You could probably call it Black Saturday.
Just a few hours after the Michigan State men’s basketball team lost to Michigan, the Spartan hockey team was swept in Columbus, losing game two of the three-game series 4-3 in overtime.
After falling to Ohio State 6-2 on Friday night, the Spartans hoped to extend their season with a win on Saturday. Despite giving up the first goal of the game on the power play, Michigan State answered back with a power play goal of their own, as Cody Milan notched the score at 1-1 with under a minute to play in the first period.
MSU continued to apply the pressure in the second period, scoring less the a minute in off a beautiful passing play by the KHL line, setting up Patrick Khodorenko for his second goal of the series. This gave the Spartans their first lead of the game and the series.
However, the Buckeyes countered. Taking advantage of a poor breakout, Mason Jobst notched his second of the game to tie the score at 2-2.
Less than 30 seconds later, MSU responded with Tommy Apap being the beneficiary of a David Keefer feed from below the goal line to restore the Spartan lead.
But before the second period could conclude, Michigan State had another bad turnover. Goalie John Lethemon corralled a shot in his glove and, instead of covering up, elected to swipe it up to a streaking Zach Osburn. Osburn was too far ahead and instead went to John Wiitala who went upstairs on Lethemon.
A scoreless third period produced the third overtime postseason game between the Spartans and Buckeyes in the Big Ten Era.
Just under six minutes into overtime, Sasha Larocque held in a clearing attempt along the near wall and sent a shot that was deflected in mid-air by Freddy Gerard past Lethemon to end the Spartans’ season.
Michigan State finishes coach Danton Cole’s inaugural season with a 12-22-2 overall record, an improvement over last season’s 7-24-4 mark to be sure.
The Spartans’ were not the only team to be swept this weekend in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament; in fact, sweeps were the norm for the home team. Michigan swept Wisconsin in two games (6-5 and 7-4) in Ann Arbor while Penn State swept Minnesota (5-3 and 6-5) in Happy Valley.
However, Michigan State still has not won a playoff game in five years. The last came in the final year of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, a 3-0 win over Miami-Ohio back in 2013.
This first season of the MSU hockey rebuild will likely be considered a success, considering the improved win total, a culture change and the emergence of a solid first line. But Michigan State still has to find a way to win in the postseason. It has been their most glaring weakness and the biggest indictment against the program as a whole, one that not even Danton Cole can magicly wash away.
The job now is for the Spartans to get better in preparation for next season, one that they hope will see more success in the month of March.