EAST LANSING, Mich. — In their final home game as Spartans, Michigan State’s seniors led their team to a 1-0 upset over visiting Western Michigan. The only goal of the night came from the line of Kevin Walrod, Anthony Hayes, and Chris Forfar, three seniors whose line was put together the morning of the game.
“I’d been thinking about it all week,” said MSU coach Tom Anastos. “I thought back to my last game here [as a senior], and it was memorable, but it was not in the way that I wanted them to remember it. We lost in the NCAA tournament to Providence in fairly big upset.
“I remember I was really close to my senior teammates. I played with some of them on the line. I thought those guys, they’re close. They knew this was the last time they were going to play here. I thought they would both be inspired to play together and their effort could — wasn’t sure it would — could inspire our team.”
The three connected for MSU’s game-winning goal at 10:07 in the first. Walrod fished the puck out of the right corner and threw it out in front of the net. After hitting someone in traffic, the puck came to Hayes’ stick, and Hayes one-timed it low past Western Michigan goaltender Frank Slubowski. Forfar had the second assist on that tally.
“He just turned and shot the puck,” said Anastos. “I’ve been telling him all week, ‘Shoot the puck.’ He’s got a very quick release, and I pulled him aside the very first day of practice this week and I said to him, ‘Every chance you get to shoot the puck, you shoot the puck.’”
Freshman Jake Hildebrand made 28 saves in the contest in his first career shutout.
“I think the guys were inspired his play,” said Anastos. “I think he rebounded from last night; I don’t think that was a great game for him. He shook that off, which is impressive.
“The reality is dumb luck. I would’ve played Will [Yanakeff] tonight, but Will’s dealing with an injury. He couldn’t play last night because of the injury, and he couldn’t play today.”
It was a grinder of a game, without much room for either team to play, and the last two minutes were especially interesting.
With 1:40 left in the period and the Broncos on a power play — with Slubowski pulled to give WMU a six-on-four advantage — Western Michigan defenseman Dennis Brown fired from near the blue line and put the puck in the net, but the goal was waved off because Dane Walters was skating through the crease. The call on the ice was immediate, and the review was brief.
Then with 50 seconds remaining, WMU’s Shane Berschbach went to the box for tripping to even the skaters at four each side, but Slubowski remained off the ice in favor of the extra attacker.
After the game, Western Michigan coach Andy Murray was irritated.
“It’s obvious my feelings are clear right now,” said Murray. “It’s a poor call by the referee. Clearly Dane Walters — we just watched it twice — after the puck is in the net, he goes backward. When the puck’s in the net, he’s a full foot in front of the goal crease.
“It would have given us a chance. You go into overtime, and it would have given us an opportunity.”
Murray said that he was happy with his team’s effort in the contest.
“Michigan State, on their senior night, they fought real hard,” said Murray. “They got a goal from their seniors, which is gratifying for them, but we played hard. I like how hard we’re playing right now, the energy we made tonight.”
This was the last night of regular-season play for the CCHA. The Spartans (11-22-3, 9-18-1-0 CCHA) finish in last place in the league, and will play Alaska in Fairbanks in a best-of-three, first-round CCHA series next weekend. Western Michigan (19-9-8, 15-7-6-3 CCHA) finishes in third place in the CCHA, and will have a first-round playoff bye.