Neil's Notebook: Late Goals Lift Spartans
Oct. 27, 2013
By Neil Koepke, MSUSpartans.com staff writer
EAST LANSING - The three goals weren't pretty. They were the grinder type, the result of hard work, battles for possession, being in the right spot and good puck luck.
Brent Darnell's goal tied it.
Joe Cox's goal put the Spartans in the lead.
Greg Wolfe's empty-netter sealed a much-needed 3-1 victory over No. 13/14 Boston University on Saturday night at Munn Arena.
For 55 minutes, Michigan State could not solve Terriers sophomore goaltender Sean Maguire.
"We talked about getting the puck to the net and just willing it in,'' MSU coach Tom Anastos said.
The Spartans felt some frustration but never lost their poise and hope, and their perseverance led to a thrilling, late comeback and their first victory of the season after three straight defeats.
MSU scored two goals within 52 seconds - at 15:04 by Darnell and 15:56 by Cox, a freshman -- to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.
Goalie Jake Hildebrand made a couple of clutch saves in the final seconds, and after MSU finally cleared the puck out of the defensive zone, Wolfe deposited it into an empty-net with 4.2 seconds left.
Anastos said he didn't see how Darnell's and Cox's goals went in. He did see Wolfe's clincher.
On the tying goal, Darnell fired the puck from the right corner, behind the goal line and it either caromed off a Terrier defenseman or goalie Maguire and found the back of the net.
Dean Chelios, who drew an assist on Darnell's goal, did yeoman work behind the night on the right to win a 1-on-1 battle with a BU defenseman. As he worked the puck free, it appeared to hit Chelios' skate and slide toward the crease. Cox maneuvered his way between two BU defenders and found the puck on his stick. He quickly shot it between the right post and Maguire's left pad for his first collegiate goal.
Two hard-nosed, grinder-type goals saved the Spartans from a disheartening loss.
"It was a Picasso in my book,'' Anastos said of Cox's goal. "That was the Mona Lisa of the night. I don't care how it went in. The red light went on and our guys were jumping up and down. That was beautiful.''
The Spartans trailed by a goal from 19:12 of the first period as one mistake led to a Terrier goal, spoiling a solid first period by MSU, which outshot the visitors 11-5. The Spartans had 14 shots in the second period.
"Those things can frustrate a team and that's why I'm proud of a really young group because of the poise they played with throughout the game,'' Anastos said.
"We grinded it out down low. We felt we were putting their goalie under quite a bit of pressure during the course of the night. We talked about bringing the puck to the net and jamming it into and the goalie and creating scrambles.'' Senior defenseman Jake Chelios assisted on MSU's first and second goals, and he was on the ice for Wolfe's goal, as was freshman defenseman Brock Krygier, who drew an assist on Darnell's goal.
"Our team takes pride in trying to be consistent, to keep bringing it and we did that,'' Darnell said. "We felt that if we kept getting the puck on net, one had to go in. Luckily, mine did.
"I've been trying to get my shot off quicker. Get pucks on net. So I just fired the puck at the net. I think it went off the skate of one of their defenseman. But I don't really know.''
Darnell's goal brought the crowd to life and suddenly there was lots of energy coming from the Spartan bench. MSU kept up its pressure and the line of Cox, Dean Chelios and Michael Ferrantino made the tiring Terriers pay as Cox shot his way into the spotlight.
"Dean and I were fighting for the puck down low and Mike was in the slot. The whole thing migrated toward the net, and one thing led to the other and the puck ended up on my stick,'' said Cox, a 5-foot-10, 167 pound rookie right wing from Chelsea. "I was just relieved. It's a big goal for the team and big goal for me.
"It's our first win, something everybody's been waiting for. We were feeling a lot of frustration but we held to our fundamentals and it worked out.''
Before the nonconference victory was claimed, the Spartans had to go through some anxious moments in the final 44 seconds. The Terriers came within a whisker of tying it with a few quality chances during a wild scramble around the net.
Hildebrand was outstanding with some big saves, the puck bounced right for MSU, and finally freshman center Matt DeBlouw chipped the puck out of the zone to set up Wolfe for his third goal of the season.
"This is huge for our team and huge for our confidence,'' Cox said. "Any way I can help our team out - blocking shots, winning battles or scoring goals - I love doing that. Since it's against BU and we were 0-3, it feels even better.''
Said Anastos, "It feels good to win, not so much for me but for the players. I'm really happy for them. They've worked hard, they're getting better every game and it's a good ending to the weekend.''
HILDEBRAND DELIVERS: Jake Hildebrand wasn't selected as one of the three stars on Saturday but the Spartans wouldn't have been in position for their great comeback if the sophomore goaltender from Butler, Pa., hadn't made a couple of outstanding saves in the second period and a few more in the first 15 minutes of the third. Hildebrand stopped 13 shots in the second period and nine in the third and finished with 26 saves.
"For our team to have success, we need to have really good goaltending,'' Anastos said. "What that means is a consistent level of performance but also having that big save at a timely moment.
"We really got two great saves (from Hildebrand) that were critical. On one, when we were shorthanded in the second period, BU slipped a pass through the gap of our penalty kill to the backdoor and he came up really big on the post side. Then, that (glove deflection) save at the end was phenomenal with all the traffic. He has quick hands.''
Hildebrand said he felt his team was playing so well in over the first two periods that he was confident that it would eventually score.
"After the first period, I kept telling myself `don't give up another one because we're going to come back,''' he said. "We played phenomenal tonight. We took so many pucks to the net. This will give us a lot of confidence.''
As usual, Hildebrand was cool and calm during the final minute, with BU goalie Sean Maguire pulled for a sixth attacker. The Terriers won a faceoff with 44.3 seconds left and worked the puck around the zone, creating chaos in front of the net.
"Every shot has a good chance. With everyone in front of the net, you never know where the puck is going to go,'' Hildebrand said. "It could bounce off anyone.'' A Terrier forward took a point-blank shot from the slot but Hildebrand just got his catching glove up to deflect it over the net.
"I don't think he got all of it but I ended up seeing it at the last second and threw my glove up. I just tried to get something on it,'' Hildebrand said.
Hildebrand, who gave up four goals in Friday's 4-1 loss to UMass-Lowell, started again Saturday because of a feeling by Anastos that his goaltender had a big-time performance in him.
"We talked about it last night (as a coaching staff),'' Anastos said of the decision to play Hildebrand again or go with Will Yanakeff. "I knew Hildy had big game in him, because he played like that all last season.
"I haven't seen that this season, when he's made the big save at the right time. He played last night, slept in his own bed and I thought let's see if we can build some rhythm. It was more of a gut feeling than anything else.''
"I don't think he's played poorly (in his two starts) but I don't think he's played at the level we need him to play at. Tonight, he showed what he's capable of, for sure.''
POWER PLAY IMPROVES: MSU'S power play hasn't made an impact in any game this season, but it did look better on Saturday, even though it still didn't score.
In Friday's 4-1 loss to UMass-Lowell, the Spartans didn't even get a shot on goal during five power play opportunities, two of which were less than 30 seconds. But against BU, MSU had seven power plays - six full two-minute advantages and one 17 seconds long - and managed 11 shots on goal. During a power play starting at 13:29 of the second period, the Spartans had five shots on goal.
"I saw progress. We moved the puck around really well and had some good looks,'' Anastos said. "We put some people in different spots. Obviously, we want better results but this is the first step in putting people in the right places.''
Two of the team's top power-play forwards from last season haven't been in the lineup during the first four games. Matt Berry is injured and Tanner Sorenson has been out with a suspension for a violation of team rules. Sorenson returns next week. In addition, defenseman John Draeger got power play time last season as a freshman but he's also out with a lower body injury. Berry and Draeger hope to be back late next month or early December.
In four games, MSU is 1 for 19 on the power play.
SPARTAN POTPOURRI: Boston University's last visit to Munn Arena was on March 26, 1990, and the Terriers handed the Spartans one of their most devastating losses in history. BU topped MSU, 5-3, to win a best-of-three NCAA Regional series, 2-1, keeping the Spartans from the NCAA Final Four in Detroit. MSU won the first game, then lost the next two. Overall, MSU now holds a 9-8 edge in the series . . . MSU remains home next week for a nonconference series against American International College (AIC), a member of Atlantic Hockey and located in Springfield, Mass. The Yellow Jackets, 1-1 after a 4-1 win over Sacred Heart on Saturday, and Spartans meet a 7 p.m. Saturday and at 1 p.m. next Sunday . . . The Spartans' other four opponents in November: At Michigan Tech, Nov. 8-9; Western Michigan, Nov. 22; at Western Michigan, Nov 23; Princeton, Nov. 29-Dec. 1.
AROUND THE BIG TEN: Conference teams went 2-2 on Saturday with MSU and Ohio State winning and Michigan and Penn State losing.
The Buckeyes (2-3) completed a sweep of Robert Morris with a 4-3 victory in Pittsburgh. The No. 4 Wolverines (4-1-1) suffered their first loss of the season, falling to No. 18 UMass-Lowell, 2-1, at Yost Arena. Penn State (1-3-1) lost to Vermont 5-2 in front of 17,632 fans at Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia.
Top-ranked Minnesota (4-0-1) plays No. 5 Boston College (2-1-1) on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis. The teams played to a 3-3 tie on Friday.
Going into Sunday's game, the Big Ten is 4-3-2 against six nonconference opponents this weekend.
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