Neil's Notebook: A Closer Look at the MTU Series
Nov. 10, 2013
By Neil Koepke
HOUGHTON - David Bondra has been eager to get back in the lineup after sitting out the last five games. On Saturday night, he got his chance. And he produced.
The Michigan State sophomore forward scored his first collegiate goal in the first minute of the second period to tie the game 1-1, and give the Spartans some much-needed momentum.
In the end, however, Bondra's big moment was a bit bittersweet because the Spartans (3-5) lost to Michigan Tech (3-6-1) for the second straight game - 3-2 in overtime at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
MSU's play in the second and third periods was the highlight of the weekend, but the opportunistic Huskies took advantage of some Spartan mistakes and good bounces to complete the non-conference series sweep on Alex Petan's goal from the slot with 1:08 left in overtime.
Bondra, who had no goals and three assists in 35 games as a freshman last season, played in MSU's first two games at Massachusetts three weeks ago. Then he was a healthy scratch for the last five games.
On Saturday, Coach Tom Anastos put him on left wing on a line with center Michael Ferrantino and right wing Joe Cox. Both linemates earned assists on Bondra's first career goal - MSU's first of the weekend, after being shutout 3-0 in the series opener on Friday.
"It was nice but it's bittersweet. It's great to get the monkey off my back but we lost the game,'' Bondra said. "Our mission was to come in and win this game and we didn't.''
Trailing 1-0, the Spartans finally solved Tech goaltender Pheonix Copley when Bondra converted Ferrantino's pass into the slot just 57 seconds into the second period.
"Ferrantino was taking (the puck) down the left side and went behind the net and I just crashed the net and had an easy play to pop it in,'' Bondra said. "The goal changed the momentum for a while.''
Despite getting outshot, 38-19, MSU's energy level and overall play were much better than they were in the 3-0 loss on Friday. Saturday's game was very winnable, and the Spartans probably deserved a better fate.
"In the second and third periods, we came out and played as a team, and I think showed a lot of character,'' Bondra said. "I think we can hang with anybody, but we have to play that way all the time.''
Bondra and Dean Chelios led MSU with three shots on goal apiece.
"Bondra brought energy and a physicality,'' Anastos said. "It was nice to see him get his first goal. I thought that line played hard all night.''
LINEUP CHANGES: Bondra and sophomore center Matt DeBlouw were healthy scratches on Friday but found themselves in the lineup as Anastos adjusted his forward lines.
Anastos had DeBlouw centering Ryan Keller and Villiam Haag and Dean Chelios in Keller's recent spot on left wing with Lee Reimer and Greg Wolfe. JT Stenglein joined a line centered by Thomas Ebbing, with Mackenzie MacEachern on right wing.
POWER PLAY CLICKS: The Spartans converted on their second power play to pull into a 2-2 tie early in the third period. Lee Reimer deflected Greg Wolfe's shot from the point in the middle and it slid between the legs of Tech goalie Copley and into the right corner of the net at 4:00.
"I was standing in front of the net and we were moving the puck around,'' Reimer said. "We got the puck to the net and I just happened to tip it.''
Last Friday against American International, Reimer got his first goal of the season from the slot, while killing a penalty.
Reimer said the game got more competitive when the Spartans boosted their energy level after Bondra's goal.
"We came out with good jump, we were making plays, got pucks deep and got a forecheck going that changed the whole aspect of our game,'' he said.
Unfortunately, the Spartans couldn't capitalize in the up-tempo third period and the Huskies did in overtime.
"It's not the result we wanted but we battled hard, tied it and had chances in the third to win it," Reimer said. "We missed out on some opportunities and the puck bounced against us in overtime.''
The Spartans were 1-for-3 on the power play. The Huskies were 1-for-2, scoring with 2.9 seconds left in the second period to take a 2-1 lead.
BETTER, NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Tom Anastos said there were lots of lessons learned from the two games against Michigan Tech, and that there were some positives about his team's effort on Saturday. But he's still a results-oriented guy and the 3-2 overtime loss was frustrating for the third-year coach.
"I thought it was a better effort tonight but we're certainly disappointed in the end result. We tend to make critical mistakes at bad times and we need some puck luck,'' Anastos said.
"If you look at the (overtime) goal, the puck went in front of the net, it tips off a stick, bounces off our defenseman, bounces to a guy who should have been covered and he ends up scoring.
"That was kind of the story of the weekend. They created their puck luck and were a step ahead of us."
Anastos said his team's play in the second and third periods was its best of the weekend. But he certainly didn't like the way the second period ended. The last minute started with a faceoff in the Tech zone, but they cleared the puck and a few seconds later, MSU captain Greg Wolfe took an interference penalty just outside the Huskies blue line at 19:26.
The Spartans managed to shoot the puck down the ice after Tech's first surge into the MSU zone, but the Huskies raced back down the ice. They got possession behind the net and Blake Pietila managed to pass the puck out front, where an open Tanner Keno got his stick on it to tap it past goalie Will Yanakeff with 2.9 seconds left it the period.
Instead of going into the intermission tied, 1-1, the Spartans were down 2-1 and probably pretty frustrated.
"The way the second period ended was a real kick in the teeth,'' Anastos said. "But I liked the way we responded at the start of the third period. We put it behind us and just went out and play, and scored on the power play to tie it.
"But it's disappointing when you measure it on results, and we didn't get it (done) tonight.''
"The experience we got is a good one. You don't like the result but it goes to show you the margin of error isn't very big. You make untimely mistakes and they'll end up costing you.''
Asked what he's learned about his team through eight games and from the two losses to Michigan Tech, Anastos said:
"I know we have a long way to go. I don't like talking about inexperience but you have to learn how to play on the road, to play over the crowd, to match their energy and to keep it a simple game. And all these things, you have to do them all the time. Consistency is very important.''
TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO: Micigan State hasn't seen the last of Michigan Tech this season. The Spartans and Huskies will meet in the first game of the Great Lakes Invitational outside at Comerica Park in Detroit at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 27. Michigan and Western Michigan play in the second game at 7 p.m. The Huskies are the GLI defending champs. MSU's last GLI title was in 2009.
UP NEXT FOR MSU: The Spartans have next weekend off. Their next test is a non-conference against former CCHA rival Western Michigan. The teams meet at Munn Arena on Nov. 22 and at WMU on Nov. 23. The Broncos are now a member of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
RADIO SHOW ON MONDAY: The Tom Anastos Radio Show at Reno's East moves from Tuesday to Monday this week because of the Spartan basketball game against Kentucky in the Champions Classic on Tuesday in Chicago. The show is at 7 p.m., on WJIM (1240).
IN THE BIG TEN: No. 1 Minnesota outlasted No. 3/4 Notre Dame, 5-4, in South Bend on Saturday to earn a split in the non-conference series. The Irish won the first game, 4-1.
Ohio State completed a sweep of Niagara with a 6-1 win at home on Saturday, after a 4-1 victory on Friday.
Penn State was idle on Saturday, after edging Sacred Heart, 2-1, on Friday. No. 12/13 Wisconsin and No. 2 Michigan had the weekend off.
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