March 3, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- - Michigan State got a goal from its all-senior line in the opening period and a 28-save performance from freshman Jake Hildebrand in his first collegiate shutout to help the Spartans defeat No. 8 Western Michigan by a 1-0 score.
The Spartans, who finish the regular season with an 11-22-3 overall record, had already locked in to the 11th spot in the final standings after last night's 5-2 loss to the Broncos. Entering Saturday's game, the Spartans were playing for pride, for their four seniors honored in a pre-game ceremony, and the sellout crowd of 6,540 fans at Munn Ice Arena. In securing the victory, MSU also played spoiler on Western Michigan's title hopes. WMU came into Saturday's game hoping for a win and a Miami loss to Ohio State to wrap up the final regular-season title in CCHA history. Instead, the loss dropped the Broncos to third place, behind the regular-season champion Red Hawks and Notre Dame, which swept Bowling Green this weekend to take second place.
Michigan State skated in its fifth game this season that ended in a 1-0 score, and two have come in the last four games: last Friday at Alaska, junior Will Yanakeff had a 37-save effort in a 1-0 win, and Hildebrand made 28 stops tonight to pick up his first collegiate shutout.
The game's lone score came when MSU's all-senior line generated a goal at the midpoint of the first period. Anthony Hayes and Chris Forfar did a nice job below the goal line in the left corner. Forfar freed the puck and threw it over to the right side of the net for Kevin Walrod. The winger tried to get a handle on it, and he pushed it just far enough out for Hayes, who was going hard the opposite direction - but his spin-and-shoot move at the right hash mark beat Slubowski five-hole.
MSU played a strong defensive game - the Spartans allowed Western Michigan just two shots on goal in its five power-play chances, blocked 30 shots, and did a good job of keeping the Broncos to the outside. Hildebrand was up to the task, as he turned away each of the 28 shots he faced - and none bigger than on a mini-breakaway by Luke Witkowski in the third period, which he gloved as the WMU winger moved left-to-right across the top of the crease and tried to beat him glove-side.
Things got quite interesting as Jake Chelios was whistled for hitting from behind with two minutes remaining in the game - putting the visitors on the power play. Very quickly, the Broncos tried to establish themselves in the offensive zone, hoping to get goalie Frank Slubowski to the bench in favor of an extra skater. Dennis Brown unleashed a slapshot from just inside the blue line in the high slot, and his shot beat a heavily-screened Hildebrand. However, the on-ice officials immediately waved off the goal, as a Dane Walters had taken up residence in the crease in front of Hildebrand. The Broncos protested, but the game resumed with the Spartans clinging to the 1-0 lead.
With 59 seconds remaining and with Slubowski finally on the bench in favor of an extra skater, Shane Berschbach was whistled for tripping a Spartan player behind the net, giving WMU just a one-man advantage with their goaltender on the bench. The Spartans were able to extinguish the remainder of the penalty kill, and MSU earned its second 1-0 victory in four games.
MSU was 0-for-4 on the power play, while WMU was scoreless in five chances.
MSU now turns its attention to the CCHA playoffs, as the Spartans will travel to Alaska next week for a first round best-of-three series.