Tom Anastos received a text message last week and it has been stuck in ever since.
It said something along the lines of “difficult times don’t define one’s character, they reveal it.”
Right now, Anastos — the MSU hockey head coach — knows difficult times just a little bit more than the next guy.
In a season that, to this point, can’t be characterized by anything other than “disappointing” or “frustrating,” not only has the character of the Spartan icers has been revealed, but their spirit as well.
Anastos said the locker room feels a mix of both: disappointment at knowing MSU isn’t playing at a level it would like to and frustration at things not coming together.
“We’re going through difficult times,” Anastos said. “But how we manage that to get ourselves to where we want to be is really how we’re going to measure ourselves.”
There’s been points in games where it would have been all too easy for MSU to put their heads down and accept the loss.
Falling behind 2-0, 3-0, 6-0, the fight in them hasn’t necessarily been enough to perform come-from-behind wins, but there hasn’t been any sign of giving up.
And if there would be any time in the season where players would want to put their heads down and not care, it would have come during the past few weeks. MSU is 1-6 in its last seven games and 7-19-3 on the season.
“You just stick with it,” freshman forward John Draeger said. “We just keep working hard and you try not to really think about it. You go out there and play and don’t say, ‘Oh, well, we got guys hurt,’ and make excuses for ourselves. We just go out and work hard.”
And you can’t talk about putting your head down and working hard without mentioning freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand. If there’s an obvious player who exemplifies not giving up, it’s him.
Looking at the number of blocked shots per player, Draeger and fellow freshman defenseman Travis Walsh both are ranked nationally, demonstrating the mentality of the team to sacrifice the body at all costs.
Anybody who watches an MSU hockey game can’t say there is any trace of defeat in them.
It’s been a rough season — rough seasons happen. They’ve faced teams more talented than them, and they’ve made many costly mistakes, but the dedication is clear up and down the roster.
“It’s tough at times, but I think we all play the game because we love to play it; it’s fun for us,” freshman forward Michael Ferrantino said. “The rink is a place where we all go to get away from things, and even if things aren’t going great or going the way you want them to, you still have fun playing the game — no matter what.”
Alyssa Girardi is the State News hockey reporter. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.