Spartans Look to Snap Skid; Host NMU
Jan. 12, 2012
Michigan State looks to snap a three-game skid as it hosts Northern Michigan at Munn Ice Arena.
On the radio, all games will be carried by the Spartan Sports Network. Both contests will air on WJIM 1240 AM. Scott Moore and Rob Woodward are in their seventh season together on the call of Spartan hockey.
Fox Sports Detroit will air Saturday's game live. There will be no television for Friday's game.
Live audio on the internet can be found at www.spartansportsnetwork.com.
On Saturday, MSU will have a Teddy Bear Toss. Fans are asked to bring a new stuffed animal to throw on the ice after the first MSU goal. All toys will be donated to children's charities in the greater Lansing area.
MSU is 33-28-3 all-time against NMU, and owns a 18-10-2 mark in games played at Munn Arena.
MSU has won just three times in the last dozen meetings, which includes a split in November at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Northern swept last year's series at Munn, 4-2 and 6-5.
The two teams split their first series of the year in Marquette on Nov. 18-19.
The Spartans dealt NMU in what stands as its only home loss with a 4-2 win in the first game. Tyler Gron scored both goals for the `Cats, while Torey Krug and Lee Reimer each had a goal an an assist, and Tim Buttery and Mike Merrifield also found the back of the net. Will Yanakeff made 21 saves as Reimer's empty-net tally sealed the one-goal game.
On Saturday, it was the home team's chance to escape with a tight 2-1 win. Justin Florek scored in the second period to give NMU the lead entering the final period. The Spartans tied it up with a Matt Berry goal at 12:21 of the third, but Brian Nugent got the game-winner with 4:30 to go in the game to get the Wildcat victory. Yanakeff took the loss with 28 saves.
The Spartans are coming off a sweep at the hands of Miami.
MSU entered the series after a heartbreaking overtime loss in the finals of the Great Lakes Invitational against Michigan, and suffered similar heartbreak for the second straight game when it dropped a 2-1 overtime decision. Freshman Jimmy Mullin wristed the puck from below the dot in the left faceoff circle 1:24 into overtime as the Red Hawks took the first game of the two-game series. Drew Palmisano was once again excellent, making 25 saves.
All the offense in regulation could have been missed with a trip to the concession stand, as the teams traded goals 12 seconds apart late in the first period. Miami got on the board first, as Bryon Paulazzo had the puck behind the net, then tucked the puck past Palmisano at the right post. On the ensuing faceoff, Dean Chelios split the Miami defenders as he carried the puck across the offensive blue line, and dished to Greg Wolfe in the right circle. Wolfe sniped the shot over Connor Knapp's left shoulder for his seventh of the season and a tie ballgame.
Michigan State struggled once again on the power play on Saturday, and Miami broke open a tight game with a three-goal third period and completed the sweep of the Spartans with a 4-0 victory. Will Yanakeff made 40 saves, while Connor Knapp got the shutout with a 20-save effort. MSU was 0-for-8 on the power play on the night and 0-for-13 on the weekend.
NMU is 10-7-4 overall and 6-6-4-2 in the CCHA; The Wildcats are tied with Miami for fifth-place in the conference.
The `Cats have only one loss in their last nine games and climbed back into the national rankings this week at No. 20. The last time the `Cats were in the top 20 was the week of Nov. 14 - the week that NMU hosted the Spartans at the Berry Events Center.
The Wildcats, coached by Wildcat alumnus Walt Kyle, boast a veteran lineup, and are led in scoring by seniors Tyler Gron (9-11-20) and Justin Florek (10-8-18).
NMU has gone with a tandem in net of senior Reid Ellingson (.924, 2.35 GAA, 4-5-3) and sophomore Jared Coreau (.925, 2.23 GAA, 6-2-1).
Freshman Justin Hoomaian (leg injury) has missed the last 10 weeks. He was cleared for full practice, but will have significant conditioning work to complete before making it back to the lineup.
Mike Merrifield has been out of the lineup after leaving the Michigan game (Dec. 10). Merrifield is hopeful for a return for the Northern Michigan series this week.
Junior blueliner Matt Grassi was injured in the Miami game on Jan. 6, and is doubtful for this weekend's series. Miami player Tyler Biggs was suspended two games for his hit on Grassi.
Freshman Branden Carney sustained a serious neck injury in practice on Thursday, Nov. 3. Carney returned to campus in late November to finish the semester, and is also enrolled for spring semester. He remains under the care of neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Bill, and will not return to play this season.
On Oct. 25, coach Tom Anastos announced that junior Zach Golembiewski had decided to end his competitive hockey career on the advice of medical professionals. Golembiewski, a winger, had appeared in 56 career games, but was advised to end his hockey career after the discovery of an underlying issue that was hindering any improvement after a back injury.
MSU has added freshman Nathan Phillips to the roster for the spring semester. The 6-1, 165-pound goaltender most recently played for Winnipeg South Blues. He will be the third goaltender, behind Drew Palmisano and sophomore Will Yanakeff.
The Spartan hockey team turned in a combined semester grade point average of 3.0613, the highest single-semester GPA since the department's Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) started keeping records in 1997. Additionally, the team now has a cumulative GPA of 3.0805, the second-highest cumulative GPA in the same time frame.
Ten current players received Academic All-Big Ten honors in spring 2011 for maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better.
MSU had 17 of its 25 varsity athletic teams achieve a 3.0 GPA in the fall 2011 semester.
The Spartans check in at No. 18 in the USCHO.com poll and are receiving votes in the USA Hockey Magazine/USA Today survey.
The Spartans sit in ninth place in the CCHA standings, but have games in hand on six teams in the league. While sitting in ninth with six points in hand, MSU is nine points out of fourth place.
Former Spartan skater (1982-85) and assistant coach Tom Anastos takes the reigns of the MSU hockey program for the 2011-12 season, becoming just the sixth head coach in program history. Anastos spent the previous 13 seasons as the commissioner of the CCHA.
Anastos is one of nine new head coaches in college hockey in 2011-12, not including Penn State (which will begin play next season with Guy Gadowsky at the helm).
Of those nine new coaches, Anastos is one of the three that faced a ranked team in his coaching debut with his new team. Providence's Nate Leaman's maiden voyage was a win over No. 17 Boston University, while Princeton's Bob Prier skated to a 2-2 tie with then-No. 3/6 Yale.
Of MSU's four head coaches in the modern era, it took Tom Anastos the fewest games of any of them to reach his first 10 wins. Win #10 for Rick Comley came in game #20, a January game vs. Alaska. It took Ron Mason 27 games to get to 10 wins, and it took Amo Bessone 34 contests - he did not get his 10th career victory at MSU until his second season as the head coach.
Among college hockey's nine new coaches this season, Anastos was also the first to 10 victories, on Dec. 3. The only other first-year mentor to reach 10 wins is Norm Bazin at UMass-Lowell - he got win No. 10 on Dec. 9 over Boston College.
MSU has nine seniors on the roster this season, the largest senior class since the 1977-78 campaign under Amo Bessone, which had 10.
In the Rick Comley era, the Spartans owned a 42-32-7 record in games against non-conference teams. (This includes regular-season, tournament, and NCAA Tournament games). Last year, MSU went 4-2-2 against non-conference teams, and is currently 5-1-1 this season against teams from the other four leagues. MSU played one non-conference game, the GLI final, against league archrival Michigan.
MSU's 2011-12 schedule has a three games against WCHA competition (two against Minnesota, and against Michigan Tech in the GLI) in addition one against Hockey East frontrunner Boston College. The Spartans also had a two-game set against Robert Morris at Munn, and one game against Air Force for three total games against Atlantic Hockey.
This season, MSU will play 23 games against eight teams in this week's USCHO Top 20 poll. So far, MSU is 4-6-2 in games played against current Top 20 competition, and 3-1-1 against teams ranked in the top five at the time of the game.
The 12 opponents MSU has played this season are a combined 131-86-28 (.591) this season. Ten of them have 10 or more wins, and only two (Bowling Green and Michigan Tech) are under .500. Minnesota, which MSU beat and tied, leads the country with 15 victories. In addition, the Spartans have played the leaders in three of the five Division I conferences (MSU does not have an ECAC team on its schedule this season, while Air Force (second)and Robert Morris (third) trail Mercyhurst in the Atlantic Hockey standings.)
MSU has seven two-game series remaining, all in conference play. Six of those seven opponents are currently among the top 20 in the pairwise ranking, the main tool used in selecting the NCAA Tournament field. Ohio State (2), Notre Dame (3), Northern Michigan (7), Miami (T-12), Ferris State (T-12), Western Michigan (t-12), Lake Superior (t-16), Michigan (t-9), join Michigan State (t-18) as the eight CCHA teams in the PWR top 20.
Alaska (T-29) is also on MSU's slate in the balance of the schedule.
MSU recorded its 10th victory of the season on Dec. 3. It is the earliest MSU has owned 10 victories since the 2007-08 season, when win No. 10 came on Dec. 1 vs. LSSU.
MSU has lost three straight games for the first time this season. MSU is also winless in its last four conference games (0-3-1), after losing to and tying Michigan in the final CCHA series of 2011.
MSU has three straight CCHA weekends at home to start January (Miami, Northern Michigan, and Lake Superior). On the season, MSU is 6-3-2 in games at Munn Ice Arena, with the losses coming against CCHA-leading Ohio State (which has not lost a game since MSU defeated the Buckeyes on Oct. 20), and Miami.
MSU is .500 or better in each of the first three months of the season. The Spartans are already at 11 victories, after posting a total of 15 last year.
The last time MSU was .500 or better in each of the first three months of the season was in the 2007-08 campaign.
Last year, the Spartans employed 60 different forward line combinations in search of consistent scoring. Through 22 games, there have been 20 different combinations, the same defensive pairs have been used in 21 of 22 games, and only six line combinations have been used for a single game.
The Spartans are 0-7-0 when scoring two or fewer goals, and 11-2-2 when scoring three or more. MSU was held to a single goal last weekend against Miami.
MSU has been outshot this season in 12 of 22 games, and overall, MSU is -101 in total shots, an average of about 4.5 shots per game.
MSU outshot its opponents in just 14 of 38 games last season, including holding its opponents to 20 shots or less four times.
The MSU penalty kill went 16-of-18 (.889) in six games in December, and held Miami to just one extra-man tally in eight chances, with the PPG coming on a five-on-three on Saturday. MSU is now 74-of-84 (.881) on the penalty kill, which is third in the CCHA and seventh nationally.
On the man advantage, the Spartans struggled on the power play against the Red Hawks, going 0-for-13 on the weekend. MSU is 14-of-85 (16.5%), and ranks sixth in the league. In December, MSU was 5-of-17 (.294) on the power play.
Michigan State has been swept twice this season: on the road at Lake Superior (Oct. 14-15), and at home against Miami (Jan. 6-7). In between, the Spartans have registered three weekend sweeps of their own, against Robert Morris (Oct. 28-29), Western Michigan (Nov. 11-12), and Bowling Green (Dec. 2-3).
In 2010-11, MSU recorded its first and only sweep of the season in the final regular-season weekend against Bowling Green.
MSU has played overtime in three of its last five games, and is 0-2-2 in its last four OT games since downing Air Force in the second game of the season. MSU skated to a 3-3 tie with Michigan (and won the shootout) on Dec. 10, lost to the Wolverines in the GLI final (3-2), then to Miami on Jan. 6 (2-1).
In its last 14 contests, MSU has scored first nine times; on the season, MSU is 9-3-1 when scoring first and 2-6-1 when allowing its opponent to do so.
In 2010-11, the Spartans were 14-5-3 when scoring the first goal, and an alarming 1-14- 1 when letting its opponent score first.
Through 22 games, there are 19 skaters who have appeared in six games or more. Of those 19 players, 18 have at least three points and one goal.
Six of MSU's 11 losses on the season are by a single goal. MSU is 3-6-0 in one-goal games this season. 14 of MSU's 22 games this season have been decided by two goals or less.
MSU was shut out for the first time this season in the Jan. 7 loss to Miami (4-0). It was the first time the Spartans had been shut out in nearly a calendar year - the last time was Jan. 22, 2011 - a 4-0 loss to Miami at Munn.
Through Dec. 31, MSU had scored at least two goals in 19 of 22 games; the lone exception was a Nov. 19 loss to NMU (2-1). Last weekend, MSU lost in overtime to Miami (2-1) then was shut out the following night (4-0).
Junior defenseman Torey Krug is the fifth player in MSU history to wear the captain's "C" on his jersey for two seasons. Last year, he was the program's first solo captain as a sophomore in team history. The alternate captains are senior Trevor Nill and junior Anthony Hayes. Nill is in his second season as an alternate captain, while this is the first captain's role for Hayes at MSU.
Senior netminder Drew Palmisano earned his second CCHA Goaltender of the Week honors on Jan. 3, his second award of the season.
Palmisano set a new Great Lakes Invitational record by making 90 saves over two games, stopping 90 of 94 shots faced (.957) with a 1.82 GAA. Palmisano made 45 stops each night, as the Spartans dropped the GLI final game in a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime decision to Michigan. Palmisano was one short of his career-best of 46 saves each night; his career high came against Michigan as a freshman.
Palmisano's earlier award came on Nov. 28 for his performance against Minnesota. He stopped 75 of 82 shots against in a win and tie against the No. 2/3 Gophers.
Freshman winger Brent Darnell was named the CCHA Rookie of the Week after a four-point performance in the Spartans' sweep of Bowling Green (Dec. 5). He had a goal and three assists (+3) for the Spartans as they swept the Falcons, their third series sweep of the season and second of a CCHA opponent.
Senior defenseman Brock Shelgren and sophomore goaltender Will Yanakeff were named the CCHA Defensive Player and Goaltender of the Week, respectively, after the Nov. 11-12 Western Michigan series.
Shelgren had a team-best eight blocked shots - including a career-best seven on Friday - in the Spartans' sweep of the Broncos. Shelgren was a +4 on the weekend and contributed three assists, including the helper on the game-winner in Saturday's contest.
Yanakeff made a career-best 38 saves in Friday's victory, and another 28 on Saturday in helping the Spartans to a two-game road sweep WMU. On the weekend, Yanakeff stopped 66 of 70 shots against (.943). The sophomore has won three straight starts.
Lee Reimer was named the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 31. Reimer had a hat trick and a five-point night in Saturday's win over Robert Morris (6-2), which came on the heels of a two-assist effort in Friday's 5-2 victory. Reimer's seven-point, +7 effort is far and away his career best for a single weekend's offensive output. Reimer and his linemates combined for nine goals and 14 assists (23 points) on the weekend, and were a +22.
The Spartans now have 10 players who have at least 10 points on the season - matching last season's total. Six players have already posted numbers for career-best offensive seasons thus far. A year ago at this time, the Spartans had five double-digit scorers.
Reimer is second in the league in scoring (23 points), and third in assists (15), and ranks 13th in goals (8), while Wolfe is tied for 12th in points (19) and is eighth in assists (12). Brett Perlini is tied for 11th in assists (11) with blueliner Matt Crandell, and Matt Berry is eighth in freshman scoring (5-6-11).
Torey Krug ranks second among league defensemen in scoring with a 5-9-14 line, and is 12th in power-play goals (3). Fellow blueliner Crandell is sixth among blueliners in scoring (13 points).
Brent Darnell earned his first collegiate point with an assist on Torey Krug's goal against Northern Michigan on Nov. 18, the 11th game of the season. He turned around and scored his first collegiate tally a week later against Minnesota (Nov. 25).
Tanner Sorenson was the first among the four freshmen to get his first collegiate point, an assist on Oct. 20 against Ohio State. However, he was the third to score his first college goal, against Michigan in the GLI finals.
Lee Reimer's hat trick against Robert Morris on Oct. 29 was the first of the season for the Spartans, and the first since Torey Krug scored three times in a 4-3 overtime victory over Michigan at Munn last January. They are the only two active players with hat tricks.
With 19 points (7g, 12a), Greg Wolfe has bettered his freshman year total of 11 points, and sits at second on the team with +12. Lee Reimer owns a 8-15-23 scoring line, and has already well eclipsed his freshman season total of seven points (2g, 5a).
Mike Merrifield had a 4-4-8 line last season, and career numbers of 6-6-12 in two and a half seasons on the Spartan roster. Despite missing six games this season with injury he has surpassed his career goal total (8) and currently has a 8-5-13 scoring line in just 14 games, better than his junior-season numbers and bettering his career point total. Kevin Walrod's six goals and six assists gives him a 12 points this season.
Among defensemen. senior Brock Shelgren owns a 2-8-10 scoring line and is 11th in the league in defenseman scoring; his previous best single-season point total was seven points as a junior, and he has bettered his single-season assist mark (6). Shelgren is on course to surpass his three-season total of 16 points (5g, 11a). Matt Crandell (2-11-13) has his first multiple-goal season in addition to bettering his single-season high in points, set as a sophomore.
Junior Kevin Walrod had his third career two-goal game (and second of the season) on Nov. 25 against Minnesota. The winger has nine career goals, and six of them have come in his three two-goal efforts. He has three games with a single goal.
Lee Reimer has been MSU's top faceoff man, with 261 wins and 208 losses (.557).
Torey Krug and Brett Shelgren, who have been MSU's top defensive pair in 21 of 22 games, have a combined 104 of MSU's 333 blocked shots this season, ranking first and second individually (Krug has 39, Shelgren 66). Tim Buttery has 42 blocks, and Matt Crandell 30.
Drew Palmisano's Oct. 20 shutout of Ohio State was his second straight over the Buckeyes. Alex Szczechura's second-period goal in the second game of the series snapped Palmisano's personal shutout streak of 145:01 against Ohio State, dating back to last season. Palmisano owns four career shutouts: the two of OSU, one of Nebraska-Omaha, and one of Michigan.
Will Yanakeff's 40 saves Miami on Jan. 7 was a career-best performance for the sophomore. His previous high was 38, which came earlier in the season against Western Michigan.
Drew Palmisano has three 40+-save games this season. He had 45 in each game of the GLI in addition to 40 in a 4-3 win over Minnesota on Nov. 25. His career best is 46 stops, against Michigan on Jan. 29 of his freshman season.
Head Coach Tom Anastos has been asked several times whether he will pick one of the team's goaltenders as his primary starter, or employ a platoon; he has maintained that he does not have a strict philosophy, and that the play of the goalies during the week and the previous games will determine who gets the start.
Drew Palmisano opened the season with 30 saves against the aggressive, talented Boston College offense, and has had three games this year with 40+ saves. Palmisano has played 12 of MSU's 22 games, and owns a 5-5-2 record, 2.52 GAA and .923 save percentage.
Will Yanakeff played in each of MSU's first four games in November, and was the CCHA Goaltender of the Week on Nov. 7. In 10 games this season, he owns a 2.61 GAA and .914 save percentage, and a 6-4-0 mark on the season.
Brett Perlini played in his 100th career game on Dec. 3 against Bowling Green. He is the fourth player this season to reach the milestone: Trevor Nill skated in his 100th career game on Nov. 18, Tim Buttery played in his 100th career game against Ohio State on Oct. 20, Brock Shelgren did it in the season opener vs. Boston College; Daultan Leveille (124 games) and Matt Crandell (122) registered their 100th last season.
The next likely players to reach the milestone are juniors Torey Krug and Chris Forfar - each have played in 97 games.
Four players (Brett Perlini, Lee Reimer, Torey Krug, and Greg Wolfe) have points in 11 of MSU's 22 games this season, a best for the team. Matt Crandell, Kevin Walrod, and Matt Berry all have points in nine games.
Lee Reimer leads the squad in multiple-point games, with seven; Brett Perlini has five, and Mike Merrifield and Greg Wolfe each have four.
MSU senior alternate captain Trevor Nill is a nominee for the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award for the second consecutive year.
He is a dedicated student, with a 3.4 cumulative grade-point average as a mechanical engineering major. Last spring, he was among the finalists for Hockey Humanitarian in addition to taking home the CCHA's Ilitch Humanitarian Award.
Nill carved out a significant amount of time to give back to his campus and community in East Lansing. He has been the hockey program's representative for SAAC for three years, and this year, he is serving as the group's president. He is also the vice-president of the MSU chapter of Athletes In Action. Nill has volunteered his time to a wide-spanning list of community service initiatives undertaken by the team. He has never turned down a request to be involved in things like Relay for Life, Children's Miracle Network, March is Reading Month, or programs for the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters chapter. Nill is an extremely kind and compassionate young man, and there is no further evidence needed than his dedication to children in the local Lansing area. He has been actively involved in Spartan Buddies, visiting children in Sparrow Hospital's pediatric ward. He also is the annual leader during MSU Athletics' "Teams for Toys" initiative, where the hockey team adopts a local needy family for the holidays. He has also worked extensively with hockey ministries camp, volunteered his time with Camp Kesem (for children with parents battling cancer), and volunteered with the Detroit Red Wings Clark Park event in conjunction with Family Day in Detroit.
Since the 1980-81 season, all but one Spartan starting goaltender has earned all-league honors at one point in their career. (The Spartans have competed in both the Western Collegiate Hockey Association or Central Collegiate Hockey Association during this stretch).
The list reads like a who's who in Spartan hockey - Ron Scott, Bob Essensa, Norm Foster, Jason Muzzatti, Mike Gilmore, Mike Buzak, Chad Alban, Joe Blackburn, Ryan Miller, Dominic Vicari and Jeff Lerg. Scott, Alban, Blackburn, Miller and Lerg were All-Americans.
The only starting goalie who didn't make an all-star team or win an award during this stretch was Matt Migliaccio in 2002-03. Drew Palmisano kept the streak alive with his Second Team All-CCHA honor in 2009-10.
Freshman Tanner Sorenson is a rare species in college hockey - the player who enters college directly after playing for his high school team. Sorenson played for Shattuck St. Mary's, winning a 18-U Tier I National Championship in 2011. Since the 1991-92 season, Sorenson is just the third MSU player to skate for his high school team in the season before enrolling at MSU - Brian Clifford (1991-95) and Chris Mueller (2004-08) both played for the Nichols School in their hometown of Buffalo. Both Clifford and Mueller also played a split season, playing for both their high school and the local AAA team during their senior years. Sorenson played solely for Shattuck last year.
Olympia Entertainment in partnership with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan announced in November that the agreement which ensures a Spartans-Wolverines game is held annually at Joe Louis Arena has been extended through the 2013-14 hockey season.
The archrivals have squared off in regular season action at JLA in at least once per year since 1990, with Michigan having earned ten victories to Michigan State's nine over that time; four of the games ended in a tie.
Tom Anastos has announced that three players signed National Letters of Intent in the fall signing period and will join the Spartans in the fall of 2012. Forward Ryan Keller (Farmington Hills, Mich./Sioux Falls (USHL), Defenseman John Draeger (Faribault, Minn./Shattuck St. Mary's) and goaltender Jake Hildebrand (Butler, PA/Cedar Rapids (USHL) will join three previous signees - forward Matt DeBlouw (Chesterfield, Mich./Muskegon USHL) and defensemen Rhett Holland (Calgary, Alberta / Okotoks (AJHL) and Travis Walsh (Lansing, Mich./Muskegon (USHL) on the Spartan roster for next season.
DeBlouw (37), Draeger (71) and Holland (192) all appear on the NHL Central Scouting Mid-Term rankings.
MSU had 11 former skaters on 2011 opening-night rosters in the National Hockey League, and 15 players have played at least one game in the NHL this season: Ryan Miller and Corey Tropp (Buffalo), Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader (Detroit), Tim Kennedy and Mike Weaver (Florida). Jim Slater (Winnipeg), Shawn Horcoff, Jeff Petry and Corey Potter (Edmonton), David Booth (Vancouver), Duncan Keith (Chicago), Adam Hall (Tampa), Chris Mueller (Nashville) and John-Michael Liles (Toronto).
The Spartans conclude their six-game homestand to start 2012, hosting Lake Superior State on Jan. 20-21 at Munn Ice Arena.
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