Oct. 29, 2009
Date/Time: Oct. 30; 7:05 p.m.; Munn Arena | Oct. 31; 7:35 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo
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Audio: (F) WJIM 1240 AM/ (S) WVFN 730 AM; all audio can also be heard at msuspartans.com
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Michigan State hosts the first half of a home-and-home series with undefeated (4-0) Western Michigan.
MSU leads the all-time series 59-27-8, and is unbeaten in its last four against the Broncos. Last October, MSU posted a 3-1 win at home and skated to a 2-2 tie (and shootout victory) at Lawson Arena.
At Munn, MSU is a commanding 33-5-4 all-time against WMU. The series is much more even at Lawson, where MSU holds a slight 23-20-2 mark against the Broncos.
around the league
Michigan State has started the season with a 3-1 record against non-conference competition, sweeping Clarkson and splitting its most recent series with Maine.
Rick Comley owns a 36-26-5 record in games against non-conference teams since coming to Michigan State prior to the 2002-03 season. (This includes regular-season, tournament, and NCAA Tournament games) Only once has a Comley team been sub-.500 in games against non-conference foes in a season (2003-04), and is 21-12-4 over the last four years (2005-09.)
The first full weekend of conference action is on the docket. Ferris State travels to Alaska, Michigan is at Lake Superior State, Bowling Green is at Nebraska-Omaha, Miami is at Northern Michgian, and Ohio State is at Notre Dame.
recapping the action
Michigan State is coming off a split at top-ranked Miami (L 2-1/W 3-2 in OT).
The Redhawks took game one with a late, almost fluky goal in the final two minutes on Friday, while the Spartans won an overtime thriller on Saturday: after MSU took a 2-0 lead with a pair of power-play strikes, Miami crawled back into it with a pair of third-period goals before Andrew Rowe's heroics in the extra session.
Michigan State has split its last five series in Oxford, as Miami has not swept the Spartans in its home rink since the 1999 season.
o captain my captain
Senior Nick Sucharski and junior Jeff Petry will serve as captains of the 2009-10 Spartans. Corey Tropp and Andrew Rowe will serve as alternate captains.
Michigan State will take part in honoring its past in its present with the introduction of Honorary Captains. In selected games this season, former MSU skaters will come back to campus to serve as an Honorary Captain for one game. The Honorary Captain will attend pre-game meal with team, address the Spartan squad prior to the contest, and stand on the bench during the game. This allows the program not only to honor former players, but also to share with current team members what donning the Green and White meant to those who came before them.
Oct. 10 - Dave Kelley (1973-77)
Oct. 17 - Ron Clark (1972-75)
represent your state
MSU's 28-man roster represents six US states and two Canadian provences. Half (14) of MSU's players hail from the state of Michigan, while four are from Ontario. The Spartans have three players each from Illinois and British Columbia, and one player each from Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin.
Michigan State has been selected ninth by the head coaches and eighth by the league's media in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's annual preseason polls. In two close races, Michigan received enough points from the conference's 12 head coaches and 66 media members to be named the preseason favorite in both surveys. The polls were announced in conjunction with the CCHA's pre-season media conference call with all 12 head coaches, held this season in lieu of a media day in Detroit. MSU garnered 46 points in the survey of conference coaches, and 332 points in the media poll, which included one first-place vote.
Michigan State finished in a tie for 10th place in the CCHA standings last season, with a 10-23-5 overall mark and 7-17-4 record in conference tilts.
After sweeping Clarkson to start the year, Michigan State was denied its first 4-0 start since the 1994-95 season with its split at Maine (5-3, 3-5).
The CCHA announced that a regulation or overtime victory will be worth three points in the league standings this season, a change from when the shootout was instituted last season.
This season, a regulation or sudden-death overtime win will earn a team three points in the standings, a shootout victory will garner two points, a shootout loss will be rewarded by one point, and a loss in regulation or overtime will mean no points. So, any game that goes to a shootout will see the victor credited with a tie and a shootout win in the conference standings, while the loser will receive credit for a tie.
This differs from the system utilized in 2008-09, where a regulation/overtime victory or a shootout win meant two points, a shootout loss gave a team one point, and a regulation/overtime loss was awarded no points.
In 2008-09, Michigan State had a total 14 players miss time with 16 injuries, totaling 221 practices missed and 108 games lost.
Comley captured his 750th career victory on Friday, Oct. 9 with a 6-1 victory over Clarkson. He now owns a 752-584-100 (.562) career overall coaching record, good for fourth place on the all-time wins list.
Former MSU coach and athletic director Ron Mason finished his career behind the bench in 2002 with 924 wins, while Jerry York of Boston College has 816 and Jack Parker of Boston University has 804.
The Feb. 7, 2009 victory over Ferris State (1-0) served as the 150th victory for Comley at MSU.
back in green
Last December, then-freshman forward Mike Merrifield returned to junior hockey for the remainder of the season, and played for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. His coach in Green Bay was John Cooper, who coached Merrifield the previous season in the NAHL with the St. Louis Bandits. In 38 games in Green Bay, Merrifield had 18 goals and 16 assists (34 points), potted 12 points on special teams, and was a +9.
Merrifield cracked the lineup in MSU's series at Maine, and scored his first collegiate goal (and point) on a beautiful tic-tac-toe score in the second period of the second game. He has been in the lineup the last three games.
law of averages
MSU's current roster averages: 6-0, 181 lbs., and the average age is 20 years, 10 months. Among CCHA schools, MSU was one of 10 schools that averaged 6-0 or taller, the Spartans were the lightest team on average, and were third-youngest. (Michigan's roster averages 20 years, two months, and Notre Dame averages 20 years, nine months.)
Compared to last year, MSU is the same average height, but is six pounds heavier and eight months older - despite adding nine freshmen to their roster.
Michigan State's roster features 18 underclassmen - nine sophomores and nine freshmen. The Spartans have the most first-year players of any conference team, and rank second in sophomore class size behind Alaska (11). Alaska boasts 19 underclassmen, the only league team with more than MSU.
quite the cluster
Michigan State and Michigan will be paired with Bowling Green and Notre Dame for the 2009-10 season as clustermates. The schools will face off four times, and play against the remaining eight schools in the conference twice.
the floors must be dirty
Michigan State recorded its first sweep of a home weekend since Nov. 9-10, 2007 against Mercyhurst. With an abundance of home-and-home series, the Spartans have played only nine two-game home sets since that weekend.
you miss 100% of the shots you don't take
MSU was outshot in both of its season-opening games against Clarkson, outshot the Black Bears in both contests at Maine, and was outshot in both games of the Miami series. Miami held the largest margin in shots in the second game of that series (37-22), but MSU got an overtime win in that contest.
Michigan State was outshot in 26 of its 38 games last season, with its largest shot disparity coming in the game at Miami on Jan. 18, when the Red Hawks outshot MSU, 60-13. Jeff Lerg tied his career high with 54 saves in that contest.
The Spartans averaged 23.97 shots per game, which ranked last of 58 teams nationally. The Spartans allowed 35.32 per game, which was the second-highest total in the country behind Brown. In shot margin, MSU ranked 57th (-11.34), behind only Brown (-14.85).
scoring drought ... corrected
The Spartans averaged just 1.63 goals per game a year ago, not only the lowest average in Division I hockey, but also a program low for scoring output in a season.
This year has started with a stark contrast - MSU has averaged 3.67 goals over six games, good for eighth nationally; its 22 goals is the second-most scored by any team in the country (Colorado College and Union have each scored 23).
this means only good things
Michigan State scored five goals each in its first three games of the season. MSU failed to score more than four goals in a game last season (and hit that total only twice.) In fact, MSU only scored five goals in a weekend series four times during the 2008-09 campaign.
The Spartans scored 10 goals in the two-game set with Clarkson. It was the most in a two-game set since Feb. 29-March 1, 2008 against Bowling Green.
MSU is 11-for-41 (26.8%) on the power play through six games, and ranks eighth nationally in power play percentage. The Spartans scored just 20 power play goals a year ago, and their power play ranked 11th in the league (20/182, 11.0%).
The Oct. 9 game against Clarkson was the first time MSU had potted three power play goals in a game since since March 14, 2008, a 5-2 win over Northern Michigan; in that game, MSU went 3-for-7 on the man advantage. MSU did not have more than one power play goal in a game during the 2008-09 season.
didn't take long
The CCHA introduced the shootout for the 2008-09 season, will continue to be the only conference in the country to utilize it in conference games tied after an overtime period. The games count as ties in the official NCAA records. MSU was 3-1 in shootouts last season.
MSU's hockey program recorded a 3.05 cumulative grade-point average in the fall 2008 semester, an all-time best. The team also posted a 2.905 in the spring semester of 2009. Three players recorded perfect 4.0 semesters: Brock Shelgren (fall) and Jeff Lerg and Jacob Schering (spring).
maybe just play on friday
Michigan State owned a 6-8-3 record in Friday night games, but was 4-11-2 in Saturday evening tilts a year ago. This season, the Spartans are an identical 2-1 on Fridays and Saturdays thus far.
compete with the east
MSU took on two eastern teams - Clarkson and Maine - to open the 2009-10 season. MSU compiled a 3-1 record in the four games played, and is 5-3 over the last two years against Eastern competition.
MSU's WCHA stretch comes in November and December, when it has Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan Tech on the schedule. One more eastern team (Rensselaer) is a possible opponent in the Great Lakes Invitational.
strong second halves
During the Rick Comley era, the Spartans have traditionally been a second-half team. The first three months (October, November, December) of his eight seasons in East Lansing, the Spartans have been a combined 77-65-15 (538%), then compiled a 82-40-13 mark in the second half (61.6%). The 2007-08 Spartans had their best first-half record under Comley (12-5-2, 68.4%), and were 13-7-3 in the 2008 portion of the schedule (63%).
Last year, MSU was 6-6-2 this season when netting the game's first goal, and 2-15-2 when allowing its opponent the first strike. MSU has an identical 2-1 record when it or the opponent score first.
get them early
The Spartans were 4-6-2 in the first game of a CCHA set in 2008-09, and just 2-9-1 in game two.
the young ones
Michigan State's lineup has a youthful look for sure - the Spartans have dressed 14 freshmen (8) and sophomores (6) each weekend.
MSU's overtime victory on Oct. 24 at Miami was its first in an extra session since the CCHA Tournament consolation game in 2007, a wild 7-6 victory over Lake Superior on March 17, 2007.
Between overtime victories, MSU played 12 games that went to an extra session, and owned an 0-2-10 mark in those contests. Five of those ties were last year, with the shootout rule - MSU won the shootouts in three the four conference tilts that required an extra session.
Corey Tropp was named the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. The winger has been an offensive force in the first three weeks of the season and had a goal and a pair of assists on the weekend split with Miami. He assisted on MSU's lone goal on Friday and had a goal and an assist on Saturday. He was not on the ice for any of Miami's four goals against, and all of his points came with a man advantage.
Corey Tropp's Oct. 16 hat trick against Maine was the first for MSU since Justin Abdelkader's against Bowling Green on Feb. 29, 2008, a 6-3 victory. Tropp scored on the power play, shorthanded, and even strength. On the weekend vs. Maine, Tropp had four goals and an assist, and was a +1.
Through six games, Tropp's 6-6-12 scoring line is has eclipsed his 11 points from his sophomore campaign. In 2008-09, he had three goals and eight assists in 21 games.
Corey Tropp has started off his junior season with five multiple-point efforts in six games, and has scored goals in four of the six contests.
multiplicity, take two
Derek Grant started his college career with three straight multiple-point games, and has at least a point in all six MSU games this season. He leads all CCHA rookies in scoring and ranks second overall on the CCHA scoring chart with a 4-5-9 line. He is also tied for first in the conference with five assists.
Two players have scored points in every game this season - Derek Grant and Corey Tropp. Five of Tropp's games have been multiple-point efforts.
Jeff Petry leads all CCHA defensemen in scoring (1-6-7) and he shares the conference lead with assists. He is tied for eighth nationally among defensemen in points per game (1.17), and ranks first in the CCHA in assists, and fourth in points.
more national rankings
Tropp ranks near the top of the national leaderboard in most categories. He is tied for fourth in goals per game (1.00), ranks third in points per game (2.00) and has the national lead in points (12). Derek Grant ranks second nationally in rookie points per game (1.50), but leads all rookies in points (nine).
among the bretheren
In the CCHA overall statistics, Tropp is first in points (12), goals (6), assists (6), power-play goals (4) and in power-play points (8). Grant is second in points (9), and tied for second in goals (4), tied for fifth in assists (5) and power play points (7). Jeff Petry is tied for fourth in points (7) and tied with Tropp for the lead in assists (6).
Derek Grant was named the CCHA Rookie of the Week on Oct. 12. He had a two goals and a pair of assists to help MSU to a 2-0 weekend and series sweep of Clarkson. Grant had a goal and an assist in each contest, and three of his four points came on the power play.
more rookie kudos
Zach Josepher's four-point collegiate debut vs. Clarkson (Oct. 9) is the most for an MSU freshman in his first game since both Russell Welch and James Cunningham each had a goal and three assists in an 8-1 win over Ohio State on Oct. 22, 1976.
Josepher's two-goal outing in the opener was MSU's first since Matt Schepke potted two against North Dakota In the Great Lakes Invitational (Dec. 27, 2008). Josepher recorded MSU's first four-point game since Justin Abdelkader (3g, 1a) against Bowling Green on Feb. 29, 2008.
the reports of our goaltending demise have been greatly exaggerated
The post-Jeff Lerg era showed that both of MSU's top two netminders are capable of winning hockey games. Drew Palmisano made 28 saves and allowed just one goal in the season opener, while Bobby Jarosz made his first start in net since Nov. 10, 2007 and made a career-best 33 saves in a 4-3 Spartan win . The pair each played a game at Miami last weekend - Jarosz drew his first career road start and was the hard-luck loser in game one, allowing just two goals and making 26 stops. Drew Palmisano had a season-best 35 saves in Saturday's 3-2 overtime win.
Five of netminder Drew Palmisano's six starts last season in came in road tilts. His lone home start came on Oct. 17 against UMass-Lowell. Four of his five road starts were in hostile, spirited road venues: Western Michgian, Minnesota, Michigan, and Notre Dame.
Three of Palmisano's four starts this season have come on the road as well - so the home fans have yet to get a good look at his abilities. Couple that with Jarosz's being in a deep goaltending corps over his career, and the home fans are not that familiar with MSU's current backstops.
Andrew Rowe's penalty shot attempt on Oct. 23 against Miamiwas the first for the Spartans since March 16, 2007, when Justin Abdelkader had one against Michigan in the CCHA semifinals. Billy Sauer made the save. MSU's last successful penalty shot came on Dec. 9, 2006, when Chris Mueller scored against Western Michigan
Michigan State blocked 25 shots in its two-game set with Clarkson, 28 in the Maine series, and 43 in the two-game set with Miami. Against the RedHawks, the defensive pair of Jeff Petry and Torey Krug each blocked eight. On the year. Petry and Brock Shelgren each have 16, and Krug has 14.
In 2009-10, MSU blocked 746 shots, compared to 421 for its opponents.
at the dot
Through six games, MSU is having significantly more success on faceoffs than it did a year ago. The Spartans have three of its centermen averaging better than 54% success, led by Trevor Nill (56.1%), Daultan Leveille (55.4%) and Nick Sucharski (54%).
Thanks to LSJ scribe Neil Koepke for this gem: Since the 1980-81 season, all but one Spartan starting goaltender has earned All-League honors (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.
the future in the present
Inside College Hockey has placed freshman winger Derek Grant as No. 17 on its list of incoming forwards.
fun facts for a team you don't know well ... yet.
Nick Sucharski, despite being a fifth-year senior, is not the oldest player on the MSU roster - that honor belongs to netminder Bobby Jarosz. Junior Joey Shean is also older than Sucharski, who came to campus in the fall of 2005 as a 17-year-old ... Torey Krug is the youngest player on the Spartan roster with an April 12, 1991 birthdate. He has won two national championships with Detroit Honeybaked (2003) and Indiana Ice (2009) as a teammate of fellow freshman Zach Golembiewski ... The honor of being the tallest Spartan falls to AJ Sturges (6-4), and the, ahem, least tallest is Dustin Gazley (5-8) ... Matt Grassi is the heaviest (and almost the tallest) at 6-3, 215 ... British Columbia is becoming a hotbed of college hockey recruiting, as Grassi, Kevin Walrod, and Derek Grant all hail from the provence - and Zach Josepher and Trevor Nill both played their junior hockey for Penticton in the BCHL ... Gazley was the youngest member of the 2004 US inline team that won a silver medal at World Juniors in London, Ontario and three ... Seven players were multiple-sport athletes in high school - Matt Crandell, Trevor Nill, and Brett Perlini all played soccer, while Nill, Jeff Petry, Brock Shelgren, and Dean Chelios all played baseball. Golembiewski was a scholastic golfer and graduated with his high school record for best round ... Nill is featured in this year's College of Engineering ad in the MSU hockey yearbook ...
MSU hosts its first conference series of the year when Nebraska-Omaha comes to town next Thursday and Friday, Oct. 5-6. This is UNO's final season of CCHA competition, as the school will play in the WCHA starting in the 2010-11 school year.