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Neil’s Notebook: Special Teams The Difference in Thursday’s Loss

Nov. 11, 2016

By Neil Koepke staff writer

EAST LANSING – It was a game decided by power plays, penalty killing, execution and goaltending.

In the end, Michigan State came up short in all four areas, and it didn’t matter that the Spartans had more quality scoring chances than Ferris State.

The Bulldogs capitalized.

The Spartans didn’t.

And after 60 minutes, Ferris State skated off with a well-earned 4-1 victory on Thursday night at Munn Arena in the first game of a non-conference series.

The first four goals of the game came on power plays – three straight for the Bulldogs and one for the Spartans, who went 1-for-7 with a man advantage and held a decisive 72-45 edge in shots attempted overall.

“Our effort was good, we competed and worked hard, but our execution has to be better,” MSU coach Tom Anastos said. “We had 2-on-1s, we had open nets, pucks bouncing over our sticks and we had plays to make that we didn’t make.’’

The Spartans (2-6) gave up a power-play goal midway through the first period when a puck that got through to the net from the left point bounced off either a Bulldog or a Spartan and ended up in the net

Ferris State (3-8-1) took a commanding lead with two power-play goals within 40 seconds early in the second period, the first with a 5-on-3 advantage. Both goals came on shots from a wide angle on the left that went over the shoulder of MSU goalie Ed Minney.

The Bulldogs were 3-for-4 on the power play.

“The goals we gave up, as a penalty-killing group, it was too easy,’’ Anastos said. “They executed and we dug ourselves a hole and it was tough to fight back.

“Our coverage broke down and that was a big part of it. When the goalie sees open guys in front and he’s playing off them, it makes him go a little lower. Those were nice, wide angle shots. It was a collection of things on our penalty kill.’’



Michigan State gave itself a chance to get back into the game at 7:12 of the second period when Villiam Haag, off nifty passes from Patrick Khodorenko and Mason Appleton, scored a power-play goal from the edge of the crease.

The Spartans continued to apply pressure with two more power plays in the period, but they could not solve FSU freshman goalie Justin Kapelmaster, who made 10 saves in each of the first two periods and 11 in the third for 31 for the night.

In the last minute of the period, the Spartans’ JT Stenglein missed a wide-open net from low in the left circle. Instead of trailing 3-2 entering the third period, MSU was still facing a two-goal deficit and frustration continued to build.

“We had 72 attempts at the net, they blocked 20 shots. We have to find ways to get more pucks to the net and traffic around the net to create rebounds to get those ugly goals,’’ Anastos said. “They did a good job and we didn’t execute well enough to give ourselves a chance.

“We had good possession on the power play but we have to figure out a way to score.’’

The Spartans had one more power play – starting at 13:20 of the final period - but failed to get a shot on goal. Overall, MSU spent 12 minutes and 18 seconds on the power play and had 11 shots on Kapelmaster.

“Sometimes, we’re looking for too perfect of a play and too perfect of a shot. We have to do a better job of finding seams to get pucks through to the net and try to outnumber people,’’ Anastos said.

“We talked about it on the bench. You don’t always have to have a bomb of a shot every time. Find a seam and get it there. Ferris does a good job of stacking guys in front and that makes it pretty tough. But we need to get better at it.’’

The only even-strength goal of the game came with Minney out for a sixth attacker in the final minutes. Corey Mackin sealed the Bulldogs’ victory with an empty-net goal with 1:17 left.

After a 0-7-1 start, Ferris State has won three of its last four games, all on the road.

The Spartans will try to salvage a series split when the teams meet in the series finale at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids.

Captain Joe Cox said he thought his team “had more than enough chances” to get back into the game, despite being down 3-0 just two minutes into the second period.

“When we got our first goal, I thought we had the momentum going our way and the game shifted our way,’’ he said. “We started plugging away, getting more good chances, but it just didn’t work out.

“It’s all about inches. You shoot the puck and if it’s an inch to the right and it goes in, it’s a whole new game. “We had a couple of opportunities that we gave away, and their goalie played a good game. He was good with rebounds, and when he gave one up, he was quick to recover.

“As the game went on, we did a better job of keeping it simple and getting shots to the net and looking for rebounds. But their goalie was very good.’’

APPLETON RETURNS: Sophomore right wing Mason Appleton, MSU’s leading scorer, returned to the lineup after missing most of last Saturday’s game against Michigan Tech with a shoulder injury.

He may not have been at 100 percent but he was still a force on his line with freshmen Patrick Khodorenko and Taro Hirose and on the power play.

Appleton assisted on Khodorenko’s power-play goal in the second period, and now has three goals and six assists for nine points in seven games, although in the last game, he played only a minute before getting injured.

“When it comes to Grade A (scoring chances), I thought we out-chanced them, but there were a lot of rebounds there and we couldn’t find a way to put them home,’’ he said. “I think it has to do with getting more guys in front. Sometimes, you’d see a rebound and there was nobody there. Or they tied us up.

“We have to have more of a go-to-the-net-hard mindset. Maybe that would let us get rewarded with a few more goals on Saturday.’’

Appleton admitted that it’s tough for players to get open in front of the net because the Bulldogs drop their forwards back to protect the slot, and that makes it difficult to maneuver around the crease and to track down rebounds.

“Their team plays like that. They play that way to protect their goalie, and obviously. it worked out well for them tonight,’’ he said. “We just have to get shots on net from everywhere. At times, they were blocking a lot of shots, but it comes down to more of a second-effort mentality to be able to get to rebounds.

“We need to finish better and we have to have a better start, too. I think we were a little slow out of the gate tonight. On Saturday, if we take it to them in their barn and score that first goal, it’ll quiet down the crowd and we can play the game from there.’’

In addition to Appleton returning from an injury, freshman defenseman Jerad Rosburg was back in the lineup after missing last week’s two games with Michigan Tech because of an upper body injury suffered against Princeton on Oct. 28.

KHODORENKO SOLID: Freshman center Patrick Khodorenko, the Spartans’ youngest player at 18-years-old, had another strong game, and was named the game’s No. 3 star.

He made a perfect backhand pass from around the goal line, to the right of the net, to Villiam Haag for MSU’s only goal, on a power play in the second period. But like the rest of his teammates, he was frustrated by MSU’s inability to finish quality chances.

“We definitely had a lot of shots, and at times, we were dominating the play, but we have to get to those rebounds and find a way to put the puck in the net,’’ he said. “Their goalie played well but we have find a way to score.’’

With an assist, Khodorenko has one goal and three assists for four points in eight games.

“It was a nice pass from (Appleton) and I knew Villiam was right there, just like worked on in practice,’’ Khodorenko said. “As soon we scored, I thought we were buzzing and playing great, but we just couldn’t find a way to score.

“It’s literally a game of inches. We hit a couple of posts and that could have changed the game. Their goalie played great and got to all the rebounds.’’

IN THE BIG TEN: No. 18 Michigan plays host to No. 4 Boston University in one of the top series in college hockey this weekend. The teams play on Friday and Saturday.

No. 14 Ohio State is home against Connecticut and Alaska Anchorage is at No. 12 Penn State. Both series are on Friday and Saturday. No. 8 Minnesota and Wisconsin are idle.

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