Bad Luck on Offense Haunts Spartans Again

The ghost that has tormented the Michigan State men’s ice hockey team for the last few seasons came out in full force again tonight. The Spartans threw 76 shots towards the net, 36 of them ended up on goal, but they could not get one to go past C.J. Motte, as Michigan State dropped a stinger to Ferris State 1-0 on a snowy Halloween night at Munn.

This marks the fourth consecutive one-goal loss for the Spartans, who now have been shut out twice in the last three games. It’s also Michigan State’s fifth-straight loss to Ferris State (the last two were both shutouts) and their ninth loss in the last 10 games against the Bulldogs.

“That’s a tough pill to swallow,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “We did everything but what you need to do to win the game, score some goals. That’s certainly frustrating.”

It was a defensive battle, which was not surprising considering both teams have been struggling offensively. The Bulldogs came into the game only averaging 1.6 goals per game, and the Spartans’ average of 2.25 goals per game is not that much better. Both teams’ powerplays came in at one for 21, which equates to a rough 4.8 percent.

The only tally of the game would come just 8:33 into the game off of, arguably, Michigan State’s only mistake of the game in their defensive end.

After a Michigan State turnover below the goal line, Matt Robertson sent a pass to the low slot where Jared VanWormer was cutting to the net. VanWormer caught the pass and roofed one off the crossbar and in to give Ferris State the 1-0 lead.

“It was a big turnover that we made, but we were also out of position to recover from it,” Anastos said. “It cost us.”

Aside from the goal, it was a very back and forth first period with both teams getting solid scoring chances. The tide, though, would change after the first intermission.

The Spartans virtually owned the puck in the second period, outshooting the Bulldogs 18-2 including a partial breakaway by Matt DeBlouw, but could not find a way to solve Motte. As a team, the Spartans attempted 35 shots in the period with 11 of them getting blocked before Motte saw it.

“The message was keep going, keep motoring,” captain Michael Ferrantino said was the feeling after that second period. “We had good quality chances and for whatever reason they’re just not going for us right now. We have to stick with it and soon enough it will.

Despite facing only two shots in the second period, Jake Hildebrand came up big for the Spartans on three quality chances. The only two shots on goal Ferris State could muster came off the sticks of Andrew Mayer and Mitch Maloney. Hildebrand was able to flash a right pad save on one and then a shrug shoulder save on the other.

The Bulldogs would come inches away from making it a 2-0 game when a shot from the blueline got blocked in front. The puck then ricocheted off of a body in front and trickled to the goal line, but Hildebrand dove back and got the paddle of his stick down on the goal line to keep the puck from going in.

The seesaw affair continued into the third period, but the puck was not bouncing the right way for the Spartans as Motte was a brick wall the rest of the way through. He also got a solid amount of help from his defense who blocked a total of 27 shots on the night.

There is not much else the Spartans can do but dust their shoes off and get ready to go at it again tomorrow night against this same Bulldogs team.

“It’s frustrating,” Anastos said. “I’m proud of those guys in the dressing room. I think they’re giving what they have. They’re digging deep and the hardest part is dealing with the frustration when the puck won’t go in for you. At some point the game is going to like us.”

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

Photo: Brian Bobal/Impact Sports