Struggles continue for MSU with losses to U-M
Freshman defenseman Travis Walsh takes a slap shot against Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans, 5-2, in the second game of the weekend series. Adam Toolin/The State News
It was another weekend of the same for MSU hockey.
Same explanations after the game.
Same hard feelings heading into the week.
Same story you’ve read all season.
And there’s two more losses for the Spartans, (7-18-3 overall, 5-14-1-0 CCHA) albeit this weekend’s might have stung a little more than usual.
The latter game marked the fourth time MSU was defeated by U-M this season.
“We seem to find ways to take ourselves out of games,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “I don’t know if that’s a characteristic of a young, inexperienced team. Maybe it’s a characteristic of a team that’s just struggling to find its identity, or whether it’s a team that is dealing with a lack of confidence — maybe all of the above.”
Both games MSU struggled to generate any effective offense or establish a decent forecheck, and the Spartans defense had their work cut out for them.
“I think from the beginning of the game, the ‘D’ were having a hard time just getting past that first forecheck,” junior defenseman Jake Chelios said Friday.
U-M’s offensive play handled the game, outsizing MSU and not giving the Spartans any relief in their own end.
Heading into the weekend, MSU and U-M were on the bottom of the CCHA standings. Both hockey programs knew the series carried a lot of weight and momentum.
After Saturday’s game, he openly acknowledged where MSU desperately needs improvement.
“There’s a size and skill differential out there, let’s not kid ourselves,” he said. “Yeah, we’ve got to do a better job of containing sticks and getting loose pucks to safe areas, but over a period of time, big strong guys who wear you down, that’s what we’re dealing with.”
Following the pattern of the season, MSU freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand was pushed to his limit once again, racking up 74 saves throughout the six periods. U-M goaltender Jared Rutledge saved 47. Through the past six matchups Hildebrand has played in, he has a total of 218 saves and has let in 21.
“Jake (Hildebrand) played really well again,” captain and junior forward Greg Wolfe said Saturday. “I don’t really think many of them were his fault. I’m really happy to see he’s still playing, still battling for us. We’re trying to battle for him, too. It’s just not easy right now.”