Neil's Notebook: Rosburg Happy to be Back
Neil Koepke previews this weekend's matchup with No. 6 Denver.
By Neil Koepke
MSUSpartans.com staff writer
EAST LANSING -- Finally, Jerad Rosburg got to play in a regular season hockey game after almost two years of watching from different locations in various arenas in the midwest.
Rosburg, 20, missed almost all of the 2014-15 season while playing junior hockey in the U.S. Hockey League because of a left knee injury that required surgery.
Last year, as a Michigan State freshman defenseman, Rosburg had surgery on his right knee in September and missed the entire season.
But after 23 months of not playing in a game, Rosburg made his Spartan and college debut last weekend in MSU's season-opening series at Lake Superior State.
Of course, Rosburg didn't like the results -- 6-1 and 7-3 losses -- but he was thrilled to finally get the feeling of what it's like to play in a competitive hockey game in a challenging environment.
And he scored his first collegiate goal on Saturday, late in the second period, MSU's third of the night, and had four shots on goal in the series.
"It was great to be out there with the guys. Obviously, we wish the outcomes were different and we were disappointed in the weekend, but it was great to play again,'' said Rosburg, a 6-foot-1, 196-pound redshirt freshman from Clarksville, Maryland.
"I was a little nervous the first game but after I got bumped a little a couple of times and made a few plays, it kind of went away and felt like old times. It was a relief to get to game day and play in a real game.''
The next games on Rosburg's agenda are Michigan State's home-opening series against Denver at Munn Arena. The Spartans (0-2) and Pioneers (2-0), ranked No. 6 in the nation, meet in non-conference games at 7 p.m. on Friday and at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
"I thought (my body) responded a little better than I thought it would. My knees weren't bothering me at all,'' Rosburg said of playing in two games at LSSU. "I'm ready to practice this week and to get better for Friday.''
What does Rosburg believe he can bring to the Spartans' youthful defense?
"I think I'm a reliable defenseman. I try to keep good gaps, prevent the play from getting into our zone, having a good stick, making a good first pass up to the forwards and contributing offensively by getting pucks to the net,'' he said. "A little bit of an all-around (defenseman).
"I think I have balance (in my game), depending on the situation. I'm maybe a little better and concerned as a defensive defenseman but I think I can do both.''
Coach Tom Anastos also was thrilled to finally see Rosburg in a Spartan uniform, wearing No. 57. Anastos was hoping to see him in the lineup last season in which the defense didn't have much depth, and top players were asked to play more minutes than what was expected. As a result, MSU's defensemen were worn down from midway to late in the season.
"I liked Jerad's (game) a lot,'' Anastos said of Rosburg's college debut. "Jerad hadn't played in a real game for 23 months, so we had reasonable expectations.
"He competed hard and he'll get better and better every day (in practice) and in every game. There was a lot we like about his game and his potential.''
Before arriving at Michigan State in the summer of 2015, Rosburg played 11 games for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL before suffering a knee injury. In 2013-14, he started the season with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL and played in 11 games before moving on to Sioux City, where he played in 34 games and had two goals in six assists. Before playing in the USHL, Rosburg played for the Ohio Blue Jackets U-18 team in Columbus.
Rosburg said his interest in hockey came from his father, Jerry, who grew up in Minnesota. Jerry is the special teams coach for the Baltimore Ravens and in his ninth season with the Ravens and 38th in football coaching. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2013, after the 2012 season.
Jerry Rosburg is a close friend of MSU men's basketball coach Tom Izzo from their days in coaching at Northern Michigan in the early 1980s.
Jerry, an All-America linebacker at North Dakota State in the late 1970s, has coached in college at NMU, Western Michigan, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Boston College and Notre Dame, and in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and the Ravens.
Jerad was born in Minneapolis and has lived in Boston, South Bend, Strongsville, Ohio, Columbus, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Sioux City, Iowa.
LESSONS LEARNED: Coach Tom Anastos and his players would probably like to forget what happened in the 6-1 and 7-3 losses at Lake Superior State, but they said they'll try to learn some painful lessons from the lost weekend.
The Spartans gave up four power-play goals on Friday and two on Saturday, and managed to score only one goal in 11 chances on Friday and were 0-for-7 on Saturday.
The first game was a penalty-filled mess, with 16 penalties called on MSU and 15 on the Lakers. The NCAA hockey rules committee over the summer said that officials would call the game closer with an emphasis on interference, hooking and holding.
"We weren't happy with the first weekend of the play in many regards. A lot of lessons were learned by our group,'' Anastos said. "Friday's game, it was kind of unusual with all the penalties that were called.
"If you looked at the boxscore, you'd think it was a chippy, scrappy game and it wasn't. The two teams and the four officials were trying to adapt to the standard of enforcement directive that's out there from the NCAA. It was a trying evening for both teams.
"They did a better job of taking advantage of it. Our special teams were poor, their special teams were good and the result was a win for them.
In Saturday's game, the players adapted and officials called only 17 penalties. LSSU was 2-for-4 on the power play and MSU was 0-for-7.
The problem for the Spartans was that it gave up four unanswered goals in the first period. MSU cut the Lakers' lead to 4-2 seven minutes into the second period on goals by freshman left wing Logan Lambdin and sophomore defenseman Zach Osburn.
But two goals by LSSU, the second on a power play, halted MSU's momentum and hope for setting up a close third period.
"There was a spell in the second period of maybe 14-16 minutes that I thought we were starting to put a good game together,'' Anastos said. "But we just couldn't sustain it long enough.
"We thought going into the games that special teams would be a big factor but we didn't perform on either side. We will continue to spend a lot of time on special teams.''
YOUNG DEFENSE: In the season opener at LSSU, Michigan State used four defensemen playing the first college games of their careers in redshirt freshman Jerad Rosburg and freshmen Mitch Elliot, Damian Chrcek (pronounced Check) and Anthony Scarsella.
The only "veterans" in the lineup on defense were fifth-year senior Rhett Holland and sophomore Zach Osburn. Junior Carson Gatt probably would have been in the lineup but he's out with a shoulder injury suffered in the exhibition game against Toronto.
With four minutes left in Friday's game, Holland was ejected for fighting and had to sit out Saturday's series finale with an automatic one-game suspension.
The Spartans brought in freshman Butrus Ghafari to take Holland's spot on Saturday, so there were five freshmen on the blue line and sophomore Osburn.
Michigan State played with a lot of hesitancy and the Lakers took advantage of it.
"We were very aware of that coming into the season. Experience matters and it takes time to get experience, so we've been trying to be careful how much we're implementing,'' Anastos said. "Every (skater) on the ice, whether they have the puck or not, is a read and react type player.
"If you stand around too much to read the situation, that split second it takes to react, it's lost time. Our guys were a half-step behind. We played afraid to make mistakes. We're trying to take that pressure off the guys, but it's easier said than done. But I think it's important in trying to be comfortable.
"I know our team can skate and I'm very confident in our ability to get up and down the ice with speed. We looked like we were standing around a lot of the time. It's not that we can't skate or are not in shape. It's because we're not playing in a manner in which you're playing instinctively.
"I told our guys to go out and just play hockey. Play hard, play with speed and if you make mistakes, often times the game can be very forgiving if you're playing hard and with pace.''
GOALTENDER ROTATION: Anastos said he'll continue to give both goalies a chance to start until there is a separation in play.
Ed Minney started last Friday and gave up six goals. Freshman John Lethemon got the start on Saturday and gave up four goals in the first period, and then was replaced by Minney, who allowed goals the rest of the way.
Anastos said he hasn't lost confidence in Lethemon, despite his tough debut.
"I want to give the goalies a chance to get their feet on the ground and build some confidence. I told John after taking him out after the first period that I didn't lose trust in him,'' he said. "I told him to get ready to get back in the net (this weekend) and that I haven't lost confidence. We'll continue to play both guys.
"We didn't kill penalties very well, we didn't pick up guys defensively. Does our goaltending have to be better? Absolutely but I won't stick (the losses) on our goaltending. It was a team effort, giving up as many goals as we did.''
SCOUTING THE PIONEERS: Denver is coming off the biggest upset of the early season with a sweep of Boston University, 4-3, 3-1. The Terriers were ranked No. 2 to No. 1 North Dakota in last week's polls.
The Pioneers opened the season by losing two games in the Icebreaker Tournament -- 3-2 to Ohio State and n 3-1 to Boston College.
Denver, now ranked No. 6, has an elite player at every position, including junior goalie Tanner Jaillet (2-1, 2.37 goals-against average, .917 saves percentage); senior defenseman Will Butcher, a second-team NCAA West All-American last season with nine goals, 23 assists and 32 points, the third-highest scoring defenseman in the nation, and freshman forward Henrik Borgstrom (6-3, 185), a 2016 first-round draft pick (23rd overall) by the Florida Panthers.
After four games, Butcher (2-1-3) and Borgstrom (1-2-3) share the Pioneers' scoring lead with four other teammates with three points.
"They're really a good team. They're fast, skilled, they have a lot of depth and it's a team that has a chance to contend nationally,'' MSU coach Tom Anastos said. "They present a very challenging and exciting opportunity for our team, especially in a home-opening weekend.''
Last season, the Spartans played at Denver and the Pioneers came away with a 4-2 and 3-0 sweep. In the first game, MSU held a 2-1 lead midway through the third period before the Pioneers scored two goals within 3 minutes and 19 seconds to take a 3-2 lead and then added an empty-net goal with four seconds left.
"They were very fast and played with lots of tempo. I remember that the altitude was a factor and we had some key guys out,'' said Anastos, who never played against Denver during his four seasons (1981-85) as a player at MSU.
"They have good depth and they're dynamic offensively in transition. They're hard to play against, hard to forecheck and hard to be physical with, even though they're not that big.''
Jim Montgomery is in his fourth season as Denver coach, replacing former Spartan assistant George Gwozdecky after the 2012-13 season. Gwozdecky led the Pioneers to back-to-back NCAA titles in 2004 and 2005.
Montgomery and the Pioneers played in the NCAA Frozen Four last season in Tampa. Denver lost to North Dakota, 4-2 in the semifinals. UND won the title with a 5-1 win over Quinnipiac. Denver has made the NCAA Tournament in each of Montgomery's three seasons.
Montgomery was a standout forward at Maine under former Spartan assistant Shawn Walsh from 1989-1993. He finished his career as the Black Bears' all-time leading scorer with 301 points (103-198). Montgomery and linemate Paul Kariya led Maine to the 1993 NCAA title with a 42-1-2 record.
In the Frozen Four championship game in Milwaukee, Lake Superior State led the Black Bears 4-2 after two periods. But Montgomery went out and scored three goals, all assisted by Kariya, to give Maine a spectacular 5-4 victory.
Denver holds a 56-16-2 edge in the series with the Spartans which started with a 7-2 DU victory over MSU in East Lansing on Feb. 27, 1951.
The Pioneers are making their first visit to Munn Arena since Jan. 30-31, 1981, Ron Mason's second season as Spartan coach. The teams played to a 3-3 tie in the series opener and Denver won the second game, 2-1.
IN THE BIG TEN: Michigan (2-1) plays host to Michigan Tech (1-4-1) and Penn State (2-1) visits Notre Dame (3-1) on Friday and Saturday. Ohio State (1-0-2) plays a home-and-home series with Bowling Green (0-3-1) -- Friday at BGSU and Saturday at OSU. Minnesota (2-0) and St. Cloud State (0-2) also play a home-and-home series -- Friday at Minnesota and Saturday at St. Cloud. Wisconsin plays an exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 team on Friday.
After two weeks, Wisconsin forwards Seamus Malone and Trent Frederic share the Big Ten overall scoring lead, each with two goals and four assists for six points in four games.
However, the Badgers are the only team to play four games. Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan have played three games while Minnesota and Michigan State have played only two.