This season, Tom Anastos has juggled lines and mixed and matched players in hopes of finding something that sticks, sometimes being forced into changes because of lingering injuries.
Last weekend proved to be no exception for the MSU hockey’s (7-16-3 overall, 5-12-1-0 CCHA) head coach.
Dealing with a disqualification, disciplinary action and injured players in the Penn State series, Anastos admitted after Friday night’s 5-3 win that he was working with a “tough, tough, tough lineup.”
Sophomore forward and leading scorer Matt Berry sat out Friday’s game after he earned himself an ejection and game disqualification during last Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program.
He returned to the lineup Saturday, but Anastos sat him for the majority of the final frame after Berry received a roughing after the whistle call 4:51 into the third period.
“We’re fighting through enough to have to deal with the lack of discipline,” Anastos said after the game. “I thought the penalty (last) Tuesday night was a lack of discipline, and I thought (Saturday’s) penalty was a lack of discipline.”
Sophomore forward Brent Darnell, another of MSU’s top scorers, missed last weekend’s games with a head injury.
Darnell could have played Saturday, but Anastos said he would rather stay on the safe side.
“He skated (Saturday), didn’t have any pain, said he could play, medically he was cleared to play,” Anastos said. “Talking with (athletic trainer) Dave Carrier, I just felt that in the end it’s more important that he is 100 percent.”
Freshman forward David Bondra also has been out for multiple games with an upper-body injury, but suited up for Friday and Saturday to sit on the bench and fill a roster spot. Anastos said Bondra hasn’t had any contact in practice for a while, and wants to ease him back into things.
“He’s contributing, providing support to his teammates on the bench” Anastos said Friday. “That’s a good thing — especially as a freshman.”
The Nittany Lions played a style where they threw pucks at the goal and crowded the net, and Hildebrand faced shots from all over the ice that game.
“I think every game is as exhausting as the next one,” Hildebrand said. “A lot of teams like to throw pucks at the net from all angles just to create havoc … so I’m kind of used to it by now.”
In an otherwise up-and-down season, MSU has come to have confidence in a consistent netminder in between the posts.
Hildebrand has a .939 save percentage — second in the CCHA — and a 1.93 goals against average — fourth in the CCHA.
“He’s been playing so well for us,” Anastos said. “I wasn’t surprised to see him play well again; I expected it.”