Oct. 27, 2011
By Neil Koepke, MSUSpartans.com staff writer
At just about every level of youth hockey - bantam, midget, junior - Greg Wolfe has proven to be capable goal scorer.
Wolfe's immediate challenge is showing he can do it in college and give Michigan State a much-needed boost on offense.
In six games this season, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound sophomore right wing has two goals and one assist and 15 shots on goal. In the Spartans' exhibition win over Western Ontario, Wolfe scored two goals in 3 minutes and 46 seconds in the second period.
"I'm more comfortable with and without the puck and have been able to develop some chemistry with my linemates (center Lee Reimer and left wing Dean Chelios),'' said Wolfe, 21, who's from Canton, a Detroit suburb.
"I think I got a little quicker over the summer and Reimer and Chelios are pretty quick, so that makes it easier to get up and down the ice.''
Reimer, also a sophomore, has two goals and two assists for four points, while Chelios, a junior, has one goal and two points.
The Spartans (2-4 overall, 1-3 CCHA) play a nonconference home series against Robert Morris at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Munn Arena.
As a freshman last year, Wolfe struggled at times with MSU's defensive style and chipped in only three goals and 11 points in 31 games. He believes the offensive style of play being implemented by new Coach Tom Anastos will not only benefit his game but will help other forwards eager to increase their production.
"I think we can thrive with the new system by moving the puck around, generating more shots and good chances,'' Wolfe said. "It's going to take time but I think you're seeing glimpses of it.
"Last year, it was tough for me to generate chances and finish. We were a little tentative in the offensive zone. We sat back more. I notice that once in a while now, instead of being aggressive and going to get the puck, I get caught in the mix of either staying back or pressuring. I need to make that adjustment better.''
Anastos said that before the season he didn't know what to expect from Wolfe but that changed once he saw him on the ice in practice and in games.
"He's been really good. One of the things we've done is listen to the players a lot and have asked them about who they wanted to play with, players they have good chemistry with, and Wolfe's name kept coming up,'' Anastos said.
"He certainly has skill and offensive talent. He's smart and that's really valuable in finding open ice. He still needs to continue to work on his speed and explosiveness in getting up and down the ice. One thing that he did is improve his conditioning over the summer.''
Wolfe, who played on state championship teams in bantam (2005), midget minor (2006) and midget major (2007), played two years of junior hockey in the U.S. Hockey League before coming to MSU.
He had 21 goals in 41 games with the Chicago Steel in 2008-2009 and a combined 24 goals and 52 points in 57 games for the Steel and Omaha Lancers in 2009-2010.
"I was fortunate to be able to score goals in each of my previous leagues,'' Wolfe said. "My last year of midget and first year of junior, I started to get the confidence that I could score. I had 21 goals in only 41 games my first year in Chicago and that gave me confidence to start shooting more.''
MSU junior forward Chris Forfar said he did not look forward to playing against Wolfe in the USHL.
"I was in Lincoln (Neb.) and he was in Chicago and I lined up to take draws against him and I hated it. He was so dangerous,'' Forfar said.
"This year, his capabilities are coming out more and more. He has a knack of getting into the gritty areas and stickhandling to the net. His line with Reimer and Chelios, they can all move the puck and make quick decisions. "I think Wolfe's upside is tremendous.''
PATIENCE: Anastos admits that it's tough to be patient when you think you're doing some things well as a team but costly mistakes here and there prevent you from winning.
"You play a weekend like we did at Lake Superior (two weeks ago) and play pretty well at times and come out with no wins, it's hard not to feel frustrated. But we're going to be positive,'' he said. "We have a good group in that dressing room. They will do anything we ask them.
"We're going to work together to find out what it takes for us to have as much success as possible. And it's going to take time and patience.''
The Spartans are only in their fourth week of practice. They've already played six games, with two more are coming up against this weekend.
"We continue to learn about our strengths and weaknesses and we have to find a personality for this team,'' Anastos said. "We're going through the growing pains of a new style.''
WELCOME COLONIALS: The Spartans and the Robert Morris Colonials are meeting for the first time. Robert Morris, located just outside of Pittsburgh and with an enrollment of 5,000, is in its second season in Atlantic Hockey, after a six-year run in College Hockey America.
The Colonials are 2-3 overall and coming off a nonconference series split at home last weekend against Quinnipiac of the ECAC - a 5-4 win and a 4-1 loss. RMU's other win this season was against Mercyhurst (2-1) while its two other losses came against Colgate (3-1) and Air Force (4-2). MSU defeated Air Force 3-2 on Oct. 8.
Derek Schooley, a 1994 Western Michigan graduate, has coached the Colonials for all eight seasons as a varsity program.
RMU had its best season a year ago, finishing 18-12-5 overall and 13-9-5 and in fifth place in Atlantic Hockey.
The Colonials' roster includes 16 Americans and 10 Canadians from nine states and three provinces. Nine are from Pennsylvania. There's one player from Michigan - freshman forward Cody Wydo of Allen Park, who's played in one game.
Schooley's team includes 11 seniors, five juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen. Senior forward Trevor Lewis and sophomore forward Colin South are RMU's top scorers with five points apiece in five games. Lewis has two goals and three assists while South has a goal and four assists.
While the Colonials' power play has converted on four of 20 chances, their penalty killing has been perfect - no goals allowed in 23 short-handed situations.
Over the last few seasons, Robert Morris has played several CCHA teams and pulled off some upsets. It stunned Notre Dame in January, 2007, swept Miami in January, 2010, and early last season defeated Ohio State in Columbus.
REUNION: MSU sophomore forward Lee Reimer and RMU sophomore defenseman Evan Renwick were teammates for two seasons in junior hockey with the Canmore Eagles of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Reimer is from Landmark, Manitoba, while Renwick, who is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, is from Calgary.