Mistakes Prove to be Difference in Spartans 4-1 Loss to North Dakota


EAST LANSING– The mistakes were plentiful – and so were the goals against – in Michigan State’s 4-1 loss to No. 5 North Dakota Sunday at Munn Arena. The Fighting Hawks came into Munn and completed a sweep of the Spartans, who have now lost four of their last five games.

“I thought we played really hard,” coach Tom Anastos said. “We didn’t take advantage of opportunities that presented themselves. When we made mistakes, they capitalized and in these two games we had no answer for their one line.”

The “one line” that Anastos was referring to was the top line of North Dakota, featuring Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz — a draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Brock Boeser —  a draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks. On Sunday, Caggiula had two goals and one assist, Schmaltz had two assists, and Boeser had one goal.

In the first period, Michigan State came out looking a lot better than they did Friday night. The Spartans outshot the Fighting Hawks 15-8 in the first period, at one point MSU led 9-2 in shots. The Spartans did not seem to be as intimidated as they might have been Friday night, and as a result were a lot stronger on the puck and caused a number of North Dakota turnovers.

“Obviously coming out of last night we had to start a lot better, and I thought we started really well,” Spartan captain Michael Ferrantino said. “We came out, punched them right in the mouth and got going. We got in on their defensemen and were able to get a power play goal.”

Midway through the first period, North Dakota’s Rhett Gardner went to the box for roughing, giving Michigan State its first power play of the night. Just seconds later, Michigan State forward Joe Cox and  North Dakota forward Austin Poganski went to their respective penalty boxes, Cox for tripping and Poganski for embellishing.

Michigan State cashed in on the man advantage as Mason Appleton launched a shot from the right point that was tipped by Ferrantino for his third goal of the season, giving the Spartans the early 1-0 lead.

The lead was short-lived, however. With 6:57 to play in the first period, UND’s Tucker Poolman stretched a pass from the half-boards that was just out of the reach of Jake Hildebrand. Joel Janatuinen was in the right place at the right time and got the easy tip-in to tie the game at one.

Less than a minute later, North Dakota took the lead thanks to a 2-on-1 in which Caggiula scored his first goal of the night.

North Dakota came out much stronger in the second period, outworking the Spartans and causing them to make mistakes.

Just 3:17 into the period, Carson Gatt received a penalty for hooking. With a man down, it was all but certain the No. 5 team in the country would take advantage, and they did. With seconds remaining on the power play, Boeser took a shot from the left side half-boards that went past Hildebrand, pushing the lead to 3-1.

The Fighting Hawks weren’t done. North Dakota’s Christian Wolanin went for the box with 8:47 to play for tripping. However, UND’s Caggiula split the Michigan State defense, shorthanded, and scored on a breakaway to add to the lead. Through 40 minutes of play, UND led 4-1.

The Spartans were unable to get anything past UND goaltender Cam Johnson in the third period. Johnson faced 10 Michigan State shots and turned aside every single one of them.

With many mistakes and zero puck-luck, the Spartans picked up another loss, they now have a 4-7-2 record on the season. With that record, it would be easy to assume that the Spartans feel discouraged as they finish up the bulk of their non-conference schedule, but the leaders of the team are determined to bounce back.

“That isn’t the way these guys are,” Cox said. “I know me, Tino (Ferrantino), Hoomi (Justin Hoomaian), and Walshi (Travis Walsh), we’re gonna try to pick the guys up and try to get them going again because these are the kind of weekends you have to brush under the rug and get back on top of it.”

If there is one thing Michigan State can take away from their last five games, it is the fact that their treacherous non-conference schedule may have prepared them coming into Big Ten play. They have played one of the toughest non-conference schedules out of any Big Ten team and without a doubt will be able to compete in a wide open Big Ten conference.

“We saw lots of different things in the teams that we played and I know that our team has an understanding of what we’re capable of doing,” Anastos said. “We’ve got to demonstrate that you can do that against different kinds of teams for 60 minutes to have success.”

First up in Big Ten play will be Penn State. The Spartans travel to Happy Valley next weekend (Dec. 4 and 5) to take on the Nittany Lions.

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