Spartans Prepare for First-Ever Meeting with Robert Morris
Oct. 27, 2011
Michigan State welcomes Robert Morris to Munn Ice Arena for a pair of games this weekend. This will be the first-ever games between the schools.
On the radio, all games will be carried by the Spartan Sports Network and will air on WJIM 1240 AM. The weekend tilts can also be heard on www.spartansportsnetwork.com. Scott Moore and Rob Woodward are in their seventh season together on the call of Spartan hockey.
Neither game of this weekend's series will be televised.
Live audio on the internet can be found at www.spartansportsnetwork.com, while a live video stream will be available via the All-Access player on MSUSpartans.com. This is a subscription service, with single-game, monthly, and annual rates available.
With a new head coach, Michigan State looks to improve upon its 10th-place finish in the CCHA a year ago, when it had a 15-19-4 overall record.
Junior captain Torey Krug returns to the Spartan blueline after earning First Team All-CCHA and the league's Best Offensive Forward honors as a sophomore, and was voted as a Pre-Season All-CCHA selection by the conference's head coaches. He anchors a defense which returns all six starters from a year ago, and three of those players are seniors (Brock Shelgren, Tim Buttery, Matt Crandell) who have combined for 202 games on the Spartan blueline.
Further bolstering the MSU defensive efforts are the tandem of goaltenders who both saw significant time a year ago. Senior Drew Palmisano earned All-CCHA honors as a sophomore and has been the team's Perani Cup champion (most post-game three-star distinctions) the last two seasons. Sophomore Will Yanakeff saw action in 14 games as a freshman and was invited to USA Hockey's World Junior evaluation camp.
The largest question mark is who will step up and deliver offense. The Spartans will need to replace the scoring of the team's departed leading scorer Derek Grant (8-25-33; opted to forego final two seasons of eligibility and sign with the Senators) and fourth-leading scorer and 2011 graduate Dustin Gazley (11-15-26). Four of the team's five freshmen are forwards. Seniors Brett Perlini (18-12-30) and Daultan Leveille (8-10-18) are expected to be significant contributors, while Krug was the team's third-leading scorer last season from the blue line. With a new staff and no pre-conceived notions, all 27 players have an opportunity to step in, earn playing time, and settle into roles within the new systems which the Spartans will employ.
This will be the first-ever series between the Spartans and Robert Morris.
Robert Morris is a member of the Atlantic Hockey Association, and is coming off a 18-12-5 finish a season ago, which included a 13-9-5 mark and fifth-place finish in their conference a year ago. RMU is coached by Western Michigan alumnus Derek Schooley.
The Colonials finished third in the season-opening Maverick Stampede, losing to eventual champion Colgate in the first round before rebounding with a victory over conference-mate Mercyhurst in the third-place game. After a loss in their conference opener at Air Force (4-2), RMU earned a split with Quinnipiac last weekend at home.
The Colonials' scoring chart looks very similar to the Spartans - Tyler Lewis leads the group with a 3-2-5 scoring line, with Colin South (1-4-5) in second and three players tied with three points each (Adam Brace, Tyson Wilson, and Ron Cramer).
Two goalies have seen time for RMU thus far - senior Brooks Ostergard is 0-3 with a .915 save percentage and 2.74 GAA. Eric Levine, a junior, has both victories, a 2.50 GAA and .928 save percentage.
On special teams, the Colonials boast a nation's-best 23-for-23 on the penalty kill through five games, with the squad averaging just over 10 penalty minutes per game. They are 4-for-20 (20%) on the power play.
The Spartans are coming off a weekend split with Ohio State. MSU picked up a 3-0 shutout on Thursday, in which each of the team's three captains had a goal. On Friday, a pair of Buckeye quick strikes in the third period blew open a 2-2 game, and OSU added an empty netter for a 5-2 win.
In Thursday's win, all of MSU's scoring came from it's three team captains - captain Torey Krug opened the scoring five minutes into the game, followed by alternate captains Anthony Hayes and Trevor Nill in the second and third periods, respectively. Drew Palmisano made 29 saves in his first shutout of the year, and his fourth career whitewash.
Junior Kevin Walrod had both scores in MSU's Friday loss to the Buckeyes. The teams were tied at two headed into the third period, but OSU got a pair of goals 73 seconds apart in the early part of the period to take the lead, and iced the game with an empty netter with less than a minute remaining. Palmisano made 28 saves in the Friday contest.
On Tuesday, 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 the improvement after a back injury.
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.
Tom Anastos is one of nine new head coaches around college hockey in 2011-12, not including Penn State (which will begin play next season with Guy Gadowsky at the helm).
The Tom Anastos era began with a tough 5-2 loss to No. 5 Boston College last Friday, but of the six hockey coaches in the history of the Michigan State program, only one has won his debut against collegiate competition behind the Spartan bench: Ron Mason, college hockey's all-time winningest coach (Mason posted a 7-6 victory over Western Michigan.) In 1925, John Kobs dropped a 6-3 decision to Michigan, Harold Paulsen lost his first game to Michigan Tech (6-2) in 1950, Amo Bessone was on the wrong end of an 11-1 decison against Michgian in 1951, and Rick Comley lost to Denver in 2002 (5-0).
Of the nine new coaches in college hockey this season, there is still one who has yet to coach his team in a countable game - Bob Prier at Princeton.
Both Casey Jones (Clarkson) and Jim Madigan (Northeastern) tied their first games but suffered losses in their second, while Mel Pearson (Michigan Tech), Nate Leaman (Providence), Norm Bazin (UMass-Lowell) and Andy Murray (Western MIchigan) got sweeps from their new teams.
Anastos lost his MSU coaching debut - a 5-2 loss to No. 5 Boston College - but he did join the winners club when his team rebounded with the victory over Air Force.
Of those nine new coaches, Tom Anastos is one of the three that faced (or will face) 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 last Friday, while Princeton's Bob Prier has to wait a few weeks for his season opener against current No. 3/6 Yale.
The CCHA's annual preseason polls were released on Sept. 28, and MSU was selected eighth in the coaches poll and sixth in the survey of the league's media. For just the second time in six years, the coaches and media agree on who should be No. 1, as Notre Dame received enough points from the conference's 11 head coaches and 72 media members to be named the preseason favorite in both polls.
Michigan State was not included in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll, or the USCHO.com survey.
MSU has 10 seniors on the roster this season, the largest senior class since the 1977-78 campaign under Amo Bessone, which also boasted 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.
MSU's 2011-12 schedule has a three games against WCHA competition (two against Minnesota, and against MIchigan Tech in the GLI) in addition to a possible twowith Hockey East entry Boston College - in addition to last Friday's game, BC is the fourth team in the GLI, and will play Michigan in the first round. The Spartans also will have a two-game set against Robert Morris at Munn, and one against Air Force for three games against Atlantic Hockey.
In 2010-11, MSU went 7-9-2 against ranked opponents, but was an impressive 4-1-2 against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game. The only loss against a top-10 opponent was MSU's 4-0 loss to Michigan at Yost Ice Arena.
Last year, the Spartans employed 60 different forward line combinations in search of consistent scoring.
Anastos went with the same exact lineup in both games at the IceBreaker, with each goalie getting a start. Last weekend, Anastos changed up one of the lines for Friday, inserting Matt Berry into the lineup for his collegiate debut for Justin Hoomaian; on Saturday, three lines got a bit of shuffling. The Dean Chelios-Lee Reimer-Greg Wolfe line is the only one to stay intact through six games. On defense, MSU has used the same three defensive pairings for each of the four games.
The Spartans dropped both games to Lake Superior (Oct. 14-15) by a single goal. MSU was 6-8-0 (with four overtime losses) in one-goal games in 2010-11.
MSU outshot its opponents in just 14 of 38 games last season, including holding its opponents to 20 shots or less four times. MSU has been outshot this season in four of six games, and overall, MSU is -25 in total shots.
The MSU penalty kill was 12-of-13 last weekend, surrendering only a five-on-three goal in the second period of the second game against OSU. MSU is 10th in the CCHA in penalty minutes (10.8 pim/gm), and also has the league's second-ranked penalty kill, at 91.2%. MSU is ranked sixth nationally in that cateogry. One of the two extra-man tallies that the Spartans have allowed was a 5-on-3 goal to the Buckeyes.
MSU allowed as many PP chances in last weekend's series against the Buckeyes as it had in its first four games combined.
On the man advantage, MSU is 5-for-26 (19.2%), good for third in the CCHA.
Michigan State was swept for the first time this season on the road at Lake Superior (Oct. 14-15).
MSU was swept three times during the regular season in 2010-11, and also in the playoffs. Three times it happened on the road - at Western Michigan (Nov. 5-6) and Nov. 19-20 at Notre Dame. MSU was swept at home by Northern Michigan on Feb. 11-12 the first time since 2008 that a visiting team swept the Spartans on home ice. Alaska also swept the playoff series at the Carlson Center.
MSU picked up its first overtime win in its first try of the year. MSU's last overtime win came against Michigan at Munn Ice Arena last year; it was MSU's only OT win in nine tries last season (1-4-4) MSU is now 4-4-10 in overtime games dating back to the start of the 2009-10 season.
MSU's loss to Boston College in the season opener was MSU's first loss in the month of October since Oct. 23, 2009 at Miami. MSU was 3-0-3 in October of 2010.
While it's preferable to not fall behind early, the Spartans did manage to stage rallies in both games against Lake Superior State.
On Friday, the Lakers jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but a resilient Spartan bunch twice battled back to tie the score - at 3-3, then 4-4 - before LSSU got the game-winning goal with 71 seconds remaining in regulation. On Saturday, the home team led 3-0, but MSU scored twice to pull within a goal at the final buzzer.
MSU scored first in both its games against Ohio State - something it was not able to do in its first four games. 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 six games, there are 20 skaters who have appeared in three games or more. Of those 20 players, 15 have at least one point, and 10 have at least a goal. Six players share the team lead in that category with two goals each.
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. FROM GOAT TO HERO Sophomore Lee Reimer had a tough start to his 2011-12 season, as he was whistled for a major penalty and game misconduct in the second period against Boston College, ending his night after just 25 minutes of play.
Reimer rebounded the next night with his first multiple-goal game in an MSU uniform with a pair of tallies an an assist against Air Force; it was his first multi-point game since a 1-2-3 line in the GLI last December against Colorado College. He was named to the IceBreaker All-Tournament Team.
Trevor Nill's goal against Boston College was his first tally since Oct. 22, 2010 against Alaska. He added a second goal in last Thursday's game against Ohio State, the earliest in the season he's had two goals in his career.
Junior Kevin Walrod had both scores in MSU's Friday loss to the Buckeyes. It was Walrod's second career two-goal game, the first coming last December against Michigan Tech.
With five career goals, Walrod has two career two-goal efforts. The first came last season against Michgian Tech in the Great Lakes Invitational.
On the man advantage, MSU is 5-for-26 (19.2%) so far this season, good for third in the CCHA. Of those five power play goals, both Torey Krug and Brett Perlini have points on three of those markers.
Freshman Matt Berry has had points in three of his four games played this season. He was joined on the scoresheet by classmate Tanner Sorenson last Friday.
Drew Palmisano's Thursday shutout of Ohio State was his second straight over the Buckeyes. Alex Szczechura's second-period goal on Friday 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.
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. The play of each goalie has not help determine Anastos' future plan of action, .
Drew Palmisano made 30 saves against the aggressive, talented Boston College offense. He now has 23 games at MSU with 30+ saves. At Lake Superior, he allowed three goals in the Saturday game, but came up with huge saves late as the Spartans fell, 3-2.
Will Yanakeff overcame a tough early goal to post a victory in overtime over Air Force behind 26 saves. He made three critical stops in the third period to keep the game deadlocked , leading to the overtime heroics of Lee Reimer. At Lake Superior, he allowed five goals, but played well enough for the Spartans to have a chance to win as the game entered the waning moments tied at four.
Anastos has maintained that he does not have a philosophy on playing one steady starter vs. a platoon system, and that the play of the netminders during the week and the previous games will determine who gets the nod for the time being.
Tim Buttery played in his 100th career game last Thursday, becoming the second player to reach that milestone this season and the fourth overall on the team. Brock Shelgren (104 games) reached the milestone in the season opener vs. Boston College; Daultan Leveille (114) and Matt Crandell (112) registered their 100th last season.
Next likely to reach that plateau is Trevor Nill (95 games) and Brett Perlini (90).
Senior Brett Perlini had a goal and two assists on Oct. 14, pushing him to the 50-point plateau (29-21-50). Junior blueliner Torey Krug surpassed the 50-point mark with a goal and an assist in the same game - he now has a 16-37-53 scoring line in just over two seasons.
Krug is the team's second-leading active career scorer - only Daultan Leveille (23-38-61) is ahead of him.
Four different players have points in three of MSU's games this season - Brett Perlini, Matt Berry, Torey Krug, and Greg Wolfe.
Perlini holds the season's best single-game scoring output, with three points against Lake Superior on Oct. 14.
Senior Mike Merrifield made his season debut in the Ohio State series after an injury kept him out of MSU's exhibition and first four games of the season.
In four games, Michigan State has scored 11 goals, coming from the sticks of eight different players. Brett Perlini, Greg Wolfe, and Lee Reimer are the three Spartans with multiple goals.
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.
MSU had 11 former skaters on 2011 opening-night rosters in the National Hockey League; Ryan MIller (Buffalo), Drew MIller and Justin Abdelkader (Detroit), David Booth and Mike Weaver (Florida). Jim Slater (Winnipeg), Shawn Horcoff, Jeff Petry and Corey Potter (Edmonton), Duncan Keith (Chicago), Adam Hall (Tampa).
Since opening night, Jeff Petry was sent down to Edmonton's AHL Affiliate, Oklahoma City, while Tim Kennedy was recalled by Florida from San Antonio. Kennedy's arrival with the Panthers came days before Florida shipped David Booth to Vancouver in a trade.
Michigan State gets a second straight home weekend, hosting Robert Morris next Friday and Saturday evenings. Gametime both nights is 7 p.m.
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