After being the underdog in games like this for years, the fifth-ranked Broncos now must realize what it feels like to be hunted. Michigan State is unranked and has underachieved — and looked like a team with nothing to lose Friday night. Or are the Spartans really underdogs? Broncos coach Andy Murray told the Kalamazoo Gazette before Friday’s game:“They’ve got us ranked fairly high, but I’ve yet to determine if we’re ranked that high within our own state because we haven’t played Michigan State yet and we haven’t played Lake Superior State (first-place in the CCHA), we haven’t played Ferris State yet and Notre Dame is pretty close and we haven’t played them.”
To Murray’s point, Friday’s loss dropped the Broncos into a three-way tie for third-place with Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Shots Friday were 40-16 WMU, but most came from the perimeter. The Spartans cleared the front of the net well and did not allow the Broncos to pounce on quality second-chances. More than once, the puck careened off MSU goaltender Will Yanakeff and spun in the crease untouched while MSU defenders used textbook basketball-like boxouts to pin Western’s forwards to the outside.
Western shooters also missed the net a lot (perhaps trying to pick corners out of frustration?).
Yanakeff, the game’s first star, outplayed Western’s Nick Pisellini — but not just because his pads have more rubber marks. When it came to timely saves, Yanakeff made them and Pisellini did not. The Mike Merrifield breakaway five-hole goal with less than three minutes to play in the second period was the backbreaker, both on the scoreboard and in terms of momentum.
But let’s not forget WMU forward Chase Balisy triggered it with a neutral-zone turnover.
Friday’s attendance: 4,052. Friday’s attendance at Wings Stadium for the K-Wings and Trenton: 4,088. Mix in people watching the Red Wings-Oilers on television at home or in bars and tell me Kalamazoo isn’t a hockey town.
Post-game quotes can often be trite, cliche and reveal little about what really happened and how a team truly feels. But at least with Andy Murray we get the truth when his team doesn’t play well, instead of a sugar-coated “Aw, shucks, the boys played hard.” From the Kalamazoo Gazette:“They beat us on the scoreboard, the most important statistic,” WMU coach Andy Murray said. “They came in with a good game plan. We didn’t play as well as we needed to in certain accountable situations during the game.” … “We made mistakes and the puck ended up in the back of our net. Any time you touch the puck, it could be a game-deciding situation. A few times we didn’t manage the puck very well and didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
Credit to Tom Anastos: It was a collective head-scratcher when MSU named the CCHA commissioner head coach this summer. But Anastos, an accomplished hockey man whom The Sporting News has ranked in the Top 100 most influential hockey people multiple times, clearly knows how to coach. He beat a veteran NHL head coach with a forecheck that made it look as if there were eight Spartans against five Broncos. And his presence behind the bench was smooth and confident.
Here’s hoping the Broncos go with the home white jerseys again tonight instead of the putrid gold ones. Are those still around?