After losing its first game in the Great Lakes Invitational to No. 16 Western Michigan University at Joe Louis Arena, 4-1, the MSU hockey team went into Friday looking to rebound against instate rival the University of Michigan.
At the end of the second period, U-M held a staggering 4-1 lead over MSU, with three of those goals coming in the first 10 minutes of the first period.
Seven seconds into the third sophomore forward Mason Appleton scored on the power play right after the center ice face-off, which was the first of three goals the Spartans scored in the third period.
Appleton said the goal gave MSU the start it needed and gave the team some momentum to slim down the U-M lead.
“We were a little snake bit, down 4-1… from there we were able to chip away,” Appleton said. “It definitely jump-started us.”
Sophomore defenseman Zach Osburn said during the second intermission that he and his teammates wanted to give it all they had in the final period.
“I thought the momentum was going our way (and) I thought we had their backs against the wall," Osburn said.
Head coach Tom Anastos said the quick goal allowed the team to gain some momentum and confidence, not only with scoring fast at the beginning of the third period but also with the execution of the play.
“You call face-off plays all the time, not always are they executed to perfection,” Anastos said. “But when you score that quick — especially on a play that you literally called as we were walking onto the ice — now the team gets a jump and not just from the goal, but from the fact that it was well executed … was obviously a huge bonus for us to build off of in the third period.”
The execution was built from the talks during the second intermission, Anastos said.
“Keep working until the next game,” Anastos said. “We just talked about playing the right way, staying within what we wanted to try to do.”
In the comeback effort, junior defenseman Carson Gatt gave MSU its third goal of the night. Senior forward JT Stenglein tied it up, making it 4-4.
The goals led to overtime, during which U-M scored on the Spartans with a goal tapped in by junior forward Tony Calderone, giving the Wolverines the 5-4 victory in overtime.
Even with an increased offensive output compared to Thursday night’s game against the Broncos, Anastos said he didn’t think MSU was getting rewarded with how many scoring opportunities that were presented to the team on Friday.
“Probably two games of back-to-back hockey, we had as many quality chances than we have had in a long time," Anastos said. "Nothing was going into the net for us."
Anastos said the key for MSU was to keep pressure on the U-M defense.
“I told them, 'I don’t care how it goes in, just figure a way to get one in and see if that creates some momentum for us,'” Anastos said.
Appleton said when all 20 guys are working toward trying to put the puck in the net, it makes everything a lot easier.
“I guess it’s going to take all 20 of us to get the results that we want,” Appleton said. “Consistency is key.”
The inconsistency of goaltending, Anastos said, is also an issue the team has as of late.
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“It hasn’t been big saves, it’s been on team saves,” Anastos said. “We’ve got to find the consistency there.”
Appleton said the special teams also needs to improve, as MSU’s penalty kill unit allowed five power play goals on the weekend.
“Obviously, special teams at the college level is really key because (scoring) five-on-five is hard to come by,” Appleton said.
Even after losing both GLI games, Appleton said playing and losing to U-M was different compared to other teams.
“Anytime you play your biggest rival, no matter if it’s a game on the pond or a Sunday in the backyard, it doesn’t matter, it’s against Michigan,” Appleton said.
MSU continues Big Ten play with its matchup against University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis. on Jan. 6-7.
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