MSU Hockey kicks off season with 2-1 victory
It didn’t take long for the Spartans to break the ice on the fresh season as freshmen center Cody Milan gave the Spartans an early lead just two minutes into the opening period. Milan, was the recipient of a beautiful backdoor pass from redshirt-senior Justin Hoomaian. Hoomaian picked up the puck in the neutral and turned the Mustangs defender inside out with a quick deke to the left and quick pass backdoor to Milan who wasted no time in one-timing the pass off the crossbar and straight to the back of the net beating Western Ontario netminder Peter Delmas cleanly.
The Spartans continued to pressure the Mustangs, but a cross checking penalty on MSU’s Travis Walsh just under halfway through the period quickly turned the tide. The Mustangs would capitalize on the ensuing powerplay, as Western Ontario right winger Noah Schwartz walked out of the corner into the bottom of the slot and ripped a shot off MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand’s shoulder, and saw the puck trickle over the goal line tying the game up at 1-1. The Mustangs would continue to give the Spartans fits but the Spartans forced some penalties of their own but couldn’t capitalize on three powerplay opportunities.
The Spartans would struggle on the powerplay all night, going 0-for-7 on the man advantage, but it was due in large part to not practicing the power play during practice.
“We haven’t practiced powerplay once coming into that game,” freshman forward Mason Appleton said. “But I think it’s something we’ll hit on this week and our special teams will be pretty good next weekend.”
Appleton, had an impressive start to his Spartan career as he saw a slew of minutes and action on the powerplay’s and penalty kill’s number one lines.
The Spartans opened the second period quicker than they did the first. Only 44 seconds into the period, Travis Walsh smacked home, a rebound on an odd-man rush, on a shot by captain Michael Ferrantino that glanced off Delmas’ pad right onto the stick of Walsh. Junior forward Joe Cox also assisted on the play.
The Spartans had a flurry of chances in the second, mostly generated by odd man rushes as the speed of the Spartan’s puck movement was too much for the Mustangs. However the Spartans were thwarted at every turn by netminder Delmas who would save 16 Spartan shots in the period and go onto stop a total of 39 shots in the contest. Delmas was the bright spot in the game for the Mustangs and drew praise from Spartan captain Ferrantino.
“When you looked up there wasn’t a whole lot of net there. He did good job of coming out and challenging shots,” Ferrantino said. “There weren’t a whole lot of rebounds I think. The only ones he left out there we scored on.”
The Spartans and Mustangs continued to battle throughout the period, trading chances but also committing a bunch opening game mistakes. The Spartans and Mustangs couldn’t muster much sustained pressure and were careless at times in the neutral zone. However when the Spartans gave up opportunities to the Mustangs, Hildebrand was there to bail them out, as he turned away 14 shots in the contest. Hildebrand would exit the game at the end of the second period, giving sophomore goalie Ed Minney a chance to gain some valuable experience. Minney would only face three shots, stopping each one.
The third period saw the Spartans swarm the net, but come up empty on a flurry of point blank opportunities and both teams continued to be sloppy in the neutral zone and in and around the blueline. However both the Spartan powerplay and penalty kill gained some ground as the Spartans locked down on the PK and gained some quality opportunities on the PP which featured an Appleton slapshot ring off the crossbar. The Mustangs were awarded a late powerplay on a Mackenzie MacEachern high stick. The Mustangs pulled their goalie with 1:20 to go in the third, giving them a 6-on-4 opportunity. The Spartans turned away each shot in front of Minney, blocking many Western Ontario shots enroute to a total of 13 blocked shots. The Spartans would hang on to win 2-1.
The Spartans sloppy play was expected, as the first game of the season always is however head coach Tom Anastos remembered the reason these games are played.
“Lots of turnovers and sloppy play and I thought the game got a little better in quality as the game went on,” Anastos said. “We wanted to use this as kind of an evaluation period on a number of things at this point.”
Anastos also credited Western Ontario’s Delmas for his stellar play and also commented on his team’s offensive push. Though it produced many opportunities and many good ones, the puck will still have to find the back of the net Anastos said.
“I thought their goaltender was real good. I thought he played a real good game,” Anastos said. “We had some point blank shots that we didn’t score on but I think offensively we will evolve over time.”
MSU opens the regular season on Oct. 9 against the Maine Black Bears in Maine at 8 p.m.