Some college hockey teams only would be happy with a swept series.
MSU (8-19-3 overall, 6-15-1-0 CCHA) is pleased with the progress made in a split.
After falling to Bowling Green (11-14-5 overall, 8-11-3-1 CCHA), 2-1, on the road, the Spartans rebounded nicely the following night by taking down the Falcons, 3-1, on home ice.
It might not be a swept series, which MSU has been unable to pull off this year, but it’s a step in the right direction for the struggling team.
“That’s one of the best weekends we’ve put together all year,” captain and junior forward Greg Wolfe said. “We didn’t get the win (Friday) night, but as a team playing together, that was probably one of the best 120 minutes of hockey we’ve had this year.”
Wolfe had a standout weekend, producing three of MSU’s four goals, all of those while one team had a man-advantage.
Minutes into Friday’s game, he skated from end-to-end on a penalty kill and netted the puck through the goaltender’s five-hole. Saturday, he scored a wrister on a power play and an empty-netter.
Head coach Tom Anastos said the team has been struggling with confidence issues these past few weeks, but the Spartans managed to fight through for six full periods.
“We definitely were physical from start to finish, which is something we’ve been working toward is finishing our checks,” senior forward Chris Forfar said. “I feel after six periods of doing that, we finally put some pucks in the back of the net and wore their ‘d’ down a bit.”
Up until last weekend, four defensemen were getting the majority of game minutes: freshmen Travis Walsh and John Draeger, junior” Jake Chelios”:http://www.msuspartans.com/sports/m-hockey/mtt/chelios_jake00.html and senior Matt Grassi. Anastos said those four were in the mid-20s and north of that in terms of ice time.
Since late December, sophomore defenseman R.J. Boyd has improved his number of minutes, providing the back line with a physical and offensive presence.
Last weekend, junior transfer Nickolas Gatt saw more ice time, and the Spartans rotated the six defensemen for most of the game.
“Nickolas Gatt is dealing with the adversity of trying to fight for playing time,” Anastos said. “He’s done an incredible job of working through that, and he’s working on his game and he’s working really hard at his game. That’s kinda the unsung hero part.”
Netminder switch up
Following suit of the Penn State series Jan. 25-26, the Spartans switched up starting goaltenders, playing junior Will Yanakeff on Friday and freshman Jake Hildebrand on Saturday.
Hildebrand has gotten the nod most games this season, playing in 21 games with a 2.21 goals against average. Yanakeff has played in 10 games, seeing less time as the season has progressed.
Kicking off the season, Yanakeff played in seven of the first nine games. Since Nov. 10, he has played in three of 22 matchups, but Anastos said he thinks Yanakeff has done a good job of dealing with the circumstances, providing good leadership and support to Hildebrand.
“We were looking for an opportunity to play him,” Anastos said. “We went with him (Friday) because he’s practiced well, he’s looked good in practice. We’re confident in his abilities, and he won last time he was there. I think he played well enough to win yesterday, too, if we could’ve generated some offense.”