In Michigan State's final loss of the season, self-inflicted wounds made a bad box score even worse.
Sure, not at of it was self-inflicted. Michigan is not just one of the best teams in the Big Ten — they are one of the best in the nation. NHL draft picks are sprinkled around the roster, four of which were drafted in the top five of the 2021 NHL Draft.
But eight goals can't just be explained by a great team.
“They've gotta lot of skill,” freshman forward Jesse Tucker said. “But I'm focused on us.”
Credit where credit is due, Michigan certainly played an excellent game, but Michigan State made the win much easier.
And that's been the story seemingly all season. From poorly timed penalties, to blowing leads, or even just inconsistent play, Michigan State seems to have a knack for shooting itself in the foot.
Nearly all of the team’s worst traits reared their heads in the final game of the season, except for blowing a lead. Three of the Wolverines eight goals came on a one five-minute major committed by senior defenseman Christian Krygier. Heading into the series, MSU knew that staying out of the box was key, but Saturday night, they accumulated 15 minutes of penalties. Michigan took advantage of it.
There were stretches of solid play from the Spartans, but each time, a turnover or an excellent play from the opponent halted all momentum. In one instance, sophomore forward A.J. Hodges ripped a shot that pin-balled off of both posts, barely staying out of the crease. Just a few minutes later, Michigan went down to the other end of scored. Each time that it seemed MSU had finally found its footing, one mistake was enough to disrupt the rhythm.
The third was Michigan State’s most consistent period of the night, but it was not nearly enough to overcome the previous two periods.
“If we would've played like we did in the third period today, I think it would have been a different outcome,” Tucker said. “We've gotta play that full 60 minute game.”
Michigan State has shown they can hang with the big boys this year. The Spartans second game against Michigan was decided by just one goal — in fact, it came down to the wire, with a few shots just missing in the final minutes.
Michigan State also split road series with the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the Big Ten tournament in the first few months of the season. When MSU plays a full 60, they are a gritty, frustrating team to play against — one that makes nothing easy for the opponents.
However, the mistakes snowballed as the season progressed. Saturday night was a culmination of said snowballing.
The season is finally over. This year was more of the same for Michigan State — a losing record against Michigan, a last place finish in the Big Ten and a first round bounce in the Big Ten tournament. And, of course, self-inflicted wounds. All of the above was exemplified in the final game of the year — a disastrous 8-0 loss in Ann Arbor.
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