Coming into a rival game is nothing but exhilarating. The Munn crowd was on their feet chanting for the home team and was ready for a hard-fought game and hoping for a win. But against the Michigan Wolverines, the Spartans took a tough loss with a final score of 7-1, their first regulation loss since Oct. 28 when the team was swept by Boston College.
As a team goal, focusing on playing a full 60 minutes is the goal of the Spartans. But coming in hot for the first two minutes led to the Spartans taking a tough tumble with the Wolverines having an extremely strong power play, which was a factor leading to the 151 penalty minutes taken between both teams through the game.
“Obviously a tough tough night for us for sure,” head coach Adam Nightingale said in a post game press conference. “I thought our guys were ready to go. I liked us the first couple of minutes, and obviously there is way more to a game than the first couple of minutes. I liked our jump and obviously the discipline side really bit us today but I don’t think outside of that.”
One thing the Spartans had struggles with tonight during the game was passes being broken up by the Michigan blue line, as well as giving their opponents several breakaway attempts — one of those including a short handed goal for the Wolverines as well.
Emotions flared quickly through the game, but there is always a key to not letting those actions and emotions boil over into the remaining games against the University of Michigan. So, as the Spartans look ahead this weekend and the rest of the season, Michigan State needs to try the best they can to not let those emotions be drawn into the remaining portion of their season and conference play.
“I think just kind of turn the page and know it’s a new day,” captain and senior defenseman Nash Nienhuis said post game. “A new opportunity to play our game, I think it kind of just ends there. You know we try our best to learn from it and move on.”
Another thing that comes from a highly rivaled and historic game is the penalties taken, including several 5-on-3 moments for the Spartans that were tough to kill off because of the highly talented man advantage for the rivals. Coming into the third and final period, and continuing until the final whistle, the Spartans and Wolverines tallied a total of 11 game misconducts, leaving both benches with fewer players.
“I thought (Michigan) controlled large portions of the game,” Nightingale said. “And you take penalties and take multiple 5-on-3’s and we can’t do that. I’ll take responsibility for that. I’ve talked to the team about it and tried to address it that way, but there needs to be some more action. So that’s definitely an area to start to clean up.”
As the team heads on the road to finish out their weekend against Michigan, there are things a team always has to work on, especially coming off of a heartbreaking loss like the one taken at Munn. The team is ready to strike and get back the win that they know they can take.
“I give (Michigan) credit, they played a good game and I think sometimes in hockey they can go up with a lead and sometimes naturally you can check out and that’s something that we need to work on and to learn from," Nienhuis said. "So hopefully that never happens again."
The Spartans are back in action on Saturday, Jan. 20 for a 7 p.m. game and are headed for Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor where they look to get back into the win column and prevent a sweep from Michigan. The game will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.