Munn Ice Arena
East Lansing, MI
Michigan State Hockey found away to win again tonight.Â As usual it wasnâ€™t easy and as usual it was another hero this time. For what they lack in size and skill under new head coach Tom Anastos, they make up for in heart.
Tonight it was sophomore goalie Will Yanakeff and junior Chris Forfar.Â Both young men played exceptionally well to will the Spartans to yet another CCHA win.Â Yanakeff had 45 saves and Forfar made the LSSU Lakers miserable with consistent pressure and annoyance that (showing my age here) would have made Eddie Haskell proud.
Everyone remembers in the long heritage of MSU hockey the great net minder Mike Gilmore.Â Gilly is back serving under Anastos as the coach for the goalies and he said of his young protÃ©gÃ© Yanakeff and his performance tonight, â€œWhen Yanni is in goal and on his game he is hard to beat.Â It is going to take a fluke goal to beat him he makes things looks easy when he is on his game.Â Tonight he really looked comfortable in the net.â€
The praise didnâ€™t end with his goalie coach.Â His teammates heaped on the compliments afterward also, â€œIt was an exciting game and fun to be in, especially when Yanni is making the saves he is making,â€ that was from junior Kevin Walrod who scored the game winning goal with 1:10 to play in the third period.
The above-mentioned Forfar, one of the stars himself had praise for his goalie.Â Gushing after the game, â€œGreat job tonight.Â We didnâ€™t help him much, especially in the first and second period.â€Â Think about those words.Â Admitting his team was not stellar on defense, but giving the praise to the goalie?Â That is a team.Â This group of kids canâ€™t wait to brag on one another.
Anastos had some good words for his goalie as well.Â â€œHe was really poised and position sound tonightâ€¦our goaltending was very good.â€Â With only one of the two games played that was all Yanni would get.Â What he didnâ€™t know at the time was that he impressed his coach so much that he told me afterward, â€œHeâ€™s earned it.â€Â Talking about a repeat start on Saturday night.
As much attention (and rightfully so) that goalies get, it wouldnâ€���t be right to stop at Yanakeff with the praise.Â Chris Forfar was a star, but donâ€™t bother looking at the stat sheets.Â You will rarely find him.Â What you call him is a glue guy.Â He does the things that no one wants to.Â He spent all night practically living in the sweaters of the Lakers.Â His punishing style of defense meant every time a Laker looked up he was there.
LSSU has better players then MSU, but when they stopped on a dime, Forfar gave them nine cents change.Â It was his blue-collar work ethic that is a classic example of why this group of players, may look like David, but they win over Goliath.
Forfar is unassuming, not impressed with himself and self-deprecating, which are all admirable in a press conference.Â On the ice he is a pit bull who could care less about credit.Â He just has a desire to win and has bought in to the system that Anastos is selling.Â The humble Forfar I think would love this compliment he is a Spartan warrior.
I think he would hand out water bottles to teammates between shifts and wash the towels afterwards.Â Donâ€™t take my word for it.Â Tom Anastos lit up with a smile when asked about his young do-it-all player when he said of his performance here tonight, â€œHe has been playing really well and is one of those guys that does the things that arenâ€™t recognized in a stat sheet or the highlights.â€
The ever-humble Forfar said it a much different way then his coach.Â He said, â€œMy role is not to be the flashy player.Â I just try to do what I can do and that is defensively and that is cleaning pucks out.â€™
If you were at the game you saw more than one LSSU player return to the bench frustrated with his, â€œCleaning out the pucks,â€ and that showed in their play.Â Again I will show my age, but his defense shuts down opposing players like Joe Dumars did Michael Jordan.Â He takes it as a personal badge of courage that when he is on you, you wonâ€™t score.Â
Just like Dantonio with football, I wouldnâ€™t expect many of these players would even be recruited now if they were to go back to being of that age.Â Not because they are bad kids, but size and talent wise many of them donâ€™t fit into where Spartan hockey is going.Â Forfar would.Â What coach doesnâ€™t want a guy who is glue in the locker room, a great teammate on the bench and Rocky Balboa on the ice.Â That is Forfar.
For all of you young hockey players out there, you may want the stats that everyone sees, but if you want to stand out on film for the recruiters watch what and how Forfar does.Â He is relentless.Â He reminds me of an ace on a pitching staff that will never get a shutout or a no hitter, but he gets you 140 pitches and a 4-3 win every time he goes out.
The next game you see on TV or make it to Munn for a game, keep your eyes on #8.Â He isnâ€™t the biggest, he isnâ€™t the fastest and he may not ever win a skills challenge.Â What he is, is a winner.Â A gutsy kid that does the fundamentals well and a kid that you donâ€™t turn around a hockey program without.Â Forfar is a Spartan.
With the Spartans record now standing at 13-9-3 and with a #16 ranking nationally they still are playing for a lot.Â Tonight Yanakeff will be back in goal, Anastos behind the bench playing a hybrid cheerleader, coach, psychologist role and Forfar will be in the sweater of some Laker driving him insane.Â The game wonâ€™t be easy, but once again perhaps the team with the talent gap will find a way to get a win.
Did you notice that?Â The team.Â From the ashes of what this new staff and frankly new group of men had when they showed up last fall, comes a great and fun team.Â See you for the face off at 7 PM.Â Win or lose Spartan hockey is back.Â New staff, new players and new energy have MSU hockey sitting better than they have in years.