? No, thanks I'd rather block 5 shots a night and shoot it 45.
So coaching change?
Tonight was frustrating sure. I don't like that Tom Anastos focuses on shot blocking so much. But, no I do not believe a coaching change will be made this offseason, nor do I necessarily think it should happen. Next year will be the year hopefully to decide where this program is going but make no bones about it there has been substantial progress from last season. Hopefully Anastos will open up the throttle when he thinks he has the horsepower to get it done.
What to hope for now?
No doubt about it last week against Wisconsin and losing a 3-0 lead tonight were missed opportunities. First or even second place seem pretty unlikely and from here on out the Spartans should push for a third place finish to give them a match-up with Wisconsin in the 1st round of the league tournament. Here's to hoping the Spartans get the honeycrisp trophy back tomorrow night at 9:00 pm on BTN.