Michigan State may have fell to Miami in Game 3 of the CCHA quarter-finals but the young squad, who close out the year with a 14-25-3 overall record, put forth an extremely strong postseason effort that should bolster their confidence in the 2013-14 season.
The team struggled throughout the regular season, with multiple players going through growing pains as they adjusted to the college game, but their hard work and dedication paid off late in the year. The team came on strong at the tail end of the campaign, winning four of their last seven regular season game and concluded the year with a 1-0 victory over Western Michigan.
They faced sixth placed Alaska in the first round of the playoffs and given their turbulent season and lack of experience, many thought the best-of-three series would be over in two games and the Spartans season would be over.
That wasn't the case.
The team picked up an overtime win in Game 1, dropped Game 2 by a score of 4-1 and then came charging back in Game 3, posting a 4-3 victory over Alaska and thrusting themselves into the quarter-finals.
MSU grabbed Game 1, topping Miami 3-0 and shocking the CCHA regular season champs. The RedHawks came back in Game 2 to tie the series up before defeating the Spartans 4-1 in Game 3.
Several players pushed their game to another level in the playoffs with the prime example being Calgary Flames 2012 seventh round draft pick Matt DeBlouw. The pivot had an up-and-down 2012-13 season when it comes to offensive production, putting up 18 point (7 goals, 11 assists) through 39 games but looked very confident and comfortable through the Spartans playoff run.
The freshman potted the game-winner in the opening tilt with Alaska, ending a 12-game scoring drought. Taking a pass from Ryan Keller in the neutral zone, DeBlouw carried the puck into Alaska's zone, cruised past three Nanooks players before getting a shot off on the top of the left circle that beat Keeney low glove side.
DeBlouw also scored the winning tally in Game 1 versus Alaska. Forward Greg Wolfe chipped the puck into the slot as he was falling the ice and the Calgary prospect's quick shot beat Alaska netminder Ryan McKay five hole. The play showcased two of DeBlouw's greatest strengths - his speed and his ability to use his size to gain open ice.
The 19 year-old was held off the scoresheet in Game 2 but would not be denied in Game 3. His shot from the right point evaded McKay and cut the RedHawks lead to a single goal in the second period. It looked like he scored the equalizer in that frame as well when his shot from the left of the net appeared to go off the inside right corner but after a review, it was deemed not a goal.
DeBlouw has a history of coming up big in the postseason. Prior to joining the Spartans, the Chesterfield, MI product played a key role for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. Despite playing just 33 games in his first season with the team due to a lacerated spleen, DeBlouw came roaring back in the playoffs and was the Lumberjacks leading scorer in their six postseason dates with three goals and eight points.
The club missed the playoffs in the 2011-12 season but DeBlouw was a regular contributor for them that year, sitting second in team scoring with a 11-22-33 stat line through 58 games.
The Flames drafted the centre 186th overall last summer in Pittsburgh with assistant general manager John Weisbrod stating DeBlouw has "substance, real gumption in his game, abrasiveness."
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