(9-11-2, 3-3-2 Big Ten) is coming off its best weekend of the 2014-2015 season after picking up two wins against Ohio State (7-13-2, 2-6 Big Ten) Friday and Saturday. The Spartans beat the Buckeyes 4-1 on Friday night, before shutting them out the following night in a 2-0 victory.
Junior goaltender earned the first star in both contests, compiling 22 saves in his Saturday shutout and 33 saves the night before.
“We know he has our back almost every single time,” junior captain said. “He makes the saves he’s supposed to make. He makes the saves he’s not supposed to make sometimes too, so having him back there just helps our team confidence so much.”
MSU also had its fair share of offensive production throughout the weekend. Senior forward compiled two goals and two assists in the victories, giving him 11 points in his last eight games.
“He looks to me like he’s gaining some confidence,” head coach said. “We need a senior like him to contribute to our team for our team to have success.”
Junior forward has also caught fire as of late, tallying a goal in each game against OSU. Keller found the net the previous weekend as well, giving him three goals in his last four games.
“He’s playing with a lot more poise,” Anastos said. “He’s going to the net and he’s getting rewarded.”
One of the bigger stories coming out of the weekend was the return of senior forward to the lineup. Berry had missed six straight games for the Spartans before Friday’s game, due to not meeting team expectations. In his return, Berry was all over the ice and stat sheet this weekend as he scored a goal and added two assists.
Even after sitting for over a month, Berry still leads the team in scoring with eight goals and 16 points in 16 games.
“It took a couple shifts to get the rust off, you know I haven’t played in a while,” Berry said following Friday’s game. “But after that I felt good and my line mates really helped me out tonight, so I give a lot of credit to them.”
However, the talk of the weekend was MSU’s penalty kill unit. The Spartans lead the Big Ten with a .870 kill percentage and are tied for 11th nationally.
“The penalty killing unit is becoming a momentum changer for us,” Anastos said. “We take a lot of pride in it ... When you find things like that it’s something to really build on. And again, it came up (Saturday) at a critical time where we don’t kill that penalty, they score there, the momentum totally shifts to their team.”
The Spartans were 6-for-6 killing off the Buckeyes power plays this weekend, and have now killed off 21 consecutive power plays. The goaltender is considered a team’s best penalty killer, but Hildebrand praised what his team is doing in front of him.
“There (are) three things,” Hildebrand said of MSU’s success on the penalty kill. “Taking away the back doors, making the shots just come straight on, they’re blocking a lot of shots and they’re picking up sticks up too. I think those are the three things that our team’s done really well which makes my job as a goaltender very easy during the penalty kill.”
Another talking point that kept coming up in the locker room was the two sellout crowds that filled Munn Ice Arena this weekend and made it a true home-ice advantage. Munn reported that 6,333 fans came out Friday night and 6,439 made the trip for Saturday’s game.
“It’s awesome. We definitely hear it, we feed off it,” Ferrantino said of the atmosphere at Munn. “It makes it a lot easier for us playing at home and it makes it tougher for them. I say thank you to the fans. They definitely made an impact this weekend.”
With two wins, the Spartans earned six points in the Big Ten standings. It was good enough for MSU to jump Minnesota and move into third place with 13 points, still a hefty eight points behind first place UM. The Spartans’ next two big games are against the Wolverines, however. MSU and U-M will play at Joe Louis Arena on Jan. 30 before playing at Soldier Field in Chicago on Feb. 7 as part of the Coyote Logistics Hockey City Classic.