Saturday night’s MSU hockey 1-0 win against Western Michigan at Munn Ice Arena marked multiple “lasts” for the Spartan players.
It was the last time four seniors ever will suit up in MSU sweaters and take home ice.
It was the last regular season CCHA game MSU will play, as the league draws to an end this year.
It was the last time Western Michigan and MSU will meet as league opponents with MSU heading to the Big Ten next season and Western Michigan going to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
For the three senior forwards — Anthony Hayes, Kevin Walrod and Chris Forfar — they had the opportunity to spend their last home game together on the same line, a line that produced the only tally of the game.
“It meant a lot to get a win,” an emotional Hayes said. “Being able to play with two of my best friends, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Hayes scored the goal off a spin move halfway through the first period, and the other two were awarded assists. Walrod said after the puck went in, they huddled together and kept screaming “seniors!”
Head coach Tom Anastos said he was thinking about whether to play the three together all week, but they players found out the final decision on game day.
“We used to play, I think, sophomore year, junior year, we always played together,” Forfar said. “It’s nothing really new. (Assistant) coach (Tom) Newton had a nickname for us: the junkyard dogs. And I felt like we really played like that today. We came together, found some chemistry early.”
Western Michigan had an opportunity to tie the game late in the third period, and initially was awarded a power play goal that was immediately taken away. Anastos said he believes it was called back because of goalie interference.
After the game, Anastos noted the impact the senior line had on the game, saying them banging bodies around was “fun to watch,” but also said the game was a team effort. Combined, the team had 30 blocked shots and freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand had 28 saves in his first career shutout.
“We’ve demonstrated that we can be tough to play against,” Anastos said. “It takes commitment, you’ve gotta have that sense of urgency; there was a sense of urgency (Saturday). There was a greater commitment to playing hard all night long.”
After Friday night’s 5-2 loss to Western Michigan, captain and junior forward Greg Wolfe said MSU would find a way to win for the seniors’ final night. Saturday night, the Spartans fought for a way, and it showed on the seniors emotional faces after the game.
“I don’t know what to feel,” Forfar said. “My mind is elated on one hand. We played a great game, we beat a very good team — they’re solid all around. On the other hand, I don’t think I need to express the emotion that goes into four years of sacrifice, dedication and commitment to this program.”