Tom Anastos has closed the book on his second season with the MSU hockey program.
Since getting eliminated from the CCHA Tournament in a three-game series with Miami (Ohio) on March 17, Anastos has turned his sights to re-evaulating the goals and the progress of the program after a lackluster campaign.
The Spartans finished with a 14-25-3 overall record, including a 9-18-1-0 mark in the CCHA, which was good for last place in the conference. However, the team rallied late in the year to win seven of its final 13 games, including the program’s first postseason series since 2007.
Building the program in a five-year window where he believes will set the Spartans among the “national elite,” Anastos said there isn’t one area of the team behind expectations to this point, but many improvements still are necessary.
“I told the team at the end of the season that we’re not good enough, we have to get better,” Anastos said. “We have to get stronger, we’ve got to get tougher to play against, we have to become better defensively, we have to create more offensive productivity.
“It’s gonna take a huge commitment to do so, and we have to increase our talent level.”
With the loss of 12 players from a season ago, including junior defenseman and team captain Torey Krug, it was a transition year for the Spartans.
As Krug signed a contract with the NHL’s Boston Bruins in March 2012, Anastos appointed junior forward Greg Wolfe to the role of team captain before the 2012-13 season began. A quiet leader, Wolfe was the team’s fifth-leading scorer with nine goals to go along with 21 assists.
Wolfe said although tensions ran high in the locker room during difficult points of the year, the key to the late-season surge was remaining a positive source of energy for the other players.
“The biggest thing for me was, through all the ups and downs, to stay consistent,” Wolfe said. “The biggest thing was staying positive and just knowing once we figured it out, things started looking up. It took us to the end of the year, but it was worth it.”
It would be difficult to recap the year without taking note of a strong season by freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand.
Following a difficult start to the season by junior Will Yanakeff, Hildebrand took over the primary starting role of the team, starting 28 of 42 games and finishing with a .928 save percentage. Playing in front of an inexperienced defensive backline, Hildebrand completed his season with a 9-17-2-2 overall record.
After completing his first season on campus, Hildebrand said he learned the value of a persistent effort in net to overcome obstacles.
“We battled throughout the season,” Hildebrand said. “We never got too high or too low. We still battled even though we went through a couple losing streaks and things like that. I still think we worked as hard as we can throughout the entire year.”
As the Spartans sit out of the NCAA Tournament, while other teams continue their respective postseason runs, Anastos said MSUhas a goal in mind of where to be next season.
“Michigan State expects to be playing in late March and early April and we’re not, and I don’t like it, and we can’t accept it, and we have to change it,” Anastos said. “We still have a ways to go in our growing pains but we have to find a way to take a nice step next year to getting back in the NCAA Tournament and establishing ourselves in that tournament with regularity.”