The Coyote Logistics Hockey City Classic had potential, when it was announced last year. After a 2-1 weekend over Michigan last weekend the Spartans' hockey team had a potential 2 weekend series sweep to accomplish Saturday night. Unfortunately botht the Hockey City Classic and the Spartans failed to maximize thier potential. On a night marred by poor ice conditions, a sparae crowd and multiple delays the Michigan Wolverines defeated the Spartans 4-1. The Spartans got through a sloppy first period down just 1-0 but were done in by defensive miscues in the second period.
It began at 13:16 of the 2nd period when Cutler Martin made the Spartans pay for a poor defensive play. After a net front scramble the usually reliable John Draeger gathered the puck and looked to clear it out of the zone. He had time to either make a pass to a forward or put the puck to a non-dangerous area along the boards. Draeger was on one knee, panicked and tried to clear the puck through the middle of the zone. Whether it was being on one knee or poor ice conditions, Draeger didn't get much on his clearing attempt, which led to Martin intercepting the puck below the blue line and wristing a shot under Jake Hildebrand's arm.
The Spartans brought some offensive pressure after the second goal and drew a penalty on Martin at 15:35 of the second. The power play was a dud and never got much going with the ice being pretty chewed up and the Spartans looking sluggish at zone entries. After the penalty expired Ron Boyd collected the puck near his own blue line and sent a pass to.. well really no where. It was picked up by a Michigan defenseman at his blue line and one quick pass later Michigan was on a dangerous transition. Hildebrand stopped the initial shot, however Andrew Copp never gave up on the play and after a couple of whacks the puck squeaked through Hildebrand.
To the Spartans' credit they never gave up in the game and got 12 shots in the third period. They were close on a few chances but sent multiple scoring chances wide of the net. Matt DeBlouw did put a puck in after a bounce off the boards behind the net to make sure the Spartans would avoid the shutout. The Spartans surrendered an empty net goal to bring us to our 4-1 final.
So outdoor hockey sure is great huh?
Ok, the Cold War and the Big Chill were great. Also, nice to see Mark Hollis make it to a hockey game, even if it is just to take his bow for being the brains behind the Cold War. However, I hope this is the end of Michigan State playing outdoor games for a few years. If we play in another one soon at least make it an on-campus game and let's hope the team is even half as good as that 2001 team. If you think we are tired of outdoor games, that was Michigan's 7th! outdoor game.
Seriously though that 2001 MSU roster?
Let's take a second to remember the Cold War game and how great is was ok. First of all it was pre-Winter Classic, Stadium Series, Heritage Classic, Frozen Fenway, Lambeau Field, Comerica Park, Big Chill, it was THE originator. On top of that it featured 2 top ten teams and just look at this MSU roster! Adam Hall (in Europe now after a long NHL career), Duncan Keith (Norris Trophy winner for best NHL defenseman), Jim Slater (Winnipeg Jets), John-Michael Liles (Carolina Hurricanes), Andrew Hutchinson (KHL and in my fantasy football league #humblebrag) and Ryan Miller (OMG OMG OMG). Mark Hollis no more outdoor games until we have a team like that again, please.
Seriously,that was near perfection. Quit trying to chase it forever.
But Jeremy there were 22,000 people at Soldier Field for the game?
Yeah, this was a Dave Brandon event to the end, even with the massively inflated attendance figures. I also hope this terrible turnout keeps Jim Delany from putting the league tournament in Chicago. After Detroit this season, it will be St. Paul in 2016 and Detroit again in 2017. Here's to hoping that this is the rotation past this date. But knowing Delany in 2018 the 6 team B1G tournament will either be at the United Center or Madison Square Garden.
Where does MSU go from here?
There is a tendency, with the hype outdoor games get, to over react and take too much from a single game. This was a league loss to the best team in the league, a week after playing a great game and defeating the same team. Michigan State is still improved over the last two seasons, even if the record hasn't massively improved, if you watch the games improvement is there. Next weekend is a key series against Penn State who is 6 points up on the Spartans for 2nd place in the league standings. That series and playing a doormat Wisconsin team is a good way for the Spartans to find some confidence heading into the league tournament.