9-2. Nine goals against. Outshot 46-26. All of this on home ice in the 5th year of a self purported 5 year plan. The Spartans' hockey team now sits at 5-14-2 on the season after they were blown out by #8 Michigan Friday night. It was the most goals surrendered to the Wolverines since an 11-1 loss in January 1993 and now means the Spartans have lost five games in a row, nine games out of ten.
The Spartans actually led in this game when Mason Appleton opened the scoring at 9:26 of the first period. That was the end of the good news for the night as Michigan would lead 5-2 after the first period on the strength of five goals in 5:40 of game play. Freshman defenseman Zach Osburn had pulled the Spartans within a goal when he scored on the power play to make the game 3-2 but the Wolverines answered with two goals in 43 seconds to blow the game away.
After all this in the first period coach Tom Anastos decided to send his senior goaltender Jake Hildebrand back into the game for the second period. A senior who has given his all to Anastos and the Spartans was sent back out to be shelled some more at home. Maybe Hildebrand refused to be pulled, maybe he asked to stay in but regardless the team needed a spark and it wasn't provided from the bench. Defensemen Zach Werenski beat Hildebrand at 6:38 of the second period before freshman Kyle Connor scored his second of the contest 1:47 later. Now Hildebrand was pulled in front of the home crowd bringing a smattering of Bronx cheers from the crowd.
There was a third period like it mattered. The game got tense with many penalties and the Wolverines added two more goals, bringing their power play total on the night to three in the process. This was played out after eight days between games and all that time to prepare for a rival at home. 9-2. It isn't quite as bad as 49-3 on the football field but it might as well have felt like it.
The Future: Near and Distant
In the immediate future the Spartans have a chance to wash the bad taste out of their mouth, travelling to Yost Ice Arena tonight in Ann Arbor at 7:00. This game will also be nationally broadcast and we can all hope the embarrassment isn't continued.
Long term this program needs a serious evaluation from Athletic Director Mark Hollis. When your rival fans are saying things like this it begins to feel like you have the Brady Hoke of hockey:
while this is fun and everything can MSU please fire Anastos now and hire an actual coach
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) January 9, 2016
Ok, that is a person who loses his mind at everything Michigan State and even he wants to see a better product on the ice. At this point Michigan State is the team you hope not to lose to as it will hurt your NCAA chances, they aren't exactly a premier win. There also is this:
The current pairwise rankings. MSU dead last for teams in Michigan pic.twitter.com/pqUGl3cTFo
— Jeremy Dewar (@Jeremy_Dewar) January 9, 2016
Michigan State ranks dead last in the state for pairwise rankings and look at the programs that is their company. Army, Alabama Huntsville and Arizona State, a program in it's first year of varsity play. Penn State has already blown past the Spartans in their short history maybe the Sun Devils will do that as well.
What makes this hard is that Tom Anastos seems like a great guy. He loves this program, loves the sport of hockey, is incredibly knowledgeable about many aspects of the sport and he has been a great ambassador for the program. I would love to see Anastos perhaps as an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator, or to be an employee within the Michigan State athletic department. However, at this point confidence in Anastos, head hockey coach has reached an all time and dangerous low. Mark Hollis gets all of the deserved love in the world as a premier athletic director but his attention to the hockey program deserves harsh criticism. This is his hire and he needs to have an honest evaluation of where he believes Michigan State hockey should be at this point. I don't envy Hollis at all as I feel terrible even discussing possibly replacing Anastos, I like the person that much. But apathy is a rot in a college program and the apathy around MSU hockey is getting to critical levels.
The coaching future of this program is a decision that will not be made Saturday, as it should not be. Here's to hoping coach Anastos gets the best out of his guys Saturday and the Spartans win at Yost, because a win there always feels great and I will never root for this team to lose. The season can not be saved in just one game but it would be great to see this team get some relief and good news as this year seems to be going off the rails quickly.