Men’s Hockey Bounces Back with Big Win

After virtually no puck luck in a disappointing loss Friday night, the puck had a change of heart Saturday night and started to bounce in Michigan State’s favor.

Four different Spartans scored, eight different Spartans registered at least a point and Jake Hildebrand made 19 saves to power Michigan State (2-4) to a 4-1 win to earn a split in the weekend series against Ferris State.

“I thought it was probably our best game of the season,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “I thought our guys came in very businesslike today.”

The team picked up right where it left off Friday by pounding C.J. Motte with shot after shot, but the game remained scoreless until late in the first period when the Spartans finally found a crack in the armor.

As the puck went to the blueline, Travis Walsh hurled a seeing eye shot that found its way through traffic and behind Motte to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead. The goal was Walsh’s first career Spartan goal.

“It feels good,” Walsh said. “It really felt good that our team got the offense going and the goals started going in. Last night we had a lot of chances, it just wasn’t going in. We knew tonight we were due.”

For Michigan State, it was the team’s first goal in 102:26. It also snapped a three-game shutout streak against Ferris State that lasted 205:26 dating back to the 2012-13 season.

The Spartans would double the lead 1:18 later.

Brent Darnell held the puck along the boards and swung one towards the net. Thomas Ebbing, who had a pair of assists, got a piece of it to direct the puck on goal and the rebound popped to a wide-open Mackenzie MacEachern at the doorstep and he roofed it to make it 2-0.

Michigan State carried that lead into the second period where the Spartans would increase the lead.

The game of firsts would continue with Villiam Haag notching his first goal of the season on a terrific pass from J.T. Stenglein, who had two assists on the night himself.

Stenglein found Haag inside the faceoff circle on Motte’s glove side and Haag buried it.

“I never saw (Stenglein) look at me and then the puck was on my stick,” Haag said. “I have to give a lot of credit to J.T. I can’t believe he saw me back there but I’m happy I got the puck. I tried to shoot it as hard as I can.”

Under Anastos, Michigan State is now 41-6-4 when scoring at least three goals.

After the lead extended to three, the Spartans took a trio of penalties before the end of the second period. The penalty killers did not budge, and they killed off all three despite giving up five shots.

“I thought our penalty kill did a really good job,” Anastos said. “We made a couple of adjustments from what they were doing. I think that was a confidence boost for our guys, and then if you give up a goal in that situation the momentum can really shift. The problem is we kept going to the well a little too much.”

Justin Buzzeo would get the Bulldogs on the board just over four minutes into the third, but Ferris State got into some penalty trouble after.

Two penalties 1:07 apart gave the Spartans a 5-on-3 and they would cash in.

At the tail end of the first powerplay, MacEachern dished a pass to freshman Josh Jacobs at the blueline. As the first penalty expired, Jacobs ripped a slap shot wide, but a nice bounce off the lively boards came right to the stick of Matt Berry in one of his favorite spots on the ice. The senior would make no mistake in depositing his team-leading fifth goal of the season to give the Spartans a commanding 4-1 lead.

The goal snapped an 0-25 drought for the powerplay and was Jacobs’ first point as a Spartan.

“It was a key goal in many regards,” Anastos said. “Number one is our powerplay has struggled. I thought we moved the puck pretty well tonight and it was nice to see it go in. I think that was a nice relief for everybody. The other key was that was the fourth goal of the game and it opened things up. That next goal was critical.”

Hildebrand and the Spartan defense would take care of the rest of the work and the team cruised to a convincing 4-1 win to split the weekend series.

Next weekend, the Spartans go on the road for a pair of games against the University of New Hampshire.

Brian Bobal is the co-host of Behind the Mask for Impact Sports

Photo: Brian Bobal/Impact Sports