Saturday, January 28, 2012

Icers swept at Ferris State, tournament hopes take hit

Going on the road for the first time in 2012, the MSU hockey team suffered a sweep for the second time in four weekends thanks to two one-goal losses to Ferris State.

Things got off to a good start Friday when Matt Berry scored MSU's first powerplay goal in the last 29 chances. But another issue — closing out periods — continued as Ferris tied the game with 17 seconds left in the second period. The Bulldogs scored with 6:30 left in the third and held on for the 2-1 win. Will Yanakeff made 28 saves for MSU.

(Friday video highlights from MSU here)

Saturday also got off to a good start for MSU, as Mike Merrifield put MSU up 1-0 four minutes into the game. But the Spartans were undisciplined. Not long after MSU's goal, Ferris scored a powerplay goal to tie the game. The Bulldogs had eight powerplay opportunities on the night. The late-period struggles also continued, as Ferris took a 2-1 lead with 35 seconds left in the first period.

Less than three minutes into the second, Ferris extended its lead to 3-1. But MSU didn't quit, as goals by Brent Darnell and Greg Wolfe sent the teams into the locker room tied at three. But less than two minutes into the third, Ferris took a 4-3 lead on a powerplay goal. That would be the final score. Drew Palmisano made 25 saves for MSU.

Picking up zero points on the weekend is a killer for MSU's NCAA Tournament hopes. The Spartans came into the weekend 14th in the Pairwise rankings, dropped all the way down to 20. They also missed out on an opporunity to gain some ground, as MSU no longer has any games in hand on anyone in the conference except Miami (Ohio) and currently sits eighth in the CCHA standings. Ferris moved into first place with six points on the weekend.

It doesn't get any easier, as MSU travels for a pair of games at second-place Ohio State next weekend. If the Spartans get swept again, their NCAA Tournament hopes likely would come down to winning the CCHA Tournament.

The Spartans have been a streaky team in Tom Anastos' first season. Discipline and focus have become issues, evidenced by the amount of penalties taken, the powerplay struggles and goals given up at the end of periods. If they want home ice in the CCHA Tournament or a berth in the NCAA Tournament, they're going to need to get on a hot streak starting next week.

(Friday box score here, Saturday box score here)

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