Spartans aim to continue home success against Ohio State
Sophomore right wing Matt Berry skates the puck up the ice Nov. 9, 2012, at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans, 5-1, in the first of a two game series. Adam Toolin/The State News
When Ohio State hockey took Spartan ice for its first ever match up at MSU in 1970, the Buckeyes were handed a 4-2 loss.
The pattern continued for almost 25 years, as MSU went 29-0-1 against Ohio State at home until Feb. 4, 1994 when the Spartans were defeated, 5-4, by the Buckeyes on home turf.
Since that date, Ohio State has continued to be unlucky in East Lansing, only winning eight total away games in the MSU-Ohio State series and losing 40, with a 84-26-8 all-time record.
The Buckeyes (5-4-3 overall, 4-2-2-1 CCHA) will travel to East Lansing this weekend with hopes of reversing their luck, as the MSU hockey team (4-6-2, 3-4-1-0) tries to pick up two CCHA wins on Friday at 8:05 p.m. and Saturday at 6:05 p.m., at Munn Ice Arena.
“It’s nice to be home,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “I wouldn’t tie that, per se, to Ohio State. We’ve played some pretty tough places so far this season and (we are) coming off of our last home game where we had a great atmosphere here and played a Big Ten opponent. I like the fact that, again, we’re home and we’re playing a Big Ten opponent and obviously these are important games in the mix of the CCHA right now.”
Anastos noted the strong defensive skills this season’s Ohio State team demonstrates. The Buckeyes have given up only 13 goals against to put them second in the CCHA in that category behind Notre Dame’s nine.
As the Spartans struggle with inconsistency in their offense — senior forward Chris Forfar said that is the team’s biggest downfall — but he thinks the team has proved they can play when they all show up.
“(Monday), coach stopped the practice in the middle of the drill and told guys ‘You need to go to the net every single time,’” freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand said. “I think that makes the biggest difference in the games when we’re scoring and when we’re not scoring is going to the net (and) creating havoc in front of the net.”
Ranked high among in the CCHA and nationally in power plays and penalty kills, MSU has showed it has no struggles while playing 5-on-4 hockey. Anastos said although he hopes to see that progress, he thinks the team needs to focus more on even-strength play as well.
“We have to get better in 5-on-5 play and even-strength play,” he said. “We need to have good special teams and our power play has been pretty good and our penalty kill has been pretty good. That needs to continue, but as we move on here, we need to get more 5-on-5 productivity from more players. I think that’s going to be key to have longer-term success here this season.”