Jan. 11, 2014
By Neil Koepke
MSUSpartans.com staff writer
COLUMBUS , Ohio - The frustrating part about Michigan State's 5-3 loss to Ohio State on Friday night was that the Spartans held a one-goal lead and had the momentum entering the third period.
But a very winnable game ended up as a difficult defeat and spoiled an outstanding performance by MSU junior forward Matt Berry, who had two goals and an assist and five shots on goal in only his sixth game of his injury-plagued season.
Although the Spartans (6-10-2 overall, 0-2-1-1 Big Ten) did a lot of good things on offense - 3 goals in the second period, 36 shots on goal, solid play in the corners and behind the net - it was erratic team defense that led to defeat in the Big Ten series opener at Value City Arena.
"It was a disappointing game from my perspective,'' MSU coach Tom Anastos said. "I thought there were parts of our game that were pretty good. But we have to be better defensively. We can't expect to give up five goals and win many games. I give their team credit. They have good skill and (Ryan Dzingel) is an awfully good player.
"We were well aware of that and didn't go a good job on that line tonight.'' Dzingel, a 6-foot, 187-pound junior left wing, had the ultimate hockey player's night: He scored three goals, had one assist, six shots on goal and in a last-minute scrum, he ended with 12 minutes in penalties - two for unsportsmanlike conduct and 10 for a misconduct for shooting the puck at Hildebrand while a delayed penalty was coming up against his team.
For some parts of the game, the Spartans made the right moves on defense, but in many cases MSU made it too easy on Ohio State. In fact, most of the Buckeye goals came too easily.
"Offense is easier to play. Offensive is fun. Defense is grunt,'' Anastos said. "It takes a real commitment, a real blue-collar mentality. At times, we were pretty good, but too much of the time we weren't. We have to get better. That's just not just acceptable. Our team has to be tough to play against all over the ice. From your forecheck, right down the line.
"You have to make scoring goals difficult on your opponent. You have to make the opposition pay a price. They're a good team, they made good plays, but in too many instances, we made it to easy.''
MSU overcame a 1-0 deficit in the second period on two goals by Berry, at 6:38 and 15:00, only to see the Buckeyes (11-6, 1-2-0-0) tie it with 3:06 left in the period. But MSU freshman Joe Cox scored on Berry's rebound with 37 seconds left in the period to take a 3-2 lead.
However, the first 90 seconds of the third period doomed the Spartans and kept them from their first Big The victory.
OSU's Nick Oddo picked up a rebound off a shot by Nick Schilkey at the side of the net and fired it past MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand to tie the game, 3-3, just 17 seconds into the final period.
Just 1 minute and 13 seconds later, Dzingel found an lane on left wing, drove to the net untouched and lifted the puck past Hildebrand to put the Buckeyes up 4-3.
The Spartans will try to salvage a split in the series and win their first Big Ten game when MSU and Ohio State meet in the series finale at 7 p.m. at Value City Arena.
"We were two different teams tonight. At times, I thought we dominated them down low and that made it easier for our defense and gave us energy to jump in,'' senior defenseman Jake Chelios said. "At times, we played well enough, but we didn't play tough enough down low in our own zone.''
Berry was also frustrated by the Spartans' inconsistency.
"We played a good second period but not a good full 60 minutes,'' he said. "We have to learn how finish off the game. We can't give up an easy goal at the start of a period, like we did in the third. That really hurts.''
LOOKING FOR POSITIVES: Eliminate four or five defensive mistakes which led to OSU goals and it would be the Spartans celebrating a series-opening victory.
"There are some things that we can take away. We have to be good offensively, like we were, but we have to be a shut-down defense, too,'' said senior defenseman Jake Chelios, who assisted on Berry's second goal and freshman Joe Cox's goal.
Berry, a junior from Canton who spent most of the summer and almost all fall recovering from a lower body injury, played on a line with energetic sophomore center Michael Ferrantino and Cox.
"I think the chemistry is starting to build. We haven't played together too much but we're starting to click and learn how to play off each other,'' said Berry, who has four goals in his last three games and was a tremendous force on Friday night.
TURNING POINT 1: The Buckeyes striking for two goals within 1 minute and 13 seconds early in the third period to go from being down 3-2 to taking the lead at 4-3.
Nick Oddo went to the net to find a rebound and a wide-open net and he tied it 3-3 with just 17 seconds gone in the third period. At 1:30, Dzingel got behind the Spartan defense and got a clear lane to the net, and eventually beat MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand to the top left corner.
TURNING POINT 2: During about a six-or-seven second stretch around the 7:15 mark of the third period and OSU up 4-3, Buckeyes freshman goalie Matt Tomkins made two huge saves on Matt Berry to keep his team in the lead.
To start, Berry drove to the net and just reached a pass in the slot and directed it right on goal and Tomkins alertly made the save. OSU couldn't clear the puck out of the zone and it found its way back to Berry's stick. With a chance to tie it and get a hat trick, Berry's quick shot from the slot was stopped by Tomkins.
The Buckeyes added a late power-play goal by Dzingel on a slap shot from the left point at 16:25 to give Dzingel his hat trick and seal the victory for Ohio State.
"I definitely remember them. I'm probably not going to sleep too well tonight after those,'' Berry said. "I had a chance to tie it up and missed both of them. There's not much more I can say.''
RED-HOT BUCKEYE: Ryan Dzingel, from Wheaton, Ill., had three goals and an assist against MSU and now has 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points in his last 10 games, and 12 points (5-7) in his last four contests.
Overall, Dzingel has 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points, and made Big Ten history on Friday with the conference's first hat trick. A couple of hours later, Wisconsin's Michael Mersch scored three goals and had one assist against Michigan in a 5-2 victory.
NOT AT FULL STRENGTH: MSU sophomore defenseman John Draeger, who along with Matt Berry is still recovering from a lower-body injury that required surgery, did not make the trip to Ohio State. His absence was felt on the blue line almost all game long.
EX-SPARTAN SIGHTING: Former MSU forward Corey Tropp stopped by the team hotel on the OSU campus on Thursday night to visit with staff members. Tropp is playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL. He started the season with Buffalo but was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jackets.
While the Spartans battled the Buckeyes at Value City Arena on Friday night, just five miles to the south, two former Spartans were competing in an NHL game at Nationwide Arena. It was Tropp and the Blue Jackets against the Carolina Hurricanes and veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles. Liles was traded to the Hurricanes by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1.
The Blue Jackets blanked Carolina, 3-0, and then headed off to Winnipeg, where they'll face the Jets on Saturday night.