I told this story before wrapping up past Michigan State hockey seasons, but since we are likely to have new readers today with the NCAA tournament game today I figured I could refresh it here. Under legendary coach Ron Mason the Michigan State hockey team had a tradition at their season ending banquet which I ended annually growing up. The seniors would be memorialized in a video tribute set to Frank Sinatra's "My Way" with nary a dry eye in the entire room. While this senior class will leave the Michigan State program without an NCAA appearance, which became official Thursday when Ohio State once again defeated the Spartans in overtime in a B1G tournament quarterfinal game 4-3, it doesn't change the fact that these seniors gave what they had to this program. So I wanted to honor them with posting a little Frank Sinatra in this post to thank them for all they have done.
This post also needs Frank Sinatra for me personally as at this point it is unclear if I will get to cover hockey here at The Only Colors anymore. I am graduating graduate school this upcoming April, receiving a graduate degree in College Student Affairs Leadership from Grand Valley State University. I have been in the midst of a stressful job search seeking work as an academic adviser at different universities, including a school near to my heart along the Red Cedar. If I were to receive a position I am unsure if writing here would represent a conflict of interest, or go against my employers' wishes. I certainly hope I can continue to write about this team that I love more than any other team on earth, hell maybe i can change my screen name and ghost write, but I want to work with student athletes and have to take into account why writing here could represent a challenge. So if this is my last post here I hope you all know that I tried my best to cover MSU hockey, to be fair to the players and coaches, and that I covered this passion My Way.
Michigan State started the game Thursday about as poorly as you can imagine. A turnover in their own zone by defenseman Zach Osburn led to a wraparound goal by Ohio State forward John Wiitala 38 seconds into the game. Ohio State went on to outshoot the Spartans 19-4 in the period and added a 2nd goal by Tommy Parran at 18:52 of the first period when Parran pinched down from the point and deposited a rebound into an empty net.
The second period appeared to be amazing for the Spartans as they scored three unanswered goals to take the lead, but hidden underneath the score were issues that later counted the Spartans out. Michigan State took advantage of a lack of discipline from the Buckeyes, including a five minute major for checking from behind, to score three power play goals. At 5:15 of the second Joe Cox ripped a shot high over the shoulder of Christian Frey and the game was tied at 8:24 when Matt DeBlouw got a deflection off an OSU player to beat Frey. Senior captain Michael Ferrantino scored the final goal of the season when he deflected an Osburn shot from the point past Frey during the 5 minute major power play.
Unfortunately, Ohio State wasn't going to be shorthanded forever, and the Buckeyes still outshot and outplayed the Spartans in the 2nd period at 5 on 5. The Buckeyes tied the game in the third period when a point shot was deflected multiple times before landing on the stick of Matthew Weis who beat Jake Hildebrand with a quick shot. The game in overtime featured close calls for the Spartans to win with the puck luck not going their way and the Buckeyes ended the career of Hildebrand on a goal similar to the 2nd goal. Mackenzie MacEachern failed to clear the zone and Craig Dalrymple unleashed a point shot that Mason Jobst was able to follow up on to put a rebound goal into an empty net.
It was hard not to want to cry as the camera zeroed in on Hildebrand after the goal. This kid gave his all to the program and desreved better than to never have reached the national tournament. It's just not fair.
|Matt DeBlouw||Chesterfield, MI||F||128 GP, 27 goals, 28 assists|
|John Draeger||Faribault, MN||D||131 GP, 3 goals, 27 assists|
|Michael Ferrantino||Plymouth, MI||F||148 GP, 34 goals, 45 assists|
|Jake Hildebrand||Butler, PA||G||133 GP, 45-70-14, 2.54 GAA, .921 save %|
|Justin Hoomaian||Novi, MI||D-F||99 GP, 2 goals, 4 assists|
|Ryan Keller||Farmington Hills, MI||F||111 GP, 18 goals, 21 assists|
|Nathan Phillips||Jackson, MI||G||1 GP, 1 save, #1 on Twitter, Best flow|
|Travis Walsh||Haslett, MI||D||141 GP, 3 goals, 45 assists|
These seniors feature some great Spartans who unfortunately never got to previous levels of success. Jake Hildebrand was a trooper playing goal behind a roster that often left him out to dry and had him enter games needing to allow less than two goals to win games. Hildebrand is undrafted but will likely report to an NHL teams minor league affiliate soon to begin a trek towards a pro career. Michael Ferrantino was an emotional leader, a great captain and probably outplayed his talent by sheer effort. John Draegar, a Minnesota Wild prospect, had injuries that slowed down his career but was a steady defenseman throughout. Matt DeBlouw, a Calgary Flames prospect, was one of my favorite underrated players with a wicked shot and he will probably start in the ECHL but I'll love following his pro career.
Ryan Keller showed flashes of offensive brilliance and was a hard worker. Travis Walsh, the grandson of Ron Mason, was a steady rock on the blue line all four years and a shot blocking machine who may have a shot at a minor league career. Justin Hoomaian was a physical presence and he made the move to defense this season when the Spartans were down to five healthy scholarship players. Nate Phillips, a walk-on goaltender, was the best follow on twitter and had amazing flow all four seasons, I'll miss you Nate.
Way too early outlook for next season
The league has already seen a shake-up as Wisconsin fired coach Mike Eaves today after 14 years behind the bench. Athletic Director Mark Hollis has a similar decision to make in East Lansing but my gut feeling is that Tom Anastos returns for a 6th season next year. This year's results were marred by defenseman leaving early/transferring, injuries and an incredibly rough stretch in the middle of the season. This team was probably not an NCAA worthy team, but they also were not as bad as the record indicates. I like coach Anastos as a person, but feel he has plenty to prove behind the bench and if he is retained the scrutiny next season should be intense.
As for the roster the Spartans return a talented junior class that will need to take charge for better results. Mackenzie MacEachern, a St. Louis draft pick is the only flight risk, but that seems really unlikely and he will be counted on to lead the team in scoring once again. Joe Cox will be the captain I bet, and he hopefully will continue to develop an offensive game to match his exceptional defense. Thomas Ebbing, Villiam Haag, and JT Stenglein need to contribute more consistently if this team is to take steps forward. Dylan Pavelek played strong down the stretch in the season and I believe he and Cody Milan could break out next year.
Along the blue line the Spartans will get Jerad Rosburg back,. a talented freshman who was out this entire season with injury, and they will lean on sophomore to be Zach Osburn heavily. Osburn has great offensive upside but does need to clean up his defensive miscues. Rhett Holland will be the loan senior and Carson Gatt will need to take steps to improve his foot speed. The biggest question will be in net as Edwin Minney, a heralded recruit from the National Development Program, will have the inside track as a junior, but he could be pushed by incoming freshman John Lethemon.
Coming into the fold with Lethemon will be a pretty talented crop of freshman. On offense the class is led by Sam Saliba, a 20 year old who has 42 points in 49 games with the Green Bay Gamblers. Other strong forwards in the class include Logan Lambdin who has 41 points in 51 games in the USHL and Taro Hirose who has 71 points (58 assists) with Salmon Arm of the BCHL. These three forwards are 20, 20 and 19 respectively so hopefully they will be able to step in right away with less of an adjustment period. On defense Hirose's teammate Damian Chrcek, Ty Farmer and Ryan Bederka could push for immediate playing time and they will beef up what was the biggest weakest for the Spartans this season.
Michigan State should see a wins improvement next season, but there will be plenty of question marks, with the biggest ones being coaching and goaltending. If everything falls into place the Spartans could battle Penn State for 3rd place behind Michigan and Minnesota. Hopefully, I'll get to continue to write about these Spartans as the outlook with this incoming class excites me, but that will all have to work itself out. I love you all and want to thank Chris Vannini, Joe Tooey and Pete Rossman for giving me this outlet the past three seasons.