MSU Hockey Beats Ohio State in the Shootout on Senior Night

In his 131-game career with Michigan State, Jake Hildebrand has made 3,783 saves. With a 2.54 goals against average and a .902 save percentage, he has kept a struggling program above water over the past four years. So it would only be fitting that the senior would stop all three Ohio State shooters as the Spartans picked up the extra point in a shootout victory following 1-1 tie at Munn Ice Arena Saturday night.

“Better defensive effort tonight,” coach Tom Anastos said. “I thought we did things more like we had hoped to last night and didn’t. I thought we played hard tonight.”

The two teams didn’t waste anytime getting things going on senior night. Thomas Ebbing scored just 3:41 into the game to put the Spartans up 1-0. Ebbing took a centering pass from Mackenzie MacEachern, kicked the puck right on to his stick and sent it to the back of the net for his 5th goal of the season. MacEachern is a draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, and though he is not a senior, he might have played his last game at Munn Saturday as he could forego his senior season and join the Blues organization.

The Spartans looked as though they were going to take a two goal lead with 11:30 to play in the first. Freshman Zach Osburn let a wrist shot go from the left point that went in as quick as it came out. But, much to the dismay of the Munn crowd, the goal was called off because MSU junior Joe Cox interfered with the catching glove of OSU goaltender Christian Frey.

Ohio State tied the game up at one in the final stages of the first when the puck took a friendly bounce off the boards, out of the reach of Hildebrand. Ohio State forward Mason Jobst was in the right place at the right time to collect the puck and send it past Hildebrand.

Senior goaltender Nate Phillips closed out the final 1:37 of the period in net for the Spartans. That minute and a half was the first in-game action Phillips has seen in his five-year MSU career, and it came in his very last game wearing the green and white.

“Coach, Hildy and I had all talked about the possibility of me getting into the game,” Phillips said. “I’m thankful that coach had the confidence in me to go take a couple minutes and do my thing.”

Phillips will leave MSU with a 1.000 save percentage, making one career save on the only shot he faced in net for the Spartans.

“Guys were messing with me before the game. They were like ‘1.000 save percentage, it’s on the line, last game.’ It was a good experience.” Phillips said.

The second period was rather uneventful for the two teams. Michigan State had 13 total shots in the period, while Ohio State only managed to get three shots on Hildebrand.

The Spartans’ best chance to take the lead came towards the end of the period when JT Stenglein was able to skate around a few OSU players and set himself up in the slot. However, the junior was unable to get a good shot off because of a Buckeye defenseman who poke-checked the puck out of his reach.

As the game went on into the third period, the penalties for both teams started to add up. Amidst all the chippiness, the Spartans and Buckeyes combined for 32 penalty minutes in the game. Six penalties for 12 minutes were assessed to the Spartans and seven penalties for 20 minutes went to the Buckeyes.

Of those 20 Buckeye penalty minutes, five important ones came with 9:55 to play in the game, when Luke Stork of Ohio State went to the penalty box for interference.

The Spartans could not get anything set up with the score tied at such a crucial time in the game.

The third period came to a close and the game would head to overtime for a second straight night. The Spartans did not register a single shot in overtime while OSU had two, neither of which found the back of the net.

The game would eventually go into a shootout, where the Spartans were able to rely on Hildebrand one more time. The senior stood tall in the net he occupied for the past four years and he, along with a nifty backhand forehand goal from Joe Cox, stole the extra point for the Spartans.

The 2015-2016 regular season was not kind to the Spartans. At one point they had lost eight games in a row and looked completely different from a team that finished second in the Big Ten just one season ago. But despite all the losing, the attitude of the team remained positive, starting with the graduating class.

“I think not only our captains, but our whole senior class has been absolutely unbelievable. With the things we’ve had to deal with, going on that streak and feeling at the lowest of lows, these guys all walk in here on Monday morning with a smile on their face ready to get back to work,” an emotional Michael Ferrantino said after the game. “I can’t say enough good things about the group of guys at a whole.”

The Spartans will open the Big Ten tournament against the Buckeyes on Thursday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. central standard time.