Friday night’s 5-2 win by Western Michigan over MSU hockey means the Broncos have a shot at a first-place CCHA finish, but for the Spartans, it means securing last place.
In addition to MSU’s (10-22-3 overall, 8-18-1-0 CCHA) guaranteed bottom standing, the Spartans also are set to meet Alaska in the CCHA playoffs, meaning another trip to Fairbanks, Alaska is in order.
“Like I’ve said a number of times, you have to learn from mistakes you’ve made to not repeat them,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “So we have to get better, we have to execute better offensively and defensively. We have to play with discipline all the time.”
Friday, sophomore forward Brent Darnell scored his tenth of the season and the first of the game about midway into the first period.
Fellow class and linemate Matt Berry possessed the puck around Western Michigan’s net, and Darnell patiently waited for the puck to pop out from underneath Bronco goaltender Frank Slubowski before burying it.
Western Michigan tied the game before heading into the second period, in which the Broncos had their strongest frame of the night, netting three goals.
“They have some guys back there that will play a lot of minutes, and we want to wear them down all game,” Darnell said. “I thought we did a good job of that to start the game, and then when that second period came around, we kind of got down, we couldn’t control some of those things, we let it get the best of us, and like I said, they capitalized.”
Two of the Broncos goals in the second frame were unfortunate for MSU, as senior defenseman Matt Grassi fell on a 1-1 and allowed an open lane for Western Michigan’s second goal. A puck hit off freshman defenseman John Draeger and went into the net during an MSU penalty kill to allow the fourth goal.
All of Western Michigan’s goals in the second period came within three minutes of each other.
“Their goals, I think, were a little too easy to come by,” captain and junior forward Greg Wolfe said. “There was a span of four or five minutes where we’re in the game and, at times, really carrying the play. Then we get a couple penalties in a row, a couple bad breaks.”
When the game was 3-1, MSU had a shorthanded opportunity with junior forward Lee Reimer and Wolfe rushing the net. Wolfe ran into Slubowski, earning him a trip to the box and putting Western Michigan on a 5-on-3 which resulted in the goal that hit off Draeger.
Each team had a score in the final period, sophomore forward Tanner Sorenson finding the net for MSU on a power play. Western Michigan’s fifth goal came as a result of the puck hitting off a linesman and landing on the stick of a Bronco — another unfortunate mistake.
“It’s been the tale of the season,” Anastos said. “I hope it all gets out of our system this season. Again, no excuses because you make your breaks, but to deal with some of those things when things are frustrating enough compounds. It takes a big gulp to regroup.”
The two teams will meet again tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. at Munn Ice Arena for MSU’s final game of the CCHA regular season. Though the win might not mean anything in the standings for the Spartans, they are determined to have the seniors make their last home game a win.
“We want to win for them,” Wolfe said. “Nothing less than a win tomorrow — that’s what our attitude is. We’re going to do whatever it takes.”