Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weekend Recap: Spartans End Regular Season Splitting with #8 Western Michigan

Photo Courtesy of Michigan State University - MSU's Five Seniors Kiss the Logo at Center Ice


Friday:  MSU Recap // MSU Video Highlights // WMU Recap // LSJ Recap

Saturday: MSU Recap // MSU Video Highlights // WMU Recap // LSJ Recap  

Series Thoughts:

A picture is worth a thousand words. They've had their ups and downs, but the Spartan class of 2013 has represented Michigan State University with nothing but class, and they've worked hard. It's only fitting that an all-senior line tallied the only goal in Michigan State's 1-0 upset victory over #8 Western Michigan. Last place may have been clinched. A trip to Alaska may have been known. But this game meant so much more for the senior class, and their play reflected that meaning on the ice. The Spartans battled hard at both ends of the ice for the victory.

It wasn't without a little drama as Western Michigan got a power play with two minutes to go in the game, only to take a penalty of their own with just inside a minute to go. This was after Western thought they had tied the game - but the goal was waived off with a Bronco practically sitting in Hildebrand's lap.

It was Jake Hildebrand's first collegiate shutout.

On Friday, the Spartans lost 5-2, but it was a closer game than that. Western broke open a 1-1 tie over the final six minutes of the second period scoring three goals. Two of the goals bad breaks happened as a d-man fell down for MSU, and a 5 on 3 marker went in off of a Spartan. Still, Western did look the part of a CCHA contender on Friday, and they played well.

On Saturday though, Michigan State responded.

When the dust settled from the weekend, Michigan State did finish in last place in the CCHA, and they now face the task of heading out to Alaska for a best of three series.

The Ghost Of The Recent Playoff Past

Michigan State will be battling recent history, if you believe that sort of thing. The Spartans haven't made it to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA tournament since 2007. MSU's last CCHA series victory came in that 2007 playoff season over a team that isn't even in the conference anymore - Nebraska-Omaha.

The last time Michigan State won a post season game in either the CCHA or NCAA tournament happened on March 28, 2008 in the NCAA First Round game against Colorado College. MSU last won a CCHA playoff game that same year on March 14, 2008 - game 1 vs. Northern Michigan in the CCHA quarterfinals. Northern went on to win the next two games to win the series.

Since that win over Colorado College:

Notre Dame 3 Michigan State 1   (March 29, 2008 - NCAA Regional Final)
Northern Michigan 5 Michigan State 3  (March 6, 2009 - CCHA First Round at NMU)
Northern Michigan 8 Michigan State 2  (March 7, 2009 - CCHA First Round at NMU)
Michigan 5 Michigan State 1  (March 12, 2010 - CCHA Quarterfinal Round at MSU)
Michigan 5 Michigan State 3 (March 13, 2010 - CCHA Quarterfinal Round at MSU)
Alaska 3 Michigan State 2 (OT) (March 4, 2011 - CCHA First Round at Alaska)
Alaska 4 Michigan State 3 (2 OT) (March 5, 2011 - CCHA First Round at Alaska)
Miami 6 Michigan State 0 (March 9, 2012 - CCHA Quarterfinal at Miami)
Miami 4 Michigan State 1 (March 10, 2012 - CCHA Quarterfinal at Miami)
Union 3 Michigan State 1 (March 23, 2012 - NCAA First Round)

You are reading that correctly, MSU has lost ten straight post season games. The Spartans have been outscored 46-17 in that span.

The best way to make history is by shaping it yourself, and this team now has a chance to exercise these demons and get a win, and while they haven't won two games on a single weekend all year, the Spartans don't need to win two in a row since it's a best of three series. It's a long trip, but they did split in Alaska just a weekend ago - so they know they can win. In fact, they had the second game tied 2-2 late before Alaska won it.

Want some good news? Bowling Green made it to Joe Louis Arena last year as the #11 seed. In fact, they held a 2-0 lead over Michigan in the CCHA semis before the Wolverines rallied for an overtime victory. So, it can be done. It's a new season, so let's take it one shift at a time.

Other CCHA Series

Miami won the final CCHA title. Notre Dame moved into second with their weekend sweep over Bowling Green, and Western's split against MSU. Ohio State earned home ice once Michigan forced a shoot-out against Ferris. Ohio State will face Ferris State in the CCHA quarterfinals in the 4-5 match-up. This upcoming weekend, Michigan will host Northern Michigan, and LSSU will host Bowling Green. Michigan is #7 - they last were the #7 seed in the 2010 playoffs when Michigan won the CCHA tournament.  Michigan has to win it this year to keep their NCAA streak alive, and they are now unbeaten in four games and 5-2-1 in their last eight.

Michigan hasn't beaten Northern this year losing 4-3 and winning a shoot-out (so it's a tie). But that was up in Marquette and back in November. If I had to pick, I'd be surprised to see Michigan lose that series - though it wouldn't shock me if it went the full three games.

BGSU-LSSU should be a good series. The Falcons did sweep the Lakers this year, but those games were in Bowling Green, and this series is up at the Soo. Again, it wouldn't shock me to see it go three games - and anyone could win. I'll go on a slight limb and take the road team.

More coming tomorrow/this week.

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