Matt DeBlouw won the faceoff, spun around and slid the puck toward the other end of the ice. It didn’t look like it had a chance to go in the empty net until it popped onto its side, curled to the left, thunked off the post and went across the goal line – almost as if a breath from above blew it at just the right angle.
The freshman’s empty-netter secured MSU’s 4-1 victory over No. 2/3 Notre Dame on Saturday night – a huge program win for Tom Anastos’ young team. DeBlouw’s mother Donna, sister Jenny and a number of family members watched proudly from the stands as Matt got his fifth goal of the season.
It’s been a tough few months for the DeBlouw family, as I chronicled in today’s LSJ. They lost their father, Butch, to an August workplace accident at the produce company he and his eldest son recently became full owners of in May. Butch was an huge hockey fan, especially of his 19-year-old son Matt and 14-year-old Danny, who plays for Belle Tire’s AAA team.
“He’s going through a lot of changes in his life – he lost his dad, he’s going to school, he’s got the pressures of trying to perform and compete to establish himself here, he’s a drafted player in the NHL and I’m sure he wants to perform there, he’s got family at home that he knows is going through transition as well,” MSU coach Tom Anastos said of Matt DeBlouw. “I think he’s got a lot on his plate and, to his credit, I think he’s really working hard to try and manage it.
“He’s kind of a quiet guy. Some people show everything and all their emotions, and some don’t. He doesn’t, and I can relate to that in a lot of ways because it’s more similar to how I am.”
Butch DeBlouw died at 49 years old on Aug. 15. More than 1,200 people attended his funeral, a true testament to his caring and charitable nature. Many called him their “best friend.”
“What fascinates me, the thing that really strikes me, is that I had about 60 people, I betcha, that came up to me (at the funeral) and said, ‘You know, I was Butch’s best friend,’” his father, Henry Jr., said. “That’s just the perfect example of him. He made everybody think he was their best friend. That’s just the way he was.”
Danny and his Belle Tire teammates wear a black “BD” patch on their red uniforms to honor Butch. The program also encased a No. 19 jersey – the same number Matt and Danny both wear – with the DeBlouw name on the back and Belle Tire and MSU logos on opposite shoulders.
Kyle Krug, whose son Torey also played for MSU, coached Matt and currently coaches Danny with Belle Tire. He said Butch’s support of the entire program, both financially and time-wise, was unmatched. It was just one of the many ways that Butch DeBlouw made his impact, but nothing meant more than his larger-than-life personality that lit up a room and filled those around him with so much joy.
“Butch DeBlouw is one of the greatest people I’ve ever met in this game,” Kyle Krug said. “I’ve been in this game for 30 years as a coach. Of all the people I’ve met, there isn’t anyone as genuine or as caring as he was. Just a great guy – he cared about others as much as he cared about his own kids.”
MSU’s men’s basketball team survived a threat from Nebraska and an even bigger injury scare to Branden Dawson’s surgically repaired left knee. Still, a lackluster 66-56 victory for the Spartans over a team many think will anchor the bottom of the Big Ten’s standings this season lands them zero style points. The Spartans’ guards struggled mightily, rescued by Dawson, Derrick Nix and Adriean Payne’s performance in the paint.
And Suzy Merchant’s women’s team held off Illinois and new coach Matt Bollant’s “buzz” defense for a 79-75 victory in Champaign, Ill. Bollant used that same defense at Wisconsin-Green Bay to knock MSU out of the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago. Jasmine Hines (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Courtney Schiffauer (11/11) each had double-doubles, while Klarissa Bell finished with 18 points and seven boards.
One other men’s basketball note: Brandan Kearney is reportedly transferring to Arizona State.