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Neil's Notebook: Spartans Suffer One-Goal Loss to No. 8 BC

Nov. 15, 2014

By Neil Koepke staff writer

EAST LANSING - The steady diet of one-goal games continued for Michigan State on Friday night at Munn Arena.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, this one ended like four others - in a frustrating defeat in which one goal was the difference.

MSU overcame a slow start, in which it found itself down 2-0 on two sloppy goals just 12:33 into the first period, and closed the gap to one goal in the third period before No. 8 Boston College held on for a 3-2 non-conference victory.

The Spartans (3-6 overall) are 1-5 in one-goal contests, with losses to Massachusetts (4-3), Boston University (1-0), UMass-Lowell (2-1), Ferris State (1-0) and now Boston College. The one-goal victory came at New Hampshire (3-2) last Friday.

"That seems to be the way college hockey is these days,'' MSU captain and junior center Michael Ferrantino said when asked about the Spartans' penchant for getting involved in games decided by one goal.

"I don't know how many top teams we've played but we've played most to one goal - we're right there. It's frustrating, but sooner or later, it's going to come. We're going to get these wins, especially at home.

"But give BC (5-5 overall) credit. They're a heckuva team with a lot of good, skilled players.''

Michigan State is 2-1 in the three games it's played that weren't decided by a goal - a 5-3 win over Massachusetts in the season opener, a 4-1 victory over Ferris State and last Saturday's 5-2 loss at New Hampshire, a game in which the Spartans led 2-1 almost 13 minutes into the second period.

Despite the Spartans' 3-6 record and 2-5 mark against Hockey East teams, Ferrantino says the challenging non-conference schedule has been beneficial to his team's development.

"You learn a lot about your team playing these games. It points out your positives and your weaknesses that much more,'' he said. "We know we can play with those teams. This gives us confidence that we're right there.



"I really like our versatility in playing against different teams. We've played teams like Ferris State and UMass-Lowell that are all over you and play a bump-and-grind style. And then you play BC and Boston U. and they go up and down the ice and you're going 100 miles an hour. I like how we've responded to both styles.''

Overall, MSU played a spotty game on Friday and didn't handle the puck as well as it has in recent games, but the Spartans battled through some adversity and cut Boston College's lead to 3-2 on junior Matt DeBlouw's second goal of the season with 10:41 left in the third period.

Michigan State worked hard to create some pressure in the Eagles zone and created a few quality scoring chances. But BC's solid defense and standout sophomore goaltender Thatcher Demko made some solid saves to help the Eagles end a four-game losing streak.

Ferrantino scored MSU's first goal, late in the first period, for his fifth of the season and fourth in his last three games. Ferrantino credited linemates Matt Berry and Joe Cox for his hot streak.

"They're doing most of the work. They've been kind of finding me,'' said Ferrantino, who now has five goals and three assists and shares the team scoring lead with Berry (5-3) and Mackenzie MacEachern (4-4).

"One goal in New Hampshire was backdoor on a 2-on-1 that I tapped in, and the one tonight was into an open net (after a perfect cross ice pass from Cox).''

Boston College coach Jerry York, college hockey's career wins leader with 968 in 43 seasons at Clarkson, Bowling Green and BC, was impressed with MSU's top line of Ferrantino centering Berry on left wing and Cox on the right side.

"Their first line was outstanding. That's going to get them a lot of wins,'' said York, winner of five NCAA titles (four with BC, one with BGSU). "That line and (goalie Jake) Hildebrand.'''

For the Spartans, the start of the Big Ten season is a hand, although five non-league games remain to be played. MSU opens conference play with a two-game series Ohio State next Thursday and Friday.

After a pair of non-conference games at Princeton over Thanksgiving weekend - Nov. 28-29 - the Spartans play host to currently-ranked No. 1 Minnesota on Dec. 5-6.

"You see all the other conferences play each other and seeing where they stack up. We think we can make a good run in the BigTen,'' Ferrantino said. "What we've done doesn't really matter a whole lot. It's the Big Ten that counts and we're ready.

"Our young guys -- our sophomore and freshmen -- have taken big steps and are really starting to find their game. There's been a lot of positives.''

STAYING UPBEAT: MSU coach Tom Anastos said his team has made progress during the first nine games and expects the challenging schedule will make benefit the Spartans in the months ahead.

"I love the commitment that our guys have made. They've made a great commitment to getting better, and they've been resilient, and I think we're getting better,'' Anastos said. "Part of it is because of the resilience and part because we're more talented and gaining more experience.

"I know it sounds like a broken record but there were parts of our game (tonight) that were pretty darn good. But you have to have all parts going. That was our message after the game. We have to get our offense, defense and special teams all moving.''

The Spartans found themselves training 2-0 on a sloppy goal 39 seconds into the game and a fluke score off a bad bounce off of goalie Jake Hildebrand's pads at 12:33 of the opening period. But MSU didn't wilt against the speedy, highly skilled Eagles.

Ferrantino's goal on a one-timer from left edge of the slot at 17:16 made it a one-goal game. The Eagles boosted their lead to 3-1 in the second period.

"What I like is there's no quit in our guys,'' Anastos said. "The way we gave up those two goals can be discouraging, but our guys dug deep and kept on going. When the puck starts going in for us, I think we can become a pretty good team.

"I thought the game was a little sloppy because of the pace at which the game was played. We have to elevate ourselves to get to that level. We have to improve our ability to execute at a higher pace. We have to continue to recruit players, and we've got them coming in, that will be able to make plays at that high pace.''

Anastos believes the Spartans' non-conference schedule has helped his team get ready for the upcoming 20 games in the Big Ten.

"A lot of the teams we've played have different styles and that's been a benefit for us,'' he said. "Boston College plays with a lot of pace and defensively, they don't give you a heckuva lot of space, so you have earn all the space you can get.

"Boston U. plays with pace and tempo and they're very aggressive. UMass-Lowell played a different style - a defensive style that's very effective and it's why they're one of the top teams. They play a similar style to what Ferris State does. With those teams, you have to learn to play in small spaces

"All of this will help prepare for the different kinds of teams we'll play in the Big Ten.''

At this point in the season, Anastos said "I like more (about his team) than I don't like. What I don't like are the results.''

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN EAGLES? Boston College's visit to Munn Arena on Friday was its first in 24 years, although the two teams have met nine times since. The Eagles' last trip to East Lansing was on Nov. 16-17, 1990, when the teams split a series - MSU winning the series opener, 4-2, and losing the second game, 5-4. Legendary coach Len Ceglarski was guiding the Eagles then, while current coach Jerry York was still at Bowling Green. Friday's game was York's first at Munn Arena as the BC coach.

In the last eight meetings, the teams are 4-4-1. They've played two times in the Great Lakes Invitational (2000, 2003), two times in the Great Western Freezeout (1990, 1995) in Inglewood, Calif., two times at BC (1989, 1991), once in the Ice Breaker Tournament (2011) and twice in the NCAA Tournament (2000, 2007).

In 2000 NCAA West Regional in Minneapolis, the Eagles rallied to upend the Spartans 6-5 in overtime. But in the 2007 NCAAA championship game, the Spartans rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the third period to pull out a stunning 3-1 victory and claim their third national title.

In their last matchup, the Eagles defeated MSU 5-2 in the Ice Breaker in Grand Forks, N.D. -- Tom Anastos' first game as Spartans' coach.

Overall, MSU still leads the series 16-8-1. The teams are expected to meet against next season at Boston College.

The Eagles entered Friday's game with a four-game losing streak, their first since the 2003-04 season.

"That early goal (39 seconds, first period) gave us some jump. We were coming off four straight losses and not feeling good about ourselves,'' York said. "We got rewarded early but they got back in the game (at 2-1 late in the second period) and then 3-2 (in the third period).

"In our last couple of games, we had no grit and were not very cohesive. Tonight, we showed more grit. We won some puck battles, competed hard and got some key stops from (goalie) Thatcher Demko.''

The Eagles, who've won NCAA titles under York in 2001, 2008, 2010 and 2012, reached the Frozen Four last season, but lost to eventual NCAA champion Union in the semifinals.

BC lost its top four scorers from last season - a group that accounted for 92 goals. Two of their departed forwards are playing in the NHL - Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames, the Hobey Baker Award winner) and Kevin Hayes (New York Rangers).

So, the Eagles are retooling with some young, emerging forwards to go with a strong group of defensemen and a standout goaltender in Demko. There's nine sophomores and three freshmen on the roster, along with seven seniors and five juniors. On Friday, the Eagles played four seniors, four juniors, eight sophomores and three freshmen, including heralded rookie defenseman Noah Hanifan. Hanifan, who's only 17-years-old, is expected to be picked from No. 3 to No. 10 in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

"They're a very skilled team with good forwards,'' MSU junior defenseman John Draeger said. "It was fast, really, really fast. They came out pretty quick and they like to go hard and get on our defensemen.

"That was a big adjustment at first but then we handled it better and made better plays. We were in the game the whole time. We gave up a fluke goal, but I never felt we were out of the game.''

IN THE BIG TEN: No. 1 Minnesota (7-2) was upset 3-0 by Minnesota-Duluth (7-4) in the series opener in Minneapolis. Michigan (3-5) ended its two-game losing skid with a 5-2 home victory over American International College (2-7-1).

Ohio State (3-5-1) capped a crazy finish at No. 19 Bowling Green (7-3-1) and pulled out a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. BGSU held a 1-0 lead with five minutes left, but OSU tied it at 15:38 and took a 2-1 lead just 2 minutes and 58 seconds later. The Falcons stormed back to tie it, 2-2, 18 seconds after OSU'S go-ahead goal.

But the Buckeyes earned the victory on Anthony Greco's goal with 34 seconds left.

Meanwhile, Penn State (5-2-2) lost at No. 4 UMass-Lowell, 5-3. Wisconsin (0-6) has the weekend off.

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