A series sweep continues to evade MSU hockey (7-11-2, 1-3-2-2 Big Ten) this season. After a dramatic shootout victory over Penn State on Friday night, the Nittany Lions handed the Spartans a 5-2 loss on Saturday.
“Disappointing,” head coach Tom Anastos said of the weekend. “We’ve got to play six periods of hockey and we didn’t play six periods of hockey, so we didn’t give ourselves a chance. They were way more ready to play. They were way hungrier to play. They wanted the three points that were up for grabs tonight, and I’ve got to go figure out why we weren’t good enough.”
MSU fell back in the Big Ten standings after the weekend, now sitting in fourth place with seven points. The Spartans will have another chance to make a move this weekend as they have a home-series with the fifth place Ohio State Buckeyes on the slate.
While Anastos wasn’t happy with MSU’s overall performance, some Spartans still managed to find individual success. Junior goaltender Jake Hildebrand – native of Butler, Pa. – made 48 saves in the 2-2 tie on Friday night. He also stopped all three shootout attempts, allowing senior forward Brent Darnell to secure the extra point with his shootout goal. Even after letting five goals get past him on Saturday, Hildebrand still ended up with 35 saves.
The Nittany Lions (11-7-3, 5-2-1 Big Ten) currently sit at the top of the Big Ten standings with 17 points, in part due to averaging over 40 shots on goal per-game. PSU’s top forward line of Casey Bailey, Taylor Holmstrom and David Goodwin led the way throughout the weekend, combining for five goals and 11 points in two games.
“They were good,” Anastos said of the trio following Saturday’s game. “They attacked the net hard and played with physicality. I’ll give them credit, they were good.”
Sophomore forward Villiam Haag also stood out at Pegula Ice Arena, doubling his goal output for the season in just two games. Haag’s goal in Friday’s game was as pivotal as it was pretty, with the Swedish forward scoring off a toe-drag move from the point just 26 seconds after the Nittany Lions tied it up in the final minute of the first period. With two goals and three points on the weekend, Haag sits at four goals on the year after tallying eight in his freshman campaign.
The positives fell off rather quickly after that however, as the shortcomings of Saturday helped to overshadow any successes of the tie on Friday.
“[Friday’s] game was a draw, and [Saturday’s] game they were dominated,” Anastos said. “We didn’t put up enough push back, and I’m not happy with that. I’m very disappointed in our effort.
“We got beat in every phase of the game [on Saturday]. They dominated the game and they were the way better team.”
Darnell’s five-game point streak came to an end on Saturday, after generating an assist on junior forward Ryan Keller’s goal in the first game. Junior forward and captain Michael Ferrantino added to his team-leading goal total on Saturday, potting his ninth of the season late in the first period to give the Spartans their first and last lead of the game.
“From what we’ve seen so far, they kind of are what they were last year,” Ferrantino said prior to the weekend series. “A little bit more skilled.”