Oct. 26, 2013
By Neil Koepke, MSUSpartans.com staff writer
EAST LANSING - There were certainly many lessons to be learned by Michigan State from Friday's 4-1 loss to UMass-Lowell in the Spartans' home opener at Munn Arena.
But there weren't a lot of bright spots on a night in which the River Hawks showed why they started the season ranked No. 1 in college hockey's two major polls. The highlight of the evening for MSU was freshman left wing Mackenzie MacEachern's first collegiate goal on an exciting, well-executed breakaway 8:48 into the third period.
The goal cut the Spartans' deficit to 3-1, lifted their energy level, gave them some hope and fired up the crowd.
Unfortunately, the goal didn't lead to a late MSU comeback, and the visitors prevented any late surge and added another goal to close out a strong workmanlike victory.
The River Hawks (2-3), ranked No. 18 after a disappointing 1-3 start, showed their experience with good execution, great decisions with and without the puck and made it tough on the Spartans all over the ice.
Still, the goal was special for MacEachern, a 6-foot-2, 192-pound power forward from Troy.
"It was definitely a good feeling to get the goal, but you hope the game went a little different,'' he said. "It helps a lot (with confidence), and you get the monkey off your back and not have to worry about it. You just try to do what you do to help the team win.''
MacEachern scored with each team a man short. The play started in the MSU zone as goalie Jake Hildebrand made an excellent pad save on a shot from the right circle by UML defenseman Christian Folin.
The puck bounced out front to Hildebrand's right, and MSU freshman defenseman Rhett Holland swept in and fired it off the side boards. It caromed back between two River Hawks near the blue line, as MacEachern skated between them to chase down the loose puck. Suddenly, he had open ice in front of him, with UML forward Scott Wilson in pursuit.
MacEachern went to his left to create some space and from the right edge of the left circle, he fired the puck into the top right corner, over goalie Connor Hellebuyck's glove and left arm.
"Holland threw the puck (off the boards) trying to get it out of the zone, it bounced over a stick and I was off to the races,'' MacEachern said. "I went a little wide and took the shot. I threw it up high.''
MacEachern started the game on an all-rookie line with center Thomas Ebbing and right wing Villiam Haag. When he scored his goal, center Michael Ferrantino was on the ice with defensemen Jake Chelios and Holland.
"I thought he did a good job (on the breakaway),'' MSU coach Tom Anastos said. "He came out of the defensive zone, protected the puck and made a really strong play.''
"He had a good game tonight. He was noticeable.''
Two years ago, MacEachern and Ebbing helped Birmingham Brother Rice to the 2012 Division 2 state high school championship. As a senior that season, MacEachern won the Mr. Hockey Award as the best high school player in the state.
Last season, MacEachern and Ebbing, also from Troy, played for the Chicago Steel of the U.S. Hockey League.
"It's a different game (in college) from where I'm coming from,'' MacEachern said of his first three games as a Spartan. "I feel like I'm doing pretty well with it. I'm just trying to play my game, which is battling down low and creating chances for my teammates.
"I've scored a fair amount of goals like (the breakaway) but most of my goals have come from using my body and getting to the net.''
STREAKING: Red-shirt defenseman Rhett Holland's assist on MacEachern's goal was his third of the season. He has an assist in all three MSU games and holds the Spartan scoring lead with three points. But offense isn't Holland's game. It's playing physical and being solid in the defensive zone.
"My points are just from good work by the forwards. I try to play it simple and get the puck out of our zone,'' he said. "This helps my confidence but that's not my game.''
Holland, a 6-foot-2, 218-pounder from Calgary, Alberta, played in three games at the start of last season before being sidelined with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He took a red-shirt year and has four years of eligibility remaining.
"I think it's been pretty good. I'm trying to get better every day,'' he said of his first three games this season. "There are certain aspects of the game I really want to work on.
"It's a big jump from juniors and it'll take us awhile to get the game down and get things intact. I think we're on the right track but we need to play games and get experience.''
Holland made a clearing pass off the boards to set up MacEachern for his breakaway and he was thrilled to see how the play ended - with a red light flashing. "It's nice to see that happen - to get the first (goal) out of the way,'' he said. "Nice to see someone score their first goal. Hopefully, he can keep it rolling and the other freshmen (forwards) can fall in behind him.''
NO PENALTY SHOT: Spartan sophomore left wing Ryan Keller, while killing a penalty in the first period, had a clear breakaway coming down the left wing, only to see his backhand attempt from the top of the crease stopped by River Hawks goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
As Keller went to his backhand to release the puck, he was slashed on his left hand by UML defenseman Zach Kamrass. The Spartans felt Keller should have been awarded a penalty shot for having a clear scoring chance taken away. The referees didn't see it that way. A replay of the play, using frame-by-frame slow motion, shows that Keller released the puck an instant before being whacked on the hand by Kamrass. Keller led the Spartans with four shots on goal. Freshman left wing JT Stenglein and defensemen Jake Chelios and Rhett Holland each had three shots on goal.
SPARTAN POTPOURRI: MSU had five power plays and did not get any shots on goal. Only two of the power players were a full two minutes. The others were for 26 seconds, 15 seconds and 1 minute and 9 seconds. The Spartans fired shots at the net on the power play but the River Hawks blocked a few and several were off target . . . MSU held a 36-25 advantage in faceoffs. Centers Thomas Ebbing and Matt DeBlouw were the Spartans best faceoff men. Ebbing was 12-8 and DeBlouw went 7-2. . . . Coach Tom Anastos said he would review the video of Friday's game and meet with his coaching staff before deciding on Saturday's starting goalie against Boston University. In the season-opening series at Massachusetts last weekend, Jake Hildebrand played on Friday and Will Yanakeff got the start on Saturday.
AROUND THE BIG TEN: Conference teams compiled a 2-1-2 record on Friday with No. 4-ranked Michigan and Ohio State posting victories and No. 1 Minnesota and Penn State playing to ties.
The Wolverines (4-0-1) rallied from a 1-0 deficit with two goals within 90 seconds midway through the third period and pulled out a 2-1 victory over Boston University (3-2) at Yost Arena. After Tyler Motte scored on a power play to tie it, 1-1, Alex Guptill was awarded a penalty shot 90 seconds later, and he scored to give U-M a lead it never lost.
Minnesota (4-0-1) and No. 5 Boston College (2-1-1) battled to a 3-3 tie in Minneapolis, with five goals coming in the first period. The Gophers led 2-0 before the Eagles scored three goals within 1 minute and 11 seconds -- the last two goals just 11 seconds apart -- to take a 3-2 lead. Minnesota tied it late in the second period and the rest of the game was scoreless.
Ohio State (1-2) defeated Robert Morris 5-3 on Friday in Columbus. Saturday's series finale is in Pittsburgh. Penn State (1-2-1) and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) played to a 3-3 deadlock in State College, Pa. Wisconsin (2-2) is off this weekend.