Big Rapids, Michigan
Ferris State University
Ewigleben Ice Arena
For the first time this season the Spartan hockey team played like they have the last several years.Â Coming into the season new Coach Tom Anastos new that the way college hockey is set up, it wouldnâ€™t be until the 2013-14 season that he would take the ice with SOME OF his recruits.
He didnâ€™t care.Â He promptly set in motion a game plan to fix Spartan hockey and to do it now.Â This season has been incredible to watch.Â Under sized and under skilled in many respects the Spartans have taken the ice every game with maximum effort and heart.Â Until this series.Â Even being swept an unhappy Anastos had to acquiesce and admit, â€œIt is a good sign that we have been in every game we have played.â€
With old coach Rick Comley in the building working in the capacity as a scout for Chicago it looked like old times, when he was behind the bench and how this team played.Â They were sloppy, at times unenergetic and frankly didnâ€™t look ready to play.
The Spartans failed on four power play opportunities, something that had plagued them for the past several games.Â Â They thought they had at least repaired the problem with a power play goal on Friday night, but they have not.Â The Spartans had done well this season killing other teams power play, but tonight they gave up two power play goals on NINE Spartan penalties.Â
It was tough to watch.Â Not only because the Ferris press box doesnâ€™t have one vantage point that isnâ€™t obstructed view for the media, but also because all season this type of play had been exercised like a good Hollywood movie or a faith healer tent meeting.
The Commander in Chief of Spartan hockey Coach Tom â€œThe Stacheâ€ Anastos was visibly frustrated after the game.Â The ever-cool Anastos didnâ€™t mince words, but he also wasnâ€™t in panic mode.Â
He said, â€œI just donâ€™t handle it (losing) very well.Â I expect every time the effort to win to be there.Â At this level you are measured by one, and only one thing:Â If you win or if you lose.Â If you lose you have failed your principle mission.Â We have to learn from it, but we wonâ€™t dwell on it.Â No one in this program will be accustomed to losing or they wonâ€™t be here.Â I am sick to my stomach now.â€
Strong words no doubt, but that is precisely why Anastos is even more clearly the right man to fix this program.Â His commitment to excellence is legendary from the business world, behind the bench and in his personal life.Â If he has any doubters left, this series should be the evidence that you need to recognize he is the right man.Â
It is fitting that like the late Al Davis, legendary owner of the Oakland Raiders the new Spartans head man is frequently dressed in black and hates to lose, and even hates to win if it doesnâ€™t come with a commitment to excellence.Â He said after last weekends shutout loss to LSSU that he, â€œFeel conflicted because I feel better about tonightâ€™s shootout loss then last nights win because we just came committed and played better tonight.â€
He did briefly smile after the game when he looked at the media around him and said, â€œIt is a lot more fun winning.â€
Goalie Dew Palmisano had spent significant time the last several games on the bench while sophomore goalie Will Yanakeff took several starts in a row.Â Palmisano didnâ€™t have a good night in goal.Â He faced 29 shots letting four go in.Â One he actually kicked in for the Bulldogs.Â Anastos didnâ€™t want to throw his goalie under the bus, but when pressed he did admit about Palmisanoâ€™s play that, â€œA couple of pucks went in a little easier than you would hope.â€
Anastos said, â€œ I am most disappointed in the third period.Â We talked about not being to take bad penalties and we took some.â€Â Actually four of the Spartans nine penalties were in the final period and frankly they arenâ€™t good enough to have to beat the #13 team in the nation (Ferris State) on the road and beat themselves at the same time.
For Ferris State being a part of the CCHA means hockey is the one sport in which they could be competitive with the Big Ten Spartans.Â Bulldog fans have always looked up to this series in a big way when it reaches Big Rapids.Â Both Friday and tonight were sell outs and Anastos said, â€œThey play really well against Michigan State, not just this series, but historically.â€
Anastos held together his cool, but was visibly frustrated when a reporter asked him about how devastating this loss was.Â Just like Dantonio at the MHSCA clinic, he set the record straight.Â â€œDevastating?Â This is a hockey game.Â We have to deal with the results we got.Â We had an opportunity and we didnâ€™t take advantage.Â You donâ€™t fold up the tent!â€
Torey Krug the Spartans best player and captain, and most certainly on his way to pro hockey after this his senior season, was equally as frustrated as The Stache.Â Krug again acted like the Captain the C on his sweater so largely displays.Â He told me on how he will lead his teammates out of this, â€œI have to keep my head up.Â I canâ€™t accept or be happy about this, but we have a bunch of points out there that we can still win.Â I wonâ€™t let us lose those because we lost these.â€Â Wise words, but from a fine young hockey player and young man.
Perhaps the deepest words about this loss (and more importantly how far this team has come since Comley who now sits in the stands scouting rather than behind the bench) came from senior Brett Perlini.Â
Perlini isnâ€™t one to run off at the mouth.Â This young man is truly a gentleman, but you could see the fire in his eyes after this loss.Â He said, â€œSure I can say we can take something from this loss. We just have to move on right now.Â We have to let it sting.Â I hate to lose.Â Nobody likes it.Â I think we have really learned with Coach (Anastos) such a will to win and right now this stings and I have a real sick feeling.â€Â
I asked Perlini, who plays so hard, to expound on this team that essentially is the same as last year and how it has changed under Anastos.Â He wasted no time to say, â€œWe believe in ourselves.Â Coach believes in us and that has really inspired us to believe in ourselves this year.Â Last year we would have been so down after this and even though we are down right now.Â We will bounce back.Â We look to bounce back.â€
The Spartans attention now turns to Columbus where they will face the Buckeyes next weekend for a very big two game series on Friday and Saturday.Â This team still lacks a lot of things to be where The Stache is taking them.Â What they do have is a super coach and coaching staff that believe in them.Â They are perhaps one of the best groups of young men as a team on campus and what they lack in talent they have in heart.
Torey â€œROCKYâ€ Krug and The Stache know what they are playing for.Â They could lose out and this would be a successful season.Â Spartan hockey is back.Â It is not where it needs to be, or where it will be, but it is back.Â
A rock solid coach that you can believe in and trust, young men who will give you their heart and a passion for the game of hockey that wonâ€™t take a back seat to anyone.Â This was a disappointing sweep for the Spartans, but what is more special is unlike past years where this team would get on the bus, care less and just want to get back to campus, you saw a staff and a team more ready to get back, watch film and get to Columbus.
Theyâ€™re Spartans.Â Our Spartans and even when they had a bad weekend they are easy to believe in and support.Â Spartan hockey is back.Â Not fixed, not yet in championship shape, but Humpty Dumpty is getting put back together and The Stache, his staff and team are putting him back together, and itâ€™s special.