Twenty games into the season, the MSU 2012-13 hockey season has been encapsulated by the word “frustrating.”
With a 5-12-3 overall record, 4-9-1-0 in the CCHA, the Spartans have experienced a speedy, downward slip following their 7-2 win against Michigan on Nov. 10.
Since that victory, MSU has only won a single game, accumulating a weak 1-7-2 record.
Watching a losing team never is enjoyable, but it’s expected when the talent isn’t there — maybe that’s what has made the past 10 games so frustrating.
The talent is there. But for whatever reason, there is a lack of fire in the lines.
Players haven’t been connecting, and the back of the net only has been found 12 times in the past 10 games. Individual talent is prevalent from the top to the bottom lines, and freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand has been as solid as any coach could ask for.
Following Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Ferris State, head coach Tom Anastos admitted what his team needs to do is back up and focus on the basics of the game.
“Frustration can settle in, but we just have to stay with it,” Anastos said. “We have to have everyone going, and we have to do a better job of executing fundamentals. I’m not just talking about hitting the net, I’m talking about passing the puck, receiving the puck, protecting the puck — all the little fundamentals that are important in the game.”
Anastos noted the inefficiencies of the Spartan’s offense. Although some good chances were generated, a few ended without a shot on goal.
“Those kinds of things get a little frustrating because you don’t give it a chance for a second or a third attempt,” he said. “That’s where we just have to execute way better.”
After the game, Hildebrand was asked if it’s frustrating for him to keep losing games because of a lack of generated offense.
To this point in the season, he’s put up goals against average of 1.80 — good for third in the CCHA — and a save percentage of .942 — second in the CCHA. Meanwhile, offense is stagnant, averaging two goals and less than 27 shots a game.
However, Hildebrand said the dissatisfaction is not his own, but rather part of the team’s collective frustration.
When the losses are piling up, the entire team is failing — not just the offense, defense or goaltending.
“Everybody’s working hard,” Hildebrand said. “Everybody’s trying to get pucks on net, going to the net to get rebounds. We’ve been focusing on that a lot in practice (last) week, just getting bodies on net and getting pucks to the net.”
The forwards are making plays, but nothing is coming out of it.
The defense has been mostly solid, but small mistakes have been MSU’s demise.
The goaltending has kept MSU in multiple games, but there’s only so much a goalie can do.
“It’s been the tale of the season,” Anastos said. “Our margin for error is very small, very slim.”
Alyssa Girardi is the State News hockey reporter. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org