If the Michigan State Hockey team (4-10-1) had any problem that you could pinpoint throughout the 2016 campaign it would be their special teams and well…that was the story of the game in the Spartan’s first round matchup of the Great Lakes invitational against the Western Michigan Broncos (9-5-3).
The Spartans fell to the Broncos 4-1, with all four Western Michigan goals coming seconds into power plays.
Western Michigan was the clear better team from puck drop and they showed their talent early and often in the first period. The difference in the first frame was special teams as the Spartans went zero-for-two on the power play while the Broncos went two-for-three to lead 2-0 at the end of the first.
The Spartans had the first scoring opportunity of the game. Three minutes into the first period forward Thomas Ebbing received a pass from Joe Cox and beat his man down the right side of the ice. Ebbing took a quick wrist shot from the right face-off circle that rang off the post. The referees would take a look at it and confirmed the ruling on the ice of no goal.
The Spartans had two power play opportunities in the first period but it was the Broncos that had the best scoring opportunity during them. During Michigan State’s first power play, a bad puck bounce resulted in a Western Michigan three-on-one break. Broncos forward Colt Conrad decided to take a shot instead of passing and MSU goalie Ed Minney came up with the big save to keep the game scoreless.
Western would get their first power play opportunity of the game with 8:30 remaining in the first period. Just seconds into the power play Broncos forward Jade McMullen tapped a puck into a wide open net for his fourth goal of the season and first on the power play, after Minney made an initial save but could not hold on to the rebound, to put the Broncos up 1-0.
The Broncos had all the confidence and MSU continued to make mistakes with three penalties in the period. On Western’s third power play opportunity of the period forward Sheldon Dries fired a shot from the bottom of the left face-off circle. Minney had no chance for a save as he lost his stick and the puck squeaked through to put the Broncos up 2-0.
At the end of the second period The Broncos added another to their lead to go up 4-1.
Michigan State had problems killing penalties in the first frame and could not correct their miscues in the second frame as both WMU goals, again, were on extra man attacks.
With 11:08 remaining in the second period Western found the back of the net for the third time of the game when forward Griffen Molino beat Minney on the right side for his fifth goal of the season to put the Broncos up 3-0.
Shortly after Western defenseman Corey Schueneman was thrown out of the game after hitting an MSU player in the head. Schueneman received a five-minute major as well as a game misconduct ending his night. Michigan State was able to capitalize on their five-minute extra man opportunity when forward Mason Appleton found the back of the net on a one-timer from the right circle for his seventh goal of the season. Appleton’s goal brought the Spartans back to 3-1.
MSU was able to gain some momentum…..that lasted for all about three minutes when Western went back on the power play and again found the back of the net. Forward Matheson Iacopelli scored his 14th goal of the season ending any hope that a Spartan comeback would start and put the Broncos up 4-1.
Western was able to convert on almost every opportunity the Spartans presented to them while Michigan State left many goals on the ice and off the scoreboard. At game’s end Western finished 4-7 on the power play while MSU finished just 1-9.
Ed Minney struggled mightily in-between the pipes for Michigan State giving up four goals on 31 shots as well as having trouble squeezing on to saves, giving up numerous rebounds.
Broncos goalie Ben Blacker stood on his head for Western giving up only one goal on 30 shots and sending away every rush that MSU had. Blacker has yet to lose a game this year going 4-0-0 in six appearances for WMU.
MSU fell to 50-35-2 in GLI games and will compete for their 13th third-place title in the competition tomorrow.
Michigan State also lost its fourth straight game overall.
The Spartans loss sets up a third-place matchup tomorrow Dec 30 at 3:30 pm against Red Berenson and the Michigan Wolverines. the victorious Broncos will take on the Michigan Tech Huskies in the GLI championship game at 7pm