Dressed in the green with white stripes and diagonal letters that spelled “Spartans”, Michigan State skated out onto the ice in much the same fashion their predecessors did 50 years ago.
The Spartans welcomed back the surviving members of the 1966 national championship team to Munn Arena on Thursday night. The “Cinderella Spartans” as they were named because of their improbable championship run witnessed the current Michigan State team fall to Ferris State 4-1.
The Spartans had trouble finding the back of the net as the Bulldogs blocked nearly everything in tight and the MSU powerplay was missing in action.
“I think were sometimes looking for too perfect of a play, too perfect of a shot,” coach Tom Anastos said. “I think we need to do a better job of finding seams to get the puck to the net and find a way to outnumber people.”
On the first Bulldog powerplay of the game midway through the first, forward Mitch Maloney was able to stuff the puck home on a goalmouth scramble to put FSU up 1-0. MSU had several chances to tie the game, including a Villiam Haag shot that hit the crossbar.
“I thought, if you look at ‘grade A’s’ I thought we out chanced them,” sophomore Mason Appleton said.
During the intermission, MSU paid tribute to the 1966 national championship team. The young Spartans of this generation looked upon the old-timers with respect, despite the massive age difference.
“It’s cool to watch the guys walk through the hallway, you know. I obviously don’t know them by name, but you know they were part of something great,” Appleton said.
As the second period got underway, Ferris State received two consecutive powerplays that resulted in long two-man-advantage. The Bulldogs converted on each one with senior Gerald Mayhew and freshman Joe Rutkowski both going upstairs in close on junior netminder Ed Minney.
Both goals were about 40 seconds apart and forced the Spartans to have to fight back from a 3-0 deficit.
Despite the frustration, the Spartans did not give up, they fought back.
“That’s a good group in there,” Anastos said. “We had to deal with some frustration.”
MSU was eventually rewarded with a powerplay goal as Haag received a perfect pass from freshman Patrick Khodorenko in front and buried it for his third of the season.
“That was a nice pass by Apps (Appleton) and I just knew Vil (Haag) was right there and. It was just how we worked on it in practice.” Khodorenko said.
Michigan State continued to fight back down 3-1, but was continually frustrated both on even strength and on the powerplay as the puck refused to go the Spartan’s way.
The best illustration of the lack of puckluck for the Spartans was when senior JT Stenglein received a pass on a two-on-one and whiffed on a wide open net in the closing seconds of the second period. Had Stenglein connected, MSU would have only been down one goal going into the third and would have had momentum on their side.
Regardless, the third period saw the Spartans continue to pound the puck and get quality chances both on five-on-five and on the powerplay. But met only with frustration as the Bulldogs made it incredibly difficult to get the puck through to the net.
Ferris State would end up getting an empty net goal to seal a 4-1 victory. The Spartan powerplay went a combined 1-of-7 on the night despite 11 shots on goal.
Now faced with a 2-6-0 record, the worst eight game start since 1980, Anastos knows that his team needs to simplify and execute in order to be successful.
“Our execution has to better than it was tonight,” he said.