This past weekend’s series for the Michigan State ice hockey team was a wild one against No. 9 Michigan. In the first game, we saw Michigan State get absolutely outplayed in a 9-0 loss in Ann Arbor.
Despite the blowout, the outcome of Game 2 was perhaps predictable in a way Spartan fans might not have thought possible. The last time MSU gave up at least nine goals in a game was a 10-4 loss to Northern Michigan in 2002. In the next game, the Spartans defeated Northern Michigan, 3-1.
The last time MSU lost by at least nine goals was an 11-1 loss to Lake Superior State in 1994. In the next game, Michigan State and Lake Superior State played to a 3-3 tie.
So, Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Michigan might not have been all that surprising — when looking at the history of the program.
But there is a lot to unpack from the series, so here are three takeaways that fans can take into next weekend:
Drew DeRidder is great, but not perfect
Coming into the Michigan series, DeRidder was up there statistically with some of the best goaltenders in the country. He was posting a 1.78 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage while also coming off a Penn State series where he allowed just two goals in two games to pave his way for his second consecutive Big Ten First Star of the Week honor.
But like most goalies, even in the National Hockey League, some nights are not theirs and that was the case for DeRidder on Friday. After playing just 11:34 and allowing three goals on nine shots including a goal by Michigan’s Johnny Beecher that he probably should have saved, DeRidder was benched in favor of freshman Pierce Charleson.
It was probably inevitable a game like this would eventually happen this season for DeRidder and possibly could happen again. DeRidder, like the entire team, had an encouraging bounce-back game Saturday making 38 saves while allowing two goals.
MSU needed his stellar play in the third period of Saturday’s game as Michigan pressed hard offensively. DeRidder gave up a goal that gave the Wolverines the lead late but giving up one goal in a period where MSU was outshot 14-5 proved to be manageable for the Spartans. By keeping the puck out of the net, he gave his skaters a chance to make a play, and they responded.
Tommy Apap is crucial for MSU
When it was announced that Apap was a late scratch on Monday’s game vs. Penn State, there was a valid reason for concern for the Spartans just minutes before dropping the puck. Apap, who had two goals and one assist on the season before being scratched Monday, had been great winning faceoffs for MSU all year long. That, combined with his leadership as one of the team captains, left a lot that was taken away from the Spartans' lineup.
However, the absence of Apap in Game 2 against Penn State did not seem to shake Michigan State as they cruised to a 5-1 victory. Apap was then scratched again Friday but this time his absence was visibly missed as the green and white were dominated on every aspect of the game.
“We missed him on the ice, especially faceoffs and penalty killing," Head Coach Danton Cole said after Friday's loss to Michigan. "He’s heavy and can give us some good matchups. We had a few other guys out as well tonight, and you have to battle through those things. Everybody goes through it."
After going through warmups Saturday, Apap returned to action and his presence was noticeable on the ice. He’s never been a big points guy (14 goals and 11 assists in 112 career games for MSU), and he had zero points Saturday. Instead, he made his impact in other places like he normally does.
“He takes a lot of the tough minutes and faceoffs, and you know he’s going to kill penalties, and you know he’s going to throw some big checks and he’s going to defend the top line,” Cole said after Saturday’s game. “... He’s an inspirational guy. Having him come back even if he was just sitting on the bench dressed I think he would have brought a lot to the game tonight. He is that important to us.”
The Spartans are resilient
Watching Game 1 against Michigan on Friday was hard.
It had disaster written all over it just five minutes into the game. There was no energy, no motivation, no “Spartans Will” against the program's biggest rival.
But one sign of a mature and well-coached team is the ability to overcome adversity. Well coached teams in pretty much any sport are able to bounce back after embarrassing losses, and that is exactly what MSU did Saturday.
“Tonight we battled harder. We finished hits more. We shot the puck more. ... I think winning faceoffs was huge for us too,” defenseman Cole Krygier, who scored the game-tying goal Saturday, said.
Michigan State will need that resiliency to continue as the season progresses.
There likely will be more bad losses, but there will also be more good wins. If the team is able to respond to different forms of adversity like they did this weekend, they should continue to be competitive in the Big Ten. They will have an opportunity to keep the train rolling Friday and Saturday as they travel to take on Penn State after splitting the previous series between the two teams earlier this week.
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