Tom Anastos said he didn’t want to compare Friday night’s game to a heavyweight boxing match, but it’s difficult to find a better analogy to describe the MSU hockey team’s (4-7-2 overall, 3-5-1 CCHA) 1-0 loss to Ohio State.
For 60 minutes, both teams clawed, fought and battled at a mostly even keel, exchanging punch after punch.
Almost 58 minutes into the game, the Buckeyes threw a punch that knocked the Spartans out of the match, as Ohio State’s Ryan Dzingel picked up a rebound off MSU freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand to put away the only score of the night.
“It was a style of game that we prepared for,” Anastos, the second-year MSU head coach, said. “It was very tough to find room out there. They play a very sound — in some ways, suffocating — defense. I thought there were momentum changes throughout the game, and we could just never get that goal to get over the hump, get our crowd into it.”
Just past the halfway point in the game, Ohio State was awarded a goal, only to be called back upon further review.
Not even five minutes later, MSU got hit with the same fate. Senior forward Anthony Hayes scored a goal on Ohio State’s goaltender Brady Hjelle, but it was called off after the stripes ruled a Spartan interfered with the goalie prior to the puck finding the net.
“There’s not many games when you see the call reversed on two goals, but it is what it is,” Hayes said. “It happens. We have to be ready for that.”
The momentum bounced back and forth between the two teams after the called-off goals, coupled with multiple penalties littered through the periods.
Junior forward captain Greg Wolfe said getting any goal taken away is a knock at the team’s pressure, and it can easily take wind out of a team’s sails.
“We need to get more people in front of (Hjelle) because he’s a good goalie,” Wolfe said. “If he can see the puck, he’s going to make saves; I think we figured that out tonight. We need to get a lot of pressure on him, and we need to get guys in front.”
Both goaltenders put up a spectacular showing, and Hildebrand’s 1.72 goals against average will place him eighth in the country, and his .946 save percentage places him third.
In seven games played, he has allowed only 11 total pucks find the net.
“He’s given us a chance to win every night, and that’s all you can ask for from a goalie,” Wolfe said. “It’s on the players to give him that support and start scoring some goals for him.”
For only the third time in program history, MSU suffered a back-to-back shutout losses, following a 2-0 loss to Miami (Ohio) on Nov., 17.
Anastos said the team will need to focus on ways to generate more scoring opportunities than they were able to on Friday, as Ohio State and MSU take Munn Ice Arena at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday night.
“They’re big and strong in front of the net,” Anastos said of the Buckeyes. “We have to figure out a way to penetrate that and get more pucks to the goalie. The goalie plays a big part in that, too. I thought he did a good job not letting rebounds in areas that we were at. The combination of the two made it very difficult.”