Sitting last in the CCHA and yet to sweep a series, the MSU hockey team doesn’t have much to show for its work.
But despite a 9-20-3 overall record, 7-16-1-0 in the CCHA, the Spartans have made sure their opponents recognize they still have some fight in them.
“The biggest takeaway is to show that these guys can be resilient,” head coach Tom Anastos said of the weekend. “I think that’s real gutty.”
MSU split the games Friday and Saturday with Northern Michigan (13-15-4 overall, 7-13-4-1 CCHA), coming from behind to make late rallies in each matchup.
In Friday night’s 5-3 loss, MSU entered the third period staring at a 3-0 deficit.
The Spartans fought back to make it a one-point game twice in the final frame, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback.
An empty-netter by Northern Michigan forward Reed Seckel with 11 seconds left sealed the MSU loss.
“We were pretty happy with how we finished checks (Friday); we were pretty happy with how we battled along the boards,” Anastos said. “What we were unhappy with was we didn’t do a good job in front of our net. Like in our house, we gave up a couple rebound goals.”
The following night, the game started off in similar fashion, with Northern Michigan picking up a goal on its first shot of the night about 16 minutes into the first period.The Spartans tied it up in the second, but fell behind again in the third.
MSU faced a match similar to the night before, but was determined to make Saturday’s comeback worthwhile.
“We put pucks in their goalie’s feet,” freshmen forward Michael Ferrantino said. “There were lots of rebounds sitting there (Friday), … So (Saturday) we really tried to come in and not only be tough to play against, but put everything toward the net and go from there.”
Ferrantino, senior forward Chris Forfar and sophomore forward Tanner Sorenson all had tallies in the third period to pick up the win for MSU.
Anastos said he was happier with the way his team moved the puck and attacked through the neutral zone, repeating multiple times how pleased he was with the resilience and fight MSU displayed.
“The entire weekend was a progression leading up to today,” said Forfar, who had Saturday’s winning goal.
“I felt (Friday) we did a great job finishing checks as well. It’s kind of becoming our identity, to always finish as many checks as possible within the rules, and do a good job making the other team sacrifice to make plays.”
MSU outshot Northern Michigan 43-20 on Saturday, giving freshman Jake Hildebrand one of the slowest games he’s seen all season. With Hildebrand facing upward of 30 shots on many nights, Anastos said it can be equally hard for a goaltender to adjust to making less saves as opposed to more.
“It’s a good experience for him, as well, to have to learn how to fight through that and play in all sorts of games,” Anastos said, noting that it helps goalies stay in a rhythm by facing difference paces of play.