Despite coming up short at the Great Lakes Invitational over winter break, the Spartan hockey team has a lot of positives to build on, and it appears they are peaking at just the right time.
Big Ten play is about to kick into overdrive, and with four winnable games against Ohio State and Penn State coming up, the Spartans have an opportunity to become a tour-de-force for the rest of the season.
2013 was not very kind to the Spartans, who ended the year with an overall record of 6-9-2. However, this season’s squad has shown on many occasions that they can play with the best in the nation and still come out on top. MSU’s shootout victory against No.1 Minnesota and their 3-0 whitewash of No. 3 Michigan in the GLI are testaments to the fact that there might be more to the Spartans than people realize. While they came up short in the GLI, the Spartans are playing their best hockey to date and are only going to get better. Time and time again the Spartans have been intense and persistent. Such a mentality may very well be the element that propels the Spartans to the top of the standings in the coming months.
Hildebrand Comes to the Fore
As with many hockey teams, good goaltending usually makes the difference. Sophomore goaltender Jake Hildebrand has raised his game to a new level, giving the Spartans a chance to win in every game of the GLI and shutting out No. 3 Michigan in the consolation game. For his efforts in the GLI (and his current 2.45 GAA), Hildebrand was awarded the Big Ten First Star of the Week for the week of Dec. 31. With ‘Hildy’ playing out of his mind, the Spartans will likely be in a position to win every single night.
Moment of Opportunity
The Spartans kick off 2014 with two games against Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio and two more next week vs. Penn State in East Lansing, Mich. Twelve possible points are on the line, and for the Spartans who are fourth in the conference with two, these next four games are critical. Not only do they offer a chance for MSU to pick up some much needed points against weaker teams, but they could potentially lead to the Spartans breaking out of the glass ceiling and becoming a top contender in the Big Ten conference.
Jason Ruff is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports