The regular season has officially come to an end, with MSU hockey on the verge of participating in history in the making this week.
With the Big Ten Tournament only a few days away, head coach Tom Anastos addressed the media at his weekly press conference, touching on MSU’s latest goaltending situation, among other subjects.
Inaugural Big Ten Tournament
MSU will be part of history Thursday evening, facing off in the inaugural Big Ten hockey tournament. No. 5 seed MSU is set to play the fourth seed Ohio State at 8 p.m. in the first round on Thursday.
No. 12 Michigan, the No. 3 seed, will face off against No. 6 seed Penn State in the other first round game, with No. 1 Minnesota, the conference’s top seed, and No. 6 Wisconsin earning first-round byes.
The tournament is single elimination, with MSU needing to win three games in three days to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. The Spartans will face Minnesota in the second round if they beat Ohio State.
Anastos said he is excited for the opportunity to participate in the first-year tournament and believes the one-and-done system will benefit his Spartans.
“The reality is that there are teams that know they are in the NCAA Tournament, doesn’t mean they’re gonna not play hard,” Anastos said. “They want to win the championship, but their level of desperation may not quite be the same as somebody who knows their season is over if they don’t win that game that night.”
Goaltending question mark
Goaltender Jake Hildebrand has been a rock in net for MSU all season, but as of late, the sophomore hasn’t been his dominant self.
Hildebrand has given up 12 goals in his last six periods of play, something he hasn’t done all season. Although he hasn’t been as successful in net as of late, Hildebrand said he still is confident moving forward into the Big Ten Tournament.
“It’s a one-and-done situation, so you just gotta make sure the next game is the most important game and make sure you’re focused and ready for the next game,” Hildebrand said.
Senior goaltender Will Yanakeff got his first start since Nov. 9 on Saturday , and has appeared in the last three games. However, Yanakeff hasn’t been much better, giving up six goals in seven periods, including four in the first period on Saturday.
Anastos said he has a plan for who will be in net this weekend, but didn’t reveal who would get the start on Thursday.
Big Ten awards and recognition
The Big Ten Conference announced its end of the season awards on Monday, with three different Spartans being recognized.
Senior forward Greg Wolfe, senior defenseman Jake Chelios and Hildebrand all were voted as honorable mentions for the All-Big Ten teams by the league coaches and media. Wolfe also was elected as a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award Honoree.
Wolfe credited the two awards to his teammates, citing his fellow Spartans as a big reason he was recognized.
“It’s great, but it’s more a reflection of our team,” Wolfe said. “Guys are always trying to help me. ... It’s a great honor and I think it speaks volumes to what we’re trying to do here.”
Junior forward Matt Berry also was recognized this week as the Big Ten’s First Star of the Week. Berry recorded three goals in the weekend series against Wisconsin.