The month of November has been less than ideal for Michigan State. Since their sweep of the University of New Hampshire back on Nov. 6-7, the Spartans have not won a single game. In the seven games since that series, they are 0-6-1, allowing 32 goals and only scoring 17.
There are many reasons why the team is struggling; for starters, just look at the numbers above. But the team isn’t worried about any of those numbers. There has been a bit of a mantra in Munn Ice Arena over the past week that this is still a good team. Players and coaches alike understand that they are going through a rough patch, as many teams do at one point or another. But the talent and chemistry this group has will pull them out of this rut.
“There’s a common belief here that this team is a really good team,” said senior captain Michael Ferrantino. “We’ve seen in flashes what we can do and for whatever reason we haven’t been able to put it together for sixty minutes. It’s all about weathering the storm here, and we’ve got to stick together because we’re going to get through it.”
Over the last month, the Spartans have played in four games that they could have won but didn’t because they could not play a full sixty minute game. On Nov. 13 the team traveled the Chestnut Hill to play a single game against Boston College. The Spartans were losing 4-1 in the third period, but scored three straight goals to tie the game. A costly penalty to Joe Cox put BC on the powerplay, where they took the lead. Later, Boston College scored an empty net goal to win the game 6-4.
The Spartans returned home the following weekend to take on Michigan Tech. In both games, Michigan State gave up late goals that allowed the Huskies to tie the game and send both contests to overtime. The Spartans would lose game one in overtime and neither team would score in game two, resulting in a tie.
The very next weekend, Michigan State played host to the No. 4 North Dakota Fighting Hawks. In the second game of that series, the Spartans scored early to take the 1-0 lead, but North Dakota came back and scored two straight goals to take the lead back. The Spartans struggled from then on out and lost the game 4-1.
If the Spartans would have hold on or won those games, they would be 9-6-2 and this story probably wouldn’t have been written. But here we are. The Spartans are 4-9-2 and after getting swept by Penn State last weekend, they are tied for last in the Big Ten with Ohio State.
“We’re not all obviously feeling all that great,” said junior forward Joe Cox. “But now we kind of have to bear down and make things a lot simpler and work off of that.”
According to the team, getting back to the basics will be key in getting this season turned around. Ferrantino and Cox both said that the team has been overthinking things and that the team has to simplify the game in order to get things going their way. Also, a little puck-luck never hurt anybody.
On the coaching side, Tom Anastos has always been a glass half-full kind of guy. While he will acknowledge that his team is struggling and that something needs to be fixed, he knows the group of guys he has are up to the task.
“As challenging and as frustrating that the spell is that we’re going through,” said Anastos, “I know the guys in the locker room are the guys that I would want to be with to fight through something like this. Their attitude is right and their work habit is good. We all recognize that we’re struggling and we’re going to get out of it together.”
The first chance for the Spartans to get out of their rut will be this weekend at Munn Ice Arena. On Dec. 11 the Spartans welcome the Wisconsin Badgers, with puck drop set for 7:05 p.m. Game two of the series will be on Dec. 12; puck drop for that one is scheduled for 2:35 p.m.