MSU hockey’s comeback bid fell short, losing in overtime 4-3 to the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 team in an exhibition match-up on Saturday night at Munn Ice Arena.
After trailing 3-0 midway through the second period, MSU reeled off three straight goals to send the game to overtime. Jack Eichel scored the game-winning overtime goal with 2:48 left in the sudden death period.
Although MSU came up short, because it was an exhibition game, the results don’t count for the team's overall record. NTDP now owns a 6-3 advantage in the all-time series against MSU.
MSU has been on an emoitional rollercoaster all season, with many close games including Saturday’s, but senior forward Greg Wolfe isn’t worried about it effecting the team’s mindset. Wolfe said the game was simply to keep the team fresh in a weekend off from the Big Ten.
“I don’t think anyone is too frustrated, it is what it is,” Wolfe said. “We’re not going to get down about this, it was more of just staying on the ice, play a solid team, stay fresh. so I think it served its purpose.”
Head coach Tom Anastos mixed up the lines in the exhibition game, moving freshman forward Villiam Haag with sophomore forward Michael Ferrantino and freshman forward Joe Cox.
Anastos said he was pleased with the outcome of the line, which had a combined four points in the game.
“We mixed our lines up all week and trying to settle on something ... (but) I liked that line, I thought that line was pretty good,” Anastos said.
Anastos pointed out that Haag and sophomore forward Matt DeBlouw had solid individual outings for MSU.
The national team scored the first goal of the night on a one-timer from Eichel with 11:52 left in the first period. The goal came on an odd man rush, with Sonny Milano giving Eichel a tape-to-tape pass. Brandon Fortunato also had an assist on the play.
Milano would increase the national team lead to 2-0 on a power play goal 3:49 later. Milano took the pass from Eichel, and streaked to the net from the left side corner, sending a backhand shot past sophomore goaltender Jake Hildebrand.
Fortunato recorded his second assist of the night on the play.
The national team would add to its lead later, with Auston Matthews scoring the program's second power-play goal of the night. The goal came off Jack Glover throwing the puck at the net and Matthews redirecting it into the net. The goal came with only two seconds left on the power play.
Cox scored the first MSU goal on what appeared to be a broken play. Haag crashed the net but lost control, with the puck slidding to an open Cox. The Chelsea, Mich., native buried it past future Spartan goaltender Edwin Minney, to make it 3-1.
The goal came only 50 seconds after the national team took a 3-0 lead.
Haag quickly found an open Ferrantino in slot, who put it high gloveside to make it a one-goal game heading into the third period.
MSU’s comeback bid continued into the third period with a late shorthanded goal by senior forward Lee Reimer. Wolfe won the race to the puck in the national team defensive zone and threw a cross ice pass to Reimer. From there without hesitation, Reimer blasted a slap shot past Minney to tie the game at 3-3 with 6:57 left in the third period.
The final goal of the night came in overtime by Eichel, giving the national team the victory. The goal came off what appeared to be a Spartan turnover. Milano and Glover had assists on the play.
Ferrantino said the team was motivated from last year’s embarrasing 3-0 loss to the Under-18’s. The third goal against in the middle of the second period served as a wakeup call in the eyes of Ferrantino.
“There was no way we were going to let that happen again,” Ferrantino said. “I know I got pretty angry with what was going on."
Hildebrand finished the night with 25 saves. Anastos planned to play senior goaltender Will Yanakeff in the exhibition game, but Yanakeff experienced an off-ice injury earlier in the week.
MSU finished 1-3 on the power play, but Anastos said the unit still must continue to improve for the team to improve.
MSU returns to Big Ten play next weekend in a two-game series against hated rival No. 13 Michigan. The series begins on Friday with a game at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a return trip back to Munn Ice Arena the following night. Both games begin at 7 p.m.