MSU hockey players' individual sacrifices not enough to win vs. Penn State
Holding tight to a 2-1 lead over Penn State University on Saturday, MSU senior captain and forward Michael Ferrantino made a beautiful play. A Penn State defenseman was about to tee up a one-timer from the point, but a flying Ferrantino dove to the ice, swatted the puck off the defenseman’s stick and slid wrist-and-head-first into the boards. He got up, clutching his wrist, and skated straight to the bench.
He sat down in visible pain, wincing and clenching his teeth. Head coach Tom Anastos walked down the bench, put his hands on Ferrantino’s shoulders, and said something to his captain, but it wasn’t audible from the press box. He gave Ferrantino the coaches’ salute for giving up his body for the betterment of the team.
Minutes later, Ferrantino was back on the ice, sacrificing his body again to try and preserve a win.
Ferrantino wasn’t the only player disregarding bruises and sore limbs. Moments after Ferrantino’s diving effort, junior forward Joe Cox flung his body in the path of an oncoming shot, taking it off the top of his foot. Cox collapsed to the ice, dragged himself up, finished his shift and limped his way to the bench.
The two selfless plays, however, weren’t enough to earn MSU the victory. The Spartans would eventually lose their one-goal lead late in the third period — a storyline consistently found throughout the season.
Penn State scored on a power play with five minutes left to play in the third period, knotting the game at 2-2. Though the game officially went down as a tie after no goal was scored during the overtime period, Penn State won the shootout, giving them an extra point in the Big Ten standings.
MSU displayed grit and tenacity, evident by Cox and Ferrantino’s willingness to give up their bodies. But they weren’t the only ones, as many Spartans blocked shots and fought puck battles in the corners. They took sticks to every limb and gave whacks back, showing they wouldn’t be intimidated by the 6-1 thumping Penn State had given them Friday night.
“I think guys came to the rink ready to play and I think there was a lot better effort today,” Cox said. “That’s really what gave us a chance to win. It gave us more scoring chances and kept them to less scoring chances, so I think guys just knew they had to bring it today and I thought they brought a good effort.”
It was the same grit and tenacity that propelled them to their win over University of Michigan at Joe Louis Arena.
“We have a team that can compete with every other team out there,” Cox said. “You see it. We have really close games with a bunch of the teams in the league, it’s just whether or not we bring it with the effort.”
Though MSU has shown it can play with anyone in the nation when they get it together, Anastos questioned why there has been no consistency to the team’s play.
“If we play as hard as we did tonight, we give ourselves a chance to win against anybody we play,” Anastos said. “But we have to do that on a consistent basis, and we haven’t found that consistency. You like to see that level of game and yet you’re scratching your head saying, why not more consistency? And that’s what we have to figure out. Not just as a team but individuals as well.
“It grinds on me every day and night.”
Anastos has looked at it from every angle. Is it how the team prepares? Is it how each individual prepares? Is it their systems? These are questions he has asked himself, his team and his staff, but he’s found no definitive answer.
“We’re trying different lineups, we’re talking about how guys prepare individually,” Anastos said. “We’re scratching our heads because that is not something — we’ll keep probing, we’ll keeping pushing, we’ll keep examining what we’re doing until we solve it or the season ends.”
But maybe it’s not preparation or systems — maybe it’s the want and will to be there.
“Effort, I don’t think the guys — it didn’t seem like they wanted to be here,” Cox said of the team’s effort change from Friday to Saturday.
“The effort just wasn’t there all around, everyone, but that was the big change in tonight.”
An optimistic Anastos, who likes to find positives even during times of inconsistency, was asked about Cox’s statement and if he felt there were times guys “didn’t want to be here.”
“No, I haven’t,” Anastos said. “If we saw that in practice or something — he might have spoke out of emotion — he’s probably scratching his head trying to figure it out. I have not gotten that impression.”