Joe Louis Arena
It felt like the MSU vs. UM football game other than the Spartans tonight were not the favorite like they were on the gridiron. The proud Spartan program is struggling this year, and a big win like this couldn’t have come at a better time. A team that has had adversity swirling around it all season hasn’t fractured, stayed the course and saw the results tonight on a 3-2 overtime win.
Legendary UM head coach Red Berenson declared that, “It was a great effort by Michigan State. They have been a better team than their record all year and we saw it tonight. Good for them it was a game that goals were precious and both goalies kept their teams in it. They scored goals when they needed to and we gave up goals when we didn’t need to.”
Spartan goalie Jake Hildebrand is one of the nation’s top goaltenders and has suffered at times this year with his confidence. He played like Jim Craig of the 1980 Gold Medal USA team. He said of his amazing performance that saw him stonewall the Wolverines 40 times that, “It was really special. Especially for the seniors going against Michigan. This being the inaugural year for the Iron D trophy I think it was really good for our team. I thought the way we battled in front of the net was key. We won the dirty things. It means a little bit more against them.”
Most fans do not realize that a hockey team carries six defenders and the Spartans have lost three this year. That is major reason for their struggles, but tonight they stood like a stone wall with stellar D in overtime, blanking the Wolverines by giving them zero shots in overtime.
Spartans head man Tom Anastos beamed with pride able to brag on a defense that lacks some talent down three key players, but full of heart “I thought it was a heck of a game from start to finish. Had everything in it. I said our team has really stuck together. This is the start of the back half of the Big Ten season. It was special to see that puck go in. I think that was our best defensive performance of the season.”
This is the first year of the new Iron D trophy that will be given away each year (similar to the Paul Bunyan in football) when these two rivals player here in Detroit. For Captain Mike Ferrantino that meant a lot. The Spartan pint size leader has the heart of a warrior and leads like it. “I get to leave with a trophy in my hand and that was pretty cool. Especially for our seniors.”
To put the loss of three top tier defenseman try to picture Dantonio if he didn’t have 105 players, but had the depth that they carry in hockey and losing six defensive starters? No excuses just fact and that has also led to some of Hildebrand’s struggles.
I will have much more on the Spartan hockey struggles of 2016 in the next issue of Spartan Nation Magazine. For now we leave Joe Louis Arena with the raucous chants of Go Green Go White, completed over two hours ago, still echoing over the rafters of this hallowed hall of hockey.
The Michigan State men’s basketball team tips off with UM tomorrow at 2PM in Ann Arbor. That game can be seen on CBS!