Neil's Notebook: A Second Look at the Laker Series
Oct. 17, 2011
By Neil Koepke, MSUSpartans.com staff writer
Two weeks and four games into the regular season, the Michigan State hockey team continues to be what new coach Tom Anastos had expected it to be for a few months:
A work in progress.
The Spartans' first Central Collegiate Hockey Association series highlighted several areas which need work and improvement as Lake Superior swept MSU, 5-4 and 3-2, on Friday and Saturday at Taffy Abel Arena in Sault Ste. Marie.
"We're going through a process of trying to find an identity that best fits this team. We have a lot of work to do,'' Anastos said Sunday, after returning from his team's second road trip of the year.
"We're looking at how guys play, potential line combinations, and we're also going through the transition of playing a different system than what the guys are used to.''
The Spartans (1-3 overall, 0-2 CCHA) scored a season-high four goals in Friday's opener but it wasn't enough as LSSU (4-0, 2-0) connected with 1:11 left to spoil MSU's comeback effort and pull out a one-goal victory.
In the second game, the MSU failed to capitalize on some quality chances early and then found itself down 3-0 early in the second period. The Spartans' Jake Chelios scored midway through the second period and Greg Wolfe connected with five seconds left.
MSU was hurt by lapses in defensive coverage in both games and a lack of scoring punch in the second contest.
"We're making progress but we're making our share of mistakes along the way. It seems like whenever we make mistakes, the puck ends up in our net,'' Anastos said.
"Lake Superior played hard and I give them lots of credit. They're a big, strong team and have a solid goaltender. But we had blown coverages where we'd leave a guy open and puck ends up on his stick and he had an open net to score.''
MSU makes its home debut this week against Ohio State - at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Munn Arena. The Buckeyes are coming off a split at Notre Dame. They lost the first game, 5-2, but upended the Irish, 4-3, on Saturday.
"We have to figure out a way to become a tougher team defensively and we'll have to go through some growing pains to do that,'' Anastos said.
"But I told the guys after the game that while we're disappointed with the results, we're going to build on the progress that's been positive. We'll focus on our work habits and look to get better.''
One area which remains a positive, the Spartans' coach said, is the team's compete level.
"We are competing hard and I like the poise the guys are showing, even when we fall behind,'' Anastos said. "I'm not seeing panic and frustration. They're maintaining their poise and work habits. They continue to play. Those are some things we can build on.''
STATS UPDATE: Senior center Brett Perlini, who had a goal and two assists on Friday, tops the Spartans in scoring after four games with two goals and three assists for five points. Lee Reimer, sophomore center, is second with two goals and four points.
FIRST POINT: Forward Matt Berry become the first freshman to get a point for the Spartans. Berry, a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder from Canton, assisted on Krug's power-play goal which tied the game 4-4 with 8:02 left in the third period. Berry was playing in his first college game.
FEW PENALTIES: Despite the physical nature of the two games, Referees Kevin Langseth and Mark Wilkins did not have a busy weekend calling penalties. MSU took only two penalties each night. The Lakers spent more time in the penalty box, taking five penalties on Friday and four on Saturday.
The Spartans scored two power-play goals in the third period on Friday and went 1-for-4 on Saturday. LSSU was 0-for-2 in the first game and 1-for-2 in the series finale. It was the first power play goal surrendered by the Spartans this season, who are 9-for-10 on the penalty kill. MSU's power play has converted four of 17 chances (23.5%)
at the official