Neil's Notebook: Spartans Swept by Michigan
Jan. 25, 2014
By Neil Koepke
EAST LANSING - For most fans watching the game at Munn Arena or on TV on the Big Ten Network, Friday's Michigan State-Michigan was decided in the third period.
The Wolverines excelled, the Spartans had their worst period of the weekend and Michigan cruised to a 5-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 6,531.
U-M scored two goals within 51 seconds (5:23 and 6:14) to break a 2-2 tie and added a shorthanded goal late in the period to complete a sweep of the Big Ten series.
For Tom Anastos, however, he had a bad feeling about what might happen on Friday night. He didn't like his team's level of preparation, its attitude and mindset from the team's pregame meal in the afternoon right through the entire 60 minutes.
He didn't single out any individuals players but he called out his team for not being ready to play and not delivering an inspired effort against its top rival and in the most important game thus far this season.
"An unacceptable performance tonight,'' Anastos said. "It wasn't just the third period. I didn't like our approach to the game. I felt that earlier in the day. We played a good team that was ready to play, hungry to play and they were more hungry to play than us. That's unacceptable.
"If you lose because you're out-talented, that's one thing. But if you're not ready, and that's totally in your control, that's on me to make sure me and our staff find guys who are all in. Tonight, I didn't feel that we had that. And that's what really bothers me.
"I shouldn't feel that against this opponent, at home and this time of year. We have to figure that out.''
The Spartans (8-12-3 overall, 2-4-2-2) seemed to be playing its best hockey of the season. Coming into the series against Michigan, MSU was 3-1-2 since Christmas and unbeaten in its last three games.
Michigan State played hard and well in a 2-1 loss to the Wolverines in the series opener on Thursday in Detroit. On Friday, the Spartans didn't have the same compete level as Thursday, but they still managed to overcome a 2-1 deficit to tie the game midway through the second period and had momentum in their favor.
But one bad period, in which the Spartans gave up two quick goals, had little pushback and lost their composure in the waning minutes and took several penalties while getting involved in some scrums.
MSU got outshot 18-8 in the final period and the Wolverines ended up with a 42-32 edge in shots on goal.
Both of the Spartans goals game on power plays - by Tanner Sorenson and Michael Ferrantino-- but Anastos didn't spend much time talking about the most positive aspect of his team's play.
"We didn't have enough players going and for our team to win, we have to have everybody going and playing together,'' Anastos said. "What bothers me most is knowing that you're playing your biggest rival at home, and in front of a big crowd which is energized and bringing everything they can to help you, and I don't think everyone was ready.
"I don't know how that could happen. I don't know how you can't be ready to play unless you don't realize the magnitude of what you're doing.''
Anastos was asked if he expected his team to come out with a snarl Friday, after getting some bad breaks and bounces in Thursday's 2-1 loss in Detroit - a game decided on U-Ms goal with 2:18 left.
"How can you not? These are games you can't wait to play. That's what I can't figure out,'' he said. "You play two games a weekend. You have to be able to play hard two games a weekend. I don't think it's too much to ask.
"We have to grow up. To get humbled in your own building . . . You have to take pride in wearing that jersey and the people you represent. It takes 100 percent commitment 100 percent of the time.''
In the last 45 seconds, MSU was assessed 29 minutes in penalties, including a major for facemasking, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. The Spartans got involved in one scrum in the U-M zone and one in their own zone.
"It's unacceptable. I've addressed it,'' Anastos said. "Our team plays with discipline. Toward the end, we didn't. That's part of growing up. I didn't like how we responded. Discipline is not a sometimes-things. It's an all-the-time thing.''
Anastos told his team he was worried about their mental approach to the game and hoped that they would prove him wrong. They didn't.
"I know it was 2-2 going into the third period but the game aside, so much in sport is your mental approach. When we went to our team meal today, I had a sense I wasn't going to be happy with (what was coming).''
"I told the guys that if I might be wrong but that my senses are telling me that I don't like the way we're approaching this game. But I said I'll judgeit by our performance.''
For two periods the Spartans did some good things. They took a 1-0 lead, fell behind 2-1 but tied it 2-2 midway through the second period. They outshot U-M, 17-9, in the middle period.
"I don't know how so many guys could come up flat against your biggest rival unless you're satisfied with something,'' Anastos said. "And what could we be satisfied with?"
After the game, Anastos met with his players for almost 10 full minutes and told them what was on his mind. When the media entered the dressing room about a minute afterthe coach had just left, the players were still in almost full uniform.
"The only way to take this . . . is we have to look at how we respond and how we approach the game,'' Anastos said. "We have to get better and can't permit that to happen.''
For sure, the dressing room was one gloomy area when the media entered. The seemed puzzled by the events of the night.
"They came out harder than us. They wanted it more,'' MSU captain and senior right wing Greg Wolfe said. "They were ableto get that early goal (in the third period) and the second one, so we had to start taking chances. We were playing desperate.
"You come out of the weekend with two losses against Michigan, there's not many positives that we're seeing. We have to get back to work. The season is far from over.
"We have to have everyone committed to the little things. We just didn't have everyone tonight.''
Sophomore center Michael Ferrantino agreed with Wolfe, seeing little positives out of the most disappointing game of the season.
"This is tough. We'll bounce back but right now it stings pretty bad,'' Ferrantino said. "You can play as many good minutes as you want but the second you let down, that kills you.
"They wanted it more than we did. It makes gets me pretty sick to say that. I don't know how they could come in here and we weren't ready for them. It's something we have to figure out and get better.''
POWER PLAY CLICKS: The Spartans usually have trouble scoring one power-play goal in one game. On Friday, they scored two and were impressive with puck movement and plenty of shots on goal.
In fact, 16 of MSU's 32 shots came with a man advantage on five power plays. Tanner Sorenson scored on a power play late in the first period on a slap shot from the top of the left circle. Michael Ferrantino tapped in a loose puck in the crease with a man advantage to tie the game 2-2 at 7:19 of the second period.
With the score still tied at 12:22 of the second period , the Spartans went on a power play and had six shots on goal, and came close to scoring a few times.
"I thought we were moving the puck around a little quicker and did a better job of find the seams,'' Wolfe said. "We were getting shots through and that's the key. If you get shots at the net, the puck is eventually going to go in.
"There were a couple of rebounds and second and third chances.''
Said Anastos: "We made an adjustment last night to try to something different, and we moved the puck around and created some good scoring chances.''
MSU gave up a shorthanded goal with six minutes left when the Spartans were taking chances in the offensive zone and got caught on a 2-on-1 break.
The last time the Spartans scored two or more power-play goals in one game was on Dec. 1 when the connected for three goals with the man advantage in an 8-2 victory over Princeton.
Meanwhile, MSU held Michigan's power play in check on Friday. U-M went 0-fo-4.
STREAK SNAPPED: Nobody on the Michigan roster had ever won a game at Munn Arena during their stay in Ann Arbor. Wolverine seniors Derek Deblois, Luke Moffatt and defenseman Mac Bennett were 0-for-4 at Munn Arena over the last three seasons.
Michigan's last victory on the road against MSU came on March 12, 2010 - a 5-3 win in a CCHA playoff game at Munn Arena.
The Wolverines are now 2-1 against MSU after starting this year's series with a 3-0 loss in the GLI third-place game a month ago. The teams meet two more times in the regular season - March 7 at Michigan and March 8 at Munn Arena.
UP NEXT: The Spartans will get another look at No. 1 Minnesota (18-3-2 overall, 7-0-1 Big Ten) with a two-game series next weekend in Minneapolis. They collide at 9 p.m. on Friday and at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Mariucci Arena.
On Friday, the Gophers defeated No. 5 St. Cloud State, 4-1, in the second North Star College Cup semifinal in St. Paul. Minnesota will play for the title against Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday night. UMD on Friday defeated Minnesota State, 5-4, in overtime.
MSU started Big Ten play against Minnesota on Dec. 6-7 at Munn Arena. The teams played to a 2-2 tie in the opener, with the Spartans winning the shootout, and the Gophers won the series finale, 3-2.
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