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MSU hockey stuns North Dakota with win on Friday, OT win on Saturday

November 27, 2016
Sophomore defenseman Zach Osburn (2) jumps onto his teammates while celebrating a Spartan goal during the game against Ferris State on Nov. 11, 2016 at Munn Ice Arena. The spartans were defeated by the bulldogs, x-x.
Sophomore defenseman Zach Osburn (2) jumps onto his teammates while celebrating a Spartan goal during the game against Ferris State on Nov. 11, 2016 at Munn Ice Arena. The spartans were defeated by the bulldogs, x-x.

During the holiday weekend and in front of a hostile crowd of more than 10,000 fans, the MSU hockey team proved successful in its effort to upset then-No. 5 University of North Dakota. In the series, the Spartans skated away with a win and a tie, disappointing the crowd at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

On Friday night, in game one of the series, the Spartans prevailed, 4-3, in a win in which MSU nearly blew a 4-1 lead. The Spartans, however, were able to hang on in the waning moments of the match.

The next night, MSU tied the Fighting Hawks, 2-2, which sent the game into overtime. Fortunately for the Spartans, they pulled out the pseudo-victory, 3-2, in the extra 3-on-3 overtime playing under National Collegiate Hockey Conference, or NCHC, rules.

In game one, after giving up an early goal to the Fighting Hawks, MSU answered quickly. The team tacked on two goals courtesy of redshirt-freshman defenseman Jerad Rosburg and headed into the first intermission up, 2-1.

The box score, however, told a different story as North Dakota held a 12-3 lead in the shots department for the first 20 minutes of the game.

“I thought the first period we were a little sluggish coming off the break,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “Coming into the dressing room up 2-1, I was thinking, ‘Heck, we’re going to get better than this.’”

Following the first, MSU continued to pile on, holding a 4-1 lead midway through the third period. The momentum, however, swung when sophomore forward Mason Appleton was called for a five-minute major penalty.

North Dakota capitalized, scoring two goals within 31 seconds of each other, and forced its way back into the match. Immediately following the second score, Anastos called a timeout to regroup his team.

“I told them (during the timeout), ‘OK, we took the punch, now it’s time to punch back,’” Anastos said. “There have been time periods where we gave up consecutive goals in short amount of time. I told them, ‘That was enough, it’s done, stop right here, let’s move forward.’ It was just an opportunity to refocus.”

After a furious rally by the Fighting Hawks and a Spartan denial, MSU came out on top, 4-3, to take first match of the series. Following the game, Anastos said he would delay talks of the game the next night and let his team relish the win a little bit.

“It was a hard-fought win, it’s a tough place to win, they have a heck of a team,” Anastos said. “We found a way to win and I think that’s the important thing.”

Looking forward to the matchup on Saturday, the Spartans were matched up with the same team they defeated the night before. Earlier in the season, Anastos stressed that it’s hard to sweep a team because of how hard they would come in the initial goings of the match.

With that in mind, he rolled out an upperclassmen line for the evening puck drop. The starting line featured seniors Joe Cox, JT Stenglein and Thomas Ebbing coupled with defensemen redshirt-senior Rhett Holland and junior Carson Gatt.

“We’re expecting a push from (North Dakota),” Anastos said. “We want our upperclassmen and our senior group to punch right back. I thought we did a good job at that all night. I thought that line played really solid.”

Rolling with the mindset set by their coach, the Spartans got off to a quick start to snatch a 1-0 lead, but the away team’s cause was hampered as two Fighting Hawks scores had them facing a deficit going into the second period.

The Spartans were able to score the equalizer in the second period, courtesy of freshman forward Patrick Khodorenko. With the tying score in hand, the Spartans then focused on keeping the game close defensively, as it kept the opposition scoreless in the final two periods.

“I think things are starting to gel (in the defensive zone),” Anastos said. “We didn’t give up a lot of Grade A opportunities. … We’re just playing hard defensively, we’re getting on people fast. I think we’re getting better with our sticks, we’re being more physical.”

To pull off the game, the player of the game for MSU was arguably in the net, awaiting his chance to deny a score. Junior goaltender Ed Minney came through for the Spartans in a big way, stopping 32 shots and allowing just two goals. In the first game, Minney shined as well, notching 30 saves to just three goals, preserving the MSU win.

After splitting time in the net with freshman John Lethemon early in the season, Minney found himself at the top of the depth chart in the past few games.

“I thought (Minney) played with a lot of poise,” Anastos said. “This is a real good team and this is a real tough building to play in. I thought he stepped his game up. I thought it was a good sign of growth in his game this weekend.”

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Coupled with the improved effort from Minney, the result of the match was deemed a tie following a five-minute overtime period. However, because of the rules imposed in the NCHC, the Fighting Hawks and Spartans decked it out in an extra three-on-three overtime period.

Rosburg converted for the Spartans for a third time on the weekend, netting the game-winner in the added period. While the match won’t end up in the win column, Anastos said the team did sang fight song regardless.

Peering at the weekend, MSU mustered up an upset against a top-10 team in the nation. Anastos said it would be the perfect time for his team to use it as building blocks for the rest of the regular season.

“For us to come here and play against a team like (North Dakota), I think we leave here understanding more about ourselves,” Anastos said. “I’m sure our confidence grew a little bit, too.”

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