Neil's Notebook: A Second Look at the Ohio State shutout
Oct. 21, 2011
By Neil Koepke. MSUSpartans.com staff writer
Tom Anastos wanted toughness from his Michigan State hockey team. He got toughness.
A strong, physical effort and solid play in every aspect of their game carried the Spartans to a 3-0 Central Collegiate Hockey Association victory over Ohio State on Thursday night at Munn Arena.
"We were a tougher team to play against. We were better defensively all over the ice and as a result, we got a good result,'' Anastos said after his first career home victory as Spartans' coach.
"We played with good energy and with a better physical presence. Certainly, being home with the crowd helped feed that at the beginning.''
From the start of the season, Anastos has been emphasizing the importance of his team developing a certain toughness, one which makes it difficult for opponents to play against.
The Spartans (2-3 overall, 1-2 CCHA), coming off two losses at Lake Superior State, limited the Buckeyes to only a few solid scoring chances, and senior goaltender Drew Palmisano played well in a 27-save effort in earning his fifth career shutout and second straight over OSU.
"Things came together. We were tougher in the neutral zone and prevented (rushes), we were tougher in our own zone and made them work harder to get open shots and to get to loose pucks,'' Anastos said. "When you do that, the puck seems to bounce your way more often than not.''
"If we continue to play at that tempo, it's a fun way to play,'' Anastos said. "It gives the guys the opportunity to attack and you feed off that energy. We're not a big team but some of the guys played real physical and that added a nice dimension.''
The Spartans were energized from the opening faceoff and got a big confidence boost when Krug scored from the point in the middle of the ice on a power play at 4:46. MSU had several other quality chances in the period but misfired on some shots and OSU senior goalie Cal Heeter (27 saves) responded with some good stops.
"Overall, it was a good team victory,'' Krug said. "The guys competed as hard as we can and I think we outworked Ohio State. We definitely came to play. Everyone was blocking shots. We did a good job of relieving the pressure when they were on us.
"I think it's safe to say that's the first game we competed (100 percent) from drop of the puck to the finish. It was exciting to see the way some guys competed. (Junior left wing) Kevin Walrod did a great job coming back and making a few good stick lifts and clearing the puck out of the zone.''
The Spartans will try to duplicate Thursday's performance and sweep the CCHA series when they face the Buckeyes (2-3, 1-2) in the series finale at 7 p.m. tonight at Munn Arena.
SHUTOUTS ABOUND: The Spartans' last three victories against Ohio State have been shutouts. Last season, the teams split four games, with MSU winning 4-0 on Nov. 13 at Munn Arena and 2-0 on Feb. 4 in Columbus.
Palmisano had the first shutout and Will Yanakeff, now a sophomore, was in goal for the second.
For sure, Palmisano has faced tougher challenges among his other four career shutouts, but he was still sharp and efficient in blanking the Buckeyes on Thursday.
"I felt quick. I was moving from side to side and thought I read the plays pretty well,'' he said. "We played pretty solid and our defense did a great job making sure there weren't too many second or third opportunities.
"Our defense blocked a lot of shots. It was a good overall team defensive win.''
Both Anastos and Krug were impressed by Palmisano's steady play in earning his first victory of the season.
"Every time Ohio State started to get some pressure in our zone, Palmy was calm and collected,'' Krug said. "That instills a lot of confidence. We could count on him to make the big save and cover the puck.''
Asked to assess his goaltender's game, Anastos said: "I would rate it as excellent. It was good for Palmy and his confidence. He had a good presence. He hasn't had a lot of good puck luck in the games he's played so far.
"In some games, the breakdowns we've had were such that our goaltenders didn't have a chance to make big saves. Tonight, it was a very good game for Palmy and the guys fed off his performance.''
ROOKIES CHIP IN: Freshman left wing Tanner Sorenson collected his first college point with an assist on Trevor Nill's goal early in the third period. On a 2-on-1 rush, Sorenson drove to the net coming down the left wing and slid the puck across to an onrushing Nill, who was fighting off a Buckeye defenseman. As Nill attempted to pull up and stop on the edge of the crease, the puck glanced off his skate and slid past OSU goaltender Heeter. The referees ruled no goal, thinking Nill directed the puck in with his skate. They reviewed the play, looking at a replay on a monitor in the penalty box, and ruled that it was a goal -- that Nill did not kick the puck into the net.
Meanwhile, freshman right wing Matt Berry earned his second assist and point on Anthony Hayes' first goal of the season. The goal, set up by a nifty pass by junior left wing Walrod from the slot, gave MSU a 2-0 lead late in the second period.
MORE STATS: Right wing Chris Forfar had a busy second period with five shots on goal and led MSU with seven overall. Torey Krug was second with four shots. Senior center Danny Dries led OSU with six shots, including four in the first period. The Spartans skated off six Buckeye power plays, including four straight - three in the first period and one early in the second. MSU has given up only one power-play goal in 16 shorthanded situations in five games. MSU's power play converted on one of five opportunities, and is now 5-for-22.
CATCHING UP? Former Spartan coach Ron Mason is in town this weekend and watched the home opener from the Munn Club seats. After the victory, he visited the MSU dressing room.
"Ron was happy with the performance and came down to congratulate us. I told him to start looking over his shoulder, I'm only about 960 (victories) away,'' Anastos said with a laugh. "I'll be like 103.''
Actually, Anastos, with two career victories, is 922 wins away from Mason's NCAA record of 924. Mason coached for 36 seasons at Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and MSU. He spent 23 seasons as Spartans coach - from 1979-2002 and had a record of 635-270-69.
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