Neil's Notebook: Spartans Push Minnesota; Win Shootout Again
Feb. 1, 2014
By Neil Koepke
MINNEAPOLIS - Michigan State continues to be the king of shootouts in the Big Ten.
For the third time this season, the Spartans played a conference opponent to a tie and then earned an extra point with a victory in the shootout.
But Friday's well-played 2-2 deadlock with top-ranked Minnesota and 2-1 win in six rounds in the shootout had a lot more drama than the other two shootout victories - over Minnesota on Dec. 6 and at Ohio State on Jan. 10.
The Spartans (8-12-4 overall, 2-4-3-3 Big Ten) had an apparent shootout goal by Joe Cox to start the third round disallowed after a long review by the referees. It was waved off because the net came off the left mooring, even though it was Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox that dislodged the net with his right pad, just before Cox put the puck in the net at the right post.
The referee originally called the goal good on the ice but they reversed the decision after watching the play on the monitor in the penalty box. The goal would have given MSU a 1-0 lead.
Instead, the Gophers could have won it with their third shooter - Travis Boyd. But he came in on MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand and shot wide.
In round four, the Spartans' Villiam Haag and the Gophers' Mike Reilly were stopped by saves by Wilcox and Hildebrand, respectively.
Matt Berry then scored for MSU and with the game on the line, Minnesota's Taylor Cammarata scored on a backhander, and Gophers fans responded with the loudest cheer of the night.
In round six, freshman JT Stenglein didn't try to deke or get fancy. He just shot the puck from 15 feet out and found the left corner. The Spartans then won it when Hildebrand made a clutch save on Sam Warning's backhand shot.
That gave the Spartans two points and the Gophers one in a game in which MSU worked hard, played smart, created chances and probably deserved a better fate than a tie. The Spartans outshot the Gophers 30-28, and not many teams do that to a Minnesota team that averages 3.83 goals a game.
"I thought we played good enough to win in regulation, but when you play Minnesota, they're a tough team to beat,'' Stenglein said. "I thought this was one of our best games of the year, but the thing that stood out was how we rode the waves.
"There was so much adversity. We had (an officials review) and a goal allowed for them and then we get a goal disallowed for us in the shootout. But everyone stayed on an even keel. I think we took a step forward tonight.''
What was Stenglein thinking as he prepared take center stage in the shootout?
"Coach came up to me and told me (before the shootout) to be ready just in case, and after (Berry) went, he gave me the tap,'' Stenglein said. "I kind of had the nerves going. Coach asked me if I could handle it. I just said `yeah.'
"I just went in there and saw the opening in the top left corner and just put it up there. I hit the spot. I'd rather trust my shot in that situation rather than go in and try to make a move.''
Stenglein played against Minnesota goalie Wilcox in juniors two years ago but never scored on him.
"He was always tough and we had some good battles but this was the first time I scored on him,'' he said. "The benefit of going later is you get to see him move and stuff. I think he was expecting a deke because he was coming out a little, and I think I surprised him by putting it past him so quickly.''
Last season, Stenglein was a junior teammate of Minnesota standout freshmen Justin Kloos, who had the Gophers' second goal, and Cammarata in Waterloo, Iowa, of the U.S. Hockey League.
"Both of them were on my team so it was good to go through the (handshake) line and give each other some smiles,'' Stenglein said.
The Spartans stunned the Gophers by taking a 2-0 lead 12 minutes into the game on goals by Mike Ferrantino and Haag one minute and 34 seconds apart.
Minnesota scored a power-play goal off an unlucky bounce off the toe of Hildebrand's skate with 56 seconds left in the period. Boyd's shot from the left point was going wide but it hit the toe of Hildebrand's right skate and instead of deflecting into the corner, it caromed back in front, where Gophers freshman Hudson Fasching tapped the puck into the net.
The Spartans skated off four Gophers' power plays in the middle period and carried their 2-1 lead into the third period.
Minnesota tied it on Kloos' goal at 5:27 of the third period. A shot by defenseman Brady Skjei went off Kloos' skate and the referees reviewed the play and eventually said it was a good goal, that it was directed into the net but there was no kicking motion.
The Spartans outshot Minnesota, 10-5, in the third period and 3-1 in the overtime. MSU had a power play with four minutes left in regulation time and moved the puck around well and created some good chances.
In the exciting, back-and-forth overtime, Haag deflected Berry's centering pass and Wilcox had to be alert to made the save and keep the Gophers (18-2-5, 7-0-2-0) from losing for the first time since Nov. 24. Minnesota is undefeated in 13 games (9-0-4).
"We played hard, our goaltender played well, we blocked a lot of shots (25) and competed hard,'' MSU coach Tom Anastos said. "I'd still like to see us finish more of our opportunities. We had some good chances that we couldn't finish. "I liked our approach tonight. But we just have figure out a way to get over the hump and get a victory.''
The Spartans, 0-1-2-2 against the Gophers, meet for the last time during the regular season in the series finale at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Mariucci Arena.
MSU has been involved in all three shootouts in Big Ten play this season. The Spartans have lost one shootout after a tie in nonconference play. They tied Michigan Tech, 2-2, in the Great Lake Invitational semifinals and the shootout was used to determine which team would advance to the finals.
In the Big Ten, regulation and overtime victories are worth three points. A shootout win is worth two points and shootout loss earns one point.
"We weren't jubilant in the locker room after the game,'' Anastos said. "We realized that we got two points but left one on the table, and it's not easy to get points here. We have to get over the hump.''
SHOOTOUT CONTROVERSY: Anastos wasn't happy with the ruling by referees Stephen McInchak and Brian Thul that Cox's goal was disallowed because the cage came off at the left peg as Cox was jamming the puck in at the right post.
As Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox stretched out, his right pad or skate knocked the net loose a second or so before the puck entered the net.
"He told me the net was not in place when the puck crossed the goal line,'' Anastos said. "I think it would be best that I not comment.''
According to the NCAA Rules and Interpretation book, the referee may award a goal if the goal is displaced deliberately or accidentally.
Rule 83.5 reads: "Goal Cage Dislodged: In the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goalposts, the Referee may award a goal.
"In order to award a goal in this situation, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions of a defending player, the puck must have been shot (or the player must be in position to shoot) at the goal prior to the goalpost being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts."
It would seem logical that, during shootout or penalty shot, that if the goaltender displaces the net before the puck enters the net and the goal is waved off, the player should get another shot, since it wasn't his fault.
Basically, the defending player cheated and got rewarded for it.
What's to stop a goaltender from knocking the net off right before a shooter lets go of his shot, knowing that even if the puck goes in, it'll be disallowed?
Michael Ferrantino was surprised by the shootout ruling but impressed how the Spartans handled it and the first review that also went against MSU.
"I liked the way we bounced back from adversity,'' he said. "After the long review on their goal, we came right back with some good shifts and then in the shootout. "They disallowed the goal but we came right back and scored on our next two shots. We didn't let either situation bother us.''
Just after MSU's shootout goal was rejected, and as Anastos was discussing the ruling with McInchak, Ferrantino skated from the bench to far goal to chat with Hildebrand.
Ferrantino was asked after the game if he told his goaltender to knock the net off so that no goal could be awarded.
"No, no, I went down there and told him to have fun and don't overthink things,'' Ferrantino said. "There was a long delay and I was just trying to keep him loose.''
GOPHERS IMPRESSIVE: Anastos and his players believe that when this team plays a certain way, it can compete against any team in the nation.
In three games, MSU has given up 2, 3 and 2 goals against the second-highest scoring team in the nation and one that has lost only twice.
Hildebrand made some quality saves and had some good puck luck, especially in the second period when Minnesota had eight minutes of power-play time. MSU's penalty killing was excellent and its ability to force turnovers and create scoring chances was impressive.
"I liked how hard we competed against a very good team on the road,'' Anastos said. "Minnesota's skill and depth is very impressive. They keep coming at you.''
GREAT START: Seven days after their most disappointing performance and loss of the season, against Michigan at Munn Arena, the Spartans came out focused and full of energy.
"I don't know what it is about Minnesota but we always seem to play a good game,'' Haag said. "I think it's because they're a team that's so good. We have to be ready, be focused.
"Last week, we were pretty down but we stepped it up this week and tonight everyone wanted to fight and battle for each other. We were blocking shots and attacking with the puck. I'm happy for this team. We wanted the three points but I think this was a step forward, especially when you compare it to last week.''
Haag thought good things were about to happen when he reached out and deflected Matt Berry's centering pass in the final minutes of overtime.
"It hit my stick and I thought it was going in,'' he said. "That's hockey. Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes not.''
IN THE BIG TEN: Michigan and Ohio State came up winners on home ice on Friday. The Wolverines defeated Wisconsin, 3-1, and the Buckeyes cruised to a 5-1 victory over Penn State.
Ryan Dzingel, the Big Ten's leading scorer, had two goals - his 15th and 16th of the season - and an assist to spark the Buckeyes. Max McCormick had two goals for OSU, his eighth and ninth.
OSU and Penn State close out their series at 2 p.m. on Saturday, while the Wolverines and Badgers meet at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Next weekend, the Buckeyes play at Michigan State. Next Friday's game is at 6:30 p.m. while Saturday's contest is at 4 p.m.
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