Feb. 8, 2014
By Neil Koepke
MSUSpartans.com staff writer
EAST LANSING - What a difference a week makes for Michigan State. Last Friday, the Spartans held off No. 1 Minnesota and came away with a 2-2 tie and victory in the shootout. The tie felt like a win for the upbeat Spartans.
Seven days later, in front of a sellout crowd of 6,494 at Munn Arena, MSU saw a 2-0 lead vanish in the last two minutes on Friday, as Ohio State rallied to tie the game, 2-2, and then won in the shootout, 2-1.
For the Spartans, this tie felt like a loss - a gut-wrenching defeat.
"It's disappointing not to be able to finish that game. Very disappointing," MSU coach Tom Anastos said. "We couldn't make the plays to finish it and they did. "They stayed with what they were doing and were able to make those two plays.''
Those two plays by the Buckeyes were two power-play goals in the last two minutes with their goaltender pulled for a sixth attacker.
OSU held a 6-on-4 edge and managed to cut MSU's lead to 2-1 at 18:26, and thanks to another penalty and another 6-on-4 advantage, the Buckeyes tied it with 1.7 seconds left, on a goal off a scramble by senior right wing Alex Szczechura.
"They scored a goal with one second left. How often does that happen?'' Spartan senior captain Greg Wolfe said. "We had it won. I had a chance with an empty net with two minutes left (and MSU up 2-0) and it bounced wide. That's the game if it goes in. It's a game of inches, it's a game of seconds.''
After a scoreless overtime, in which each team had a power play for 42 seconds, OSU won the shootout in five rounds, 2-1. The Buckeyes get two points for the shootout win and the Spartans, who were looking at three points and their third Big Ten win, get one point for the tie and shootout loss - MSU's first in conference play.
"The best thing we can do is to try to forget about it, especially since it's a Friday night loss,'' Spartan senior defenseman Jake Chelios said. "You can't dwell on it. It happened and it sucks, but you have to move on right away.''
The Spartans (8-13-5 overall, 2-5-4-3 Big Ten) and Buckeyes (14-9-2, 4-5-2-1) meet in the series finale at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Munn Arena. It's the final game of the season between the two teams. MSU lost and tied, winning the shootout, in Columbus on Jan. 10-11.
The question facing the Spartans on Saturday is how will they react to what looked like a quality victory snatched away in the last two minutes. And instead of three points, MSU came away with only one.
"We'll see about our resiliency. I think our team will be resilient,'' Anastos said. "That's a tough pill to swallow, letting that game get away from us in the manner it did.
"We can't dwell on it. We have to learn from it. We need to learn how to finish those games. You take a punch to the gut and we have to regroup and respond. "Frankly, we had to do that in overtime. That's what I told our team after the third period. Forget what just happened and now it's about the next five minutes. We can't let tonight's 65 minutes affect what we do (on Saturday).''
Despite a lot of pressure and shots from all over the ice by the Buckeyes, MSU defended well in the second half of the period. But Ohio State got a big break and the game turned when Joe Cox was called for interference at 16:49. Cox knocked down OSU's Darik Angeli in the slot, just seconds after a centering pass went between their legs. But the back referee called an interference penalty on Cox. MSU skated off the power play for 1 minute and 37 seconds, but the Buckeyes, with goalie Christian Frey pulled for a sixth attacker, finally converted when Fritz's shot from the inside edge of the right circle hit the far left post and the puck caromed into the net at 18:26.
Ohio State continued to pressure the Spartans, now with a one-man advantage with Frey again off for a sixth attacker. The Buckeyes go another break when MSU's Matt Berry, in pursuit of a loose puck at the MSU blue line, got tied up with OSU's Nick Oddo, and when Oddo went down, Berry was called for hooking with 39 seconds left.
MSU blocked two shots before goalie Jake Hildebrand made a chest save on OSU's top scorer, Ryan Dzingel, with 11 seconds left.
That set up a faceoff in the right circle - to Hildebrand's left. The Buckeyes' Max McCormick won the faceoff from Lee Reimer and the puck went back to the point to Dzingel, who passed it to defenseman Curtis Gedig in the left circle. Gedig's shot deflected off the stick of MSU defenseman Travis Walsh's stick and landed in front of the net.
OSU'S Nick Schilkey backhanded the puck toward the net and it went to the left and behind the net. Schilkey followed, got possession and went around the net and tried a wrap-around. At the side of the net, the puck went between the skates of MSU defenseman Jake Chelios and slid through the crease.
Alex Szczechura got open in front and slid the puck under Hildebrand's right pad with 1.7 seconds left on the clock. Suddenly, the game was tied 2-2. The Buckeyes celebrated and the Spartans were dejected, with overtime just ahead.
MSU coach Tom Anastos said he didn't think the two penalties were a result of a lack of discipline but more about players trying to work hard and defend.
"I really haven't seen the penalties back. I think the guys were working hard, hustling and got caught up in the emotion of the game,'' he said. "We just have to do a better job to complete the 60 minutes. Taking penalties in those situations, even on effort, you can't put yourself in that situation.''
Said MSU captain Greg Wolfe: "I thought they were working hard and I don't think it was like they dragged anyone down. They were trying to get the puck and a guy goes down and they make the call.
"We had a lot of jump and energy all game, but when you put them on the power play twice in the last five minutes and they can pull their goalie, you give them a chance to get back in the game. It's hard to cover two extra people.
"Ohio State knew they had to get all pucks to the net and that's what they were doing (on the two late power plays). It's get the puck to the net and send as many guys as you can for a bounce. They executed and put the puck on the net.
"On their first goal, we had guys in the shot lanes and he (Fritz) hit the post and it goes in. That's a good shot. The last one was off a scramble and no one knew where the puck was and then it's in the net.''
EMPTY NETTER SO CLOSE: With Ohio State on its first power play in the last four minutes, the Spartans cleared the puck out of their zone and Greg Wolfe, from along the right wing boards a few feet from center ice, chipped the puck toward the empty net. It slid past the right post by inches and went behind the net.
Instead of MSU being up 3-0 with 1:58 to play, Ohio State was still in the game and time for a miraculous two-goal rally.
"I was just trying to get it down the ice,'' Wolfe said. "I figured I'd try to get it at the net since there was no goalie. I looked up and it looked like it was kind of on its way, but it turned and went wide.''
Wolfe, MSU's leading scorer, scored MSU's second goal midway through the third period with a perfect shot to the top right corner, on a 2-on-1 rush with Mackenzie MacEachern. Wolfe set up Lee Reimer for the Spartans' first goal at 7:44 of the second period, with a perfect centering pass from behind the net to a wide-open Reimer in front.
Wolfe has nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points in 26 games. Reimer's goal was his fifth of the season.
MORE GOOD THAN BAD: For 58 minutes, Michigan State had a lot going for it. The Spartans were playing with energy, defending well with lots of blocked shots, as usual, and goalie Jake Hildebrand was sharp and saw most of the Buckeyes shots.
If MSU had survived the last two minutes, or even the last 11 seconds and won the game, 2-1, there would have been a lot of positives about the Spartans' play.
"We were managing the game pretty successfully, but the penalties put us in a tough spot at the point in the game where they can get their goalie out,'' Coach Tom Anastos said. "Six-on-four is pretty tough to defend.
"We had good energy, we forechecked well and while we didn't create a lot of scoring chances, we had some good ones that we just didn't finish. I didn't like parts of the first period where we gave up some odd-man rushes, but we cleaned that up as the game went on.
"It was tougher for (OSU) to generate offense. They're a pretty good team. They have nice dynamics offensively and I thought we contained them pretty well for 58 minutes.
"I liked our focus. I liked the way we approached things. We were ready to play and we played hard. We just let those last couple of minutes get away from us.''
Hildebrand stopped 40 shots, including 14 in the second period and 16 in the third.
"We were sticking to our play, just like the last time we played them,'' Chelios said. "We got the puck down low and to the net and Hildy stood in there the whole game. It was good to play 58 good minutes but you need 60.
"We were playing with momentum and confidence, with all our lines going. Our freshman line played really well. (Mackenzie) MacEachern had a strong game tonight. It's fun when you're playing in their end a lot.''
SHOOTOUT NO FUN THIS TIME: Michigan State entered Friday's game with a 3-1 record in shootouts, 3-0 in Big Ten play. The Spartans have two shootout wins against Minnesota (1-0, 2-1) and one vs. Ohio State (3-2). Before Friday, the only shootout the Spartans lost was to Michigan Tech (2-1) in the semifinals of the Great Lakes Invitational. The game ended in a 2-2 tie and the Huskies won the shootout to advance to the GLI championship game.
Friday's shootout loss to OSU went five rounds.
Michael Ferrantino gave MSU a 1-0 lead when he beat goalie Christian Fry to the right side of the net. OSU's Nick Schilkey countered with goal to tie it.
In round five, Matt Berry's backhander was stopped by Fry's right pad. Tanner Fritz ended it when he beat Hildebrand with a shot along the ice, and the Buckeyes skated off with the extra point in the Big Ten standings.
SPARTAN POTPOURRI: MSU had another good night of shot blocking with 24. Defensemen Travis Walsh had six, RJ Boyd four, Jake Chelios three and John Draeger had two. . . . The Spartans had 27 shots on goal, with four each by Michael Ferrantino, Joe Cox and Lee Reimer and three by Matt Berry. . . . Ohio State blocked 15 shots. The Buckeyes had 42 shots on goal, led by five each by forwards Darik Angeli, Max McCormick and Nick Oddo and four by Anthony Greco. . . . OSU was 2-for-4 on the power play while MSU was 0-2, with one full power play in the second period a short one in overtime. . . Saturday's game against Ohio State is MSU last regular season contest at home until March 8, when Michigan visits Munn Arena. The Spartans, who are on the road at Penn State and Wisconsin over the next two weekends, are home for an exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 team on March 1.
IN THE BIG TEN: Wisconsin on Friday completed a sweep of No. 1 Minnesota with its second consecutive 2-1 victory at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Badgers broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period on a goal by sophomore forward Nick Kerdiles. The Gophers, who saw their unbeaten streak end at 14 games with a loss on Thursday, are 1-2-1 over their last four games and have scored only five goals in that stretch - 2, 1, 1, 1. . . . Meanwhile, Michigan extended its unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1) with a 7-2 victory at Penn State. The Wolverines broke a 2-2 tie with two goals early in the second period and cruised to victory, adding two goals in the final two minutes.