Ohio State Ends Spartans’ Season In Overtime

It was deja vu all over again.

Same rink, same teams, same shot, same result. Only this time, Jake Hildebrand’s emotions were laid bare for all to see on national television.

The Ohio State Buckeyes hockey team outfought the Michigan State Spartans in overtime, winning 4-3 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Spartans and Buckeyes had played four previous games coming into this matchup. Ohio State held the edge 2-1-1 during the regular season.

Ohio State opened up the scoring within the first minute of regulation. Buckeye forward John Wiitala forced an MSU turnover in the defensive zone and took a short angle shot on the ice that ricocheted in off of Hildebrand’s right pad.

For the remainder of the period, the Buckeyes dominated the Spartans five-on-five, as Michigan State looked shell-shocked and timid in their own zone.

At the 18:52 mark of the first, Buckeye forward Tommy Parran cashed in on a juicy rebound left by Hildebrand and put OSU up 2-0 after 20 minutes.

The Buckeyes outshot the Spartans in the period 19-4.

In the second period, Michigan State received a power play early as Wiitala was assessed an elbowing minor. Junior forward Joe Cox sniped a shot past Buckeye goaltender Christian Frey in the top-left corner to put MSU on the board.

Just a few minutes later, the Spartans drew another Buckeye penalty and again Michigan State capitalized, this time courtesy of Matt DeBlouw.

With the game tied 2-2, OSU defenseman Sasha Larocque took an ill-advised penalty for hitting Spartan forward Mason Appleton from behind. Larocque was ejected from the contest and OSU assessed a five minute major. Senior captain Michael Ferrantino took advantage after deflecting a Zach Osburn shot past Frey to give MSU the 3-2 lead.

The Spartans’ luck had seemingly changed as they carried momentum into the second intermission.

However, Ohio State came on in the third tied the game in the early stages of the third period.

Michigan State had several opportunities on an ensuing power play but could not convert. The horn sounded at the end of regulation with the Buckeyes and Spartans tied 3-3.

For the third game in a row, both teams would decide matters in overtime.

Both teams traded chances in the extra session, including a three-on-two opportunity for MSU, but could not find the back of the net.

With about eight minutes left in the first overtime, Buckeye centerman Mason Jobs found the puck on his stick and a wide open cage to shoot at, after Hildebrand was caught out of position after making the initial save.

With one flick of the wrist, almost in the exact same spot as 2014, the Buckeye freshman ended the Spartans’ season.

Michigan State finishes the 2015-16 campaign with a 10-23-4 overall record. It is the worst record since the 2008-09 season, when Rick Comley’s team went 10-23-5.

It is also the lowest point in current head coach Tom Anastos’ short career. That, coupled with the fact that he is 0-3 in the Big Ten tournament, will only increase the calls by fans for his removal.

Such a course of action, from this reporter’s perspective, seems unlikely. MSU athletic director Mark Hollis seems willing to let the Anastos regime play out for at least one more year.

Whoever is or isn’t behind the bench next season at Munn is irrelevant. The Spartans are going to have to go back to the drawing board, figure out what went wrong this season and figure out how to bring exciting, consistent, and winning hockey to East Lansing.

That is what is needed, more than anything else.