Neil's Notebook: Wolfe, Hildebrand Shine in Second Straight Tie With OSU
Feb. 9, 2014
Neil's Notebook: Wolfe, Hildebrand Shine as
By Neil Koepke
EAST LANSING - Michigan State senior right wing and captain Greg Wolfe had an outstanding game. He had two power-play goals, five shots on goal and came close to getting a hat trick.
Spartan sophomore goaltender Jake Hildebrand also had an outstanding game. He made 48 saves, several of the spectacular variety, and was sharp and focused for 65 minutes against a team that shoots the puck from everywhere.
But elite-level play by Wolfe and Hildebrand still wasn't enough for Michigan State to pull out a victory against Ohio State on Saturday afternoon in front of 6,331 fans at Munn Arena.
For the second straight night, the Spartans and Buckeyes battled to a 2-2 tie, and once again OSU won the shootout to earn two points in Big Ten play.
Just like in Friday's deadlock, MSU came away with one point and two for the weekend, despite carrying a one-goal lead into the third period.
The Spartans had a great chance to win the Big Ten series finale in overtime, but Ohio State freshman goalie Christian Frey made a game-saving, glove save on wide-open MSU sophomore center Mike Ferrantino at the edge of the crease.
"That has to go in,'' Ferrantino said. "Credit their goalie with a good save, but our guys did a heck of a job getting me the puck, but it's got to go in.''
Cox passed across the ice to Matt Berry on the edge of the left circle and he quickly sent the puck to Ferrantino in the slot with only Frey around him. Ferrantino directed the puck to the net but Frey reached out and snagged the puck, preventing a loss for the Buckeyes.
"I didn't have a whole lot of time,'' Ferrantino said. "I tried to get it up as fast as I could but he got a glove on it. It was exactly what we wanted to do. I just have to finish it.''
Coach Tom Anastos said the play went exactly the way they drew it up - except that the puck went into Frey's catching glove instead of the net for the game-winning goal.
"Maybe I'm not living right but we drew up that faceoff play and I think we could have only executed it just a little better,'' Anastos said. "Their goalie made a heck of a save so we ended in a tie.''
The Spartans (8-13-6 overall, 2-5-5-3 Big Ten) lost in the shootout, 1-0, to finish the season series against the Buckeyes 0-1-3-1. OSU (14-9-3, 4-5-3-2) won the first game 5-3 and then the teams played three consecutive ties - 1-1 in Columbus, with MSU winning the shootout, and 2-2 and 2-2 this weekend at Munn Arena, with the Buckeyes winning both shootouts.
So, OSU earns four points in the series, while MSU gets two points, a point each shootout loss.
Wolfe had one of his best games of the season with two power-play goals off slap shots that rocketed past Fry. He also scored on Friday with a similar shot on a 2-on-1 break in the third period that gave MSU a 2-0 lead.
"I felt good. I had one (goal) last night and was able to get a lot behind it,'' he said. "They were playing a little low because the last time we played them, Berry scored two down-low goals. So they were kind of cheating on Berry.
"Jake (Chelios) and I were saying that we have a clear lane so we might as well rip it.''
Wolfe tied Saturday's game 1-1 on a power play 41 seconds into the second period when he took a pass from Lee Reimer in the right circle and fired the puck into the top right corner of the net.
With 1:34 left in the period, Wolfe got his 11th goal of the season when he and Chelios switched positions on the point - Wolfe moving to the left point and Chelios to the right. Chelios fed Wolfe with a perfect pass for a one-timer. Wolfe's shot glanced off a Buckeye defender and caromed up and hit the crossbar near the right post and bounced down and into the net to give MSU a 2-1 lead.
"It's nice when you can your full body behind the shot,'' Wolfe said. "Sometimes you're off balance and you just want to get the puck in there to create a scrum. Jake and I had opportunities where we could get our full body behind it.''
Wolfe and Reimer were dangerous throughout the game. Most every time they came down the ice, they had the potential to set up a quality scoring chance.
"It's nice to see the puck go in for Wolfey. I keep telling him to shoot the puck because he has a really good shot," Anastos said. "So, he got three (goals) this weekend. Good for him.
"I think with him and Jake, the one-timer option was available to them if they recognized it at the time. In Wolfey's case, it's good for him to feel he's in the group to score goals. We need him to.
" What we have to find is how we can get more than two goals and how we can get more balance in scoring on a consistent basis.''
Wolfe's three goals in the two games didn't make him feel that great since both games were winnable and the Spartans ended up giving up leads in the third period and having to settle for ties, which led to a pair of shootout losses.
He said the ties felt more like losses.
"Especially last night. That was a tough one,'' Wolfe said. "Tonight was disappointing but last night, having a two-goal lead and to give up two late goals, that was tough.
"But we battled all weekend and that's a positive. We went down early tonight, got back in it and took the lead and had some momentum. But it wasn't enough.
"There's a little frustration but we're trying to see through that. We had a good forecheck and I thought we did a good job on getting in on their defense. We were first on loose pucks and that's the stuff we need to do to generate offense. I thought we were much better this weekend at that.''
Meanwhile, Hildebrand continues to make great saves and clutch stops to keep his team in games when the opposition is buzzing inside the Spartan done and putting a lot of pucks on goal.
Hildebrand made 40 saves on Friday and tied his career high with 48 on Saturday. He also had 48 in a 3-0 win over Penn State on Jan. 17.
"Last night kind of felt like a loss. We wanted to come back today and give a great effort and I thought we did that,'' Hildebrand said.
Anastos said he talks to Hildebrand often about how he's dealing with the pressure of having to be great every night, since the Spartans have had trouble scoring more than two goals a game.
"We talk regularly and I get feedback from him, but it seems like the more work he gets the better he feels,'' Anastos said. "I want to keep his mind fresh but you wonder about it because every goal is so important. For him, that creates stress but he seems to manage it pretty well. I haven't seen signs of fatigue.''
Last weekend at Minnesota, Hildebrand made 26 saves in a 2-2 tie and 37 in a 1-0 loss.
The 5-foot-11, 183-pounder from Butler, Pa., has played in 24 games and has a 2.21 goals-against average, which ranks 18th nationally, and a .933 saves percentage, which is 6th in the nation.
SOLID REBOUND: After Friday's heartbreaking 2-2 tie and shootout loss to Ohio State, in which MSU squandered a 2-0 lead in the last two minutes by giving up two power-play goals, Coach Tom Anastos wondered how his team would respond on Saturday.
The Spartans gave up an early goal, set up by a blocked shot in the offensive zone, but didn't sag and worked hard throughout the game, trying to somehow come up with a victory.
"I was curious how we would respond after last night. That was a very tough way to see that game end after the way we played,'' Anastos said. "It took a little bit of time but I thought we responded fairly well. I thought we were running out of gas later in the game but the guys competed really hard.
"The first goal coming in the third period was going to be a key goal,'' said Anastos, whose team held a 2-1 lead entering the third period. "If we get it, we've got the momentum, the crowd is into it and we've got an emotional edge.
"They get it and now we have to fight to get over it, and it gave them a big lift.''
MSU-OSU ONE MORE TIME? The Spartans and Buckeyes finished their season series with three ties, after OSU won the opener, 5-3, in Columbus on Jan. 10. But there's a good chance these teams will meet again in the Big Ten Tournament - and that game can't end in a tie and there will be no shootout to decide anything.
In the Big Ten, Ohio State is in fourth place with 17 points, while Michigan State is fifth with 14 points. The Buckeyes are five points behind third-place Michigan and seven in back of second-place Wisconsin. U-M has two games in hand on every team in the conference except Penn State.
Based on the schedules ahead, there's a good chance that OSU and MSU will finish fourth and fifth, and if they do, they'll meet in the Big Ten quarterfinals on March 20 at the Big Ten Tournament in St. Paul, Minn. The winner plays the No. 1 seed, which is likely to be Minnesota, which gets a first-round bye, along with the second-place finisher.
In each OSU-MSU contest this season, the Spartans carried a one-goal lead into the third period but they couldn't hold it. They lost the series opener in Columbus, 5-3, after leading 3-2 after two periods. In the second game, MSU led 1-0 only to see the Buckeyes tie it in the third period, 1-1, before the Spartans won the shootout, 2-1.
And leads disappeared this weekend against OSU at Munn Arena - a 2-0 lead turned into a 2-2 tie on Friday and a 2-1 edge on Saturday ended in another 2-2 deadlock.
ROAD TRIPS AWAIT: The Spartans won't play a regular-season home game until March 8 against Michigan in the second-last weekend of the season. For the next two weeks, MSU plays at Penn State next weekend and at Wisconsin on Feb. 21-22.
On March 1, the Spartans play an exhibition game against the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 team at Munn Arena.
MSU's visit to Penn State will be its first since the Nittany Lions moved from a club program to a Division I program last season. PSU split a nonconference series with the Spartans last January at Munn Arena, and this season MSU swept Penn State, 3-0, 3-2, on Jan. 17-18, also at Munn Arena.
After nine consecutive losses in Big Ten play, Penn State made history on Saturday with their first league victory in a decisive 4-0 win over Michigan in State College, Pa.Michigan won the series opener, 7-3, on Friday night.
IN THE BIG TEN: Wisconsin handed No. 1 Minnesota its first two Big Ten defeats with a 2-1, 2-1 sweep of the Gophers on Thursday and Friday in Madison. The first-place Gophers (19-4-5, 8-2-2-0) are four points ahead of Wisconsin with eight games remaining for both teams.
Minnesota has finished its season series with Wisconsin and Michigan State but still has to face Michigan four times. Wisconsin has completed its series with Michigan but still has four games against the Spartans.
In addition to this week's MSU-Penn State series, Minnesota plays host to Michigan and Wisconsin visits Ohio State.
The Gophers will lose their No. 1 ranking with Boston College expected to be the top-ranked team in both major polls. The Gophers should fall to No. 2 or 3.
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