Spartans, Wolverines Face Off
 
 
 
Dustin Gazley
 
Dustin Gazley
 
 

Nov. 12, 2009

Date/Time: Nov. 13; 7:35 p.m.; Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor | Nov. 14; 7:05 p.m., Munn Ice Arena
Tickets: A limited number of tickets remain for Saturday's game. Purchase Tickets
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Audio: WVFN 730 AM; all audio can also be heard at www.spartansportsnetwork.com
Television: (F) FSN Detroit (S) Comcast (Digital Ch. 900 in Mid-Michigan)
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Download MSU Hockey Notes (PDF)
Podcasts: Rick Comley | Nick Sucharski | Derek Grant | Andrew Rowe

storyline
One of college hockey's most heated and hotly-contested rivalries adds another chapter this weekend when the Spartans face off with Michigan in a home-and-home series.

series history
UM leads the overall series by a 137-119-18 margin, aided by six consecutive wins in the series.
The Wolverines own a 69-42-4 against Michigan State at Yost, where the series starts on Friday evening. The Spartans own a 59-46-9 mark against their archrival in games played in East Lansing,where the teams face off on Saturday.

 

 

recapping the action
Michigan State is coming off a win and a shootout loss to tenth-ranked Nebraska-Omaha. MSU took the first game with an impressive 3-0 shutout behind 31 saves from Drew Palmisano. Nick Sucharski's game-tying goal the next evening forged a 3-3 tie with the Mavericks, and UNO needed four shooters to emerge victorious in the shootout, 2-1.

random tidbits
• Michigan has won 137 games in this series, but 41 of those wins came between 1922 and 1957. The Spartans recorded only two victories in that span.
• There is a five-game discrepancy between MSU and U-M's all-time series records, all in the early 1920's. The MSU records have four more Wolverine victories and one for the Spartans.

around the league
A full weekend of conference action - the third straight - is again on the docket. Alaska is at Bowling Green, Western at Ohio State, Ferris is at Miami, Lake Superior is at Nebraska-Omaha, and Northern Michigan is at Notre Dame.

non-conference
Michigan State 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.)

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.

honorary "c"
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)
Nov. 6 - Kevin Miller (1984-88)

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.

prognosticating
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.

what's new?
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.

m.a.s.h. unit
In 2008-09, Michigan State had a total 14 players miss time with 16 injuries, totaling 221 practices missed and 108 games lost.

gaining ground
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) was the 150th victory for Comley at MSU.

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's roster is the same average height, but is six pounds heavier and eight months older - despite adding nine freshmen.

youth movement
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.

undefeated no more
The Spartans knocked off previously-undefeated teams in three straight series - Miami on Oct. 24, Western Michigan on Oct. 30, and Nebraska-Omaha on Nov. 5.

speaking of undefeated ...
The Spartans own the nation's second-longest unbeaten streak at five games (4-0-1), second only to Bemidji State's eight straight (7-0-1). MSU is in its longest unbeaten streak since recording eight straight wins early in the 2007-08 season.

the floors must be dirty
Against Clarkson, 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.

getting a hang of this road game thing
Michigan State won its third road game of the season on Oct. 31 at Western Michigan, one more than it won in all of last year.

conference streaking
The Spartans are undefeated in five straight conference games, the longest streak since MSU did not lose (5-0-3) in the month of January 2008.

fingers crossed for November
MSU has a 6-2-0 mark at the end of October, marginally better than the 4-2-2 mark it owned at the end of October last season. MSU's downward spiral began when injuries started to pile up in November - when MSU failed to win a game (0-7-1) and scored just eight goals during the month. November is not an easy month for the 2009-10 Spartans, either - it has three straight conference series against top-ten teams (No. 10 Nebraska-Omaha, No. 6 Michigan, No. 9 Notre Dame), then has games against Big Ten foes in the College Hockey Showcase against Minnesota and Wisconsin.

scoring outbursts
MSU has scored 35 goals, the most of any team in the country, through 10 games. The total is more than half of its offensive production from a year ago (62).

don't look now
Michigan State ranks 13th in the country in scoring, averaging 3.50 goals per game. MSU is 14th in scoring defense (2.3 goals per game allowed)

scoring outbursts, part two
Michigan State has scored four goals or more in four of its ten games. MSU only reached the four-goal plateau twice last season.

win em close
All but two of MSU's games this season have been settled by two goals or less. Of the three that were two-goal margins, two of those games involved an empty-net goal.

you miss 100% of the shots you don't take
Michigan State has been outshot in seven of its 10 games thus far, but on the season, is only being outshot by 16 shots (276-292). MSU is averaging 27.6 shots per game, and allowing an average of 29.2.
In 2008-09, 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 3.5 goals over 10 games, good for 13th nationally; its 35 goals is the most scored by any team in the country.

specialties
MSU's power play is clicking at a 25.4% success rate, connecting for 15 power-play goals in 59 chances. That is tops in the CCHA, and ninth nationally.
The Spartans scored just 20 power play goals a year ago, and their power play ranked 11th in the league (20/182, 11.0%).

academic achievement
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).

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%).

the young ones
Michigan State's lineup has a youthful look for sure - the Spartans have dressed 14 freshmen (9) and sophomores (5) each weekend.

bonus hockey
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.

quite the month, with a reward at the end
Freshman Derek Grant has been named the RBC Financial CCHA Rookie of the Month for October, and earned the national award from the Hockey Commissioner's Association (HCA) later in the week. The top-line winger for the Spartans finished the month tied for the national lead in rookie scoring, goals, and assists with a 4-6-10 scoring line. In the CCHA he ranked second in scoring, and tied for fourth in both goals and assists. His 3-4-7 stats on the power play ranked second in the CCHA, and his three power-play goals is the third-highest total in the country. In addition, he ranked fourth nationally among rookies (appearing in more than one game) in points per game (1.25). Grant opened his MSU career with three-straight multiple-point games, and earned CCHA Rookie of the Week kudos after the Clarkson series (Oct. 12).

quite the month, but no award ...
Corey Tropp, while losing out on RBC Financial Player of the Month kudos to Alaska goaltender Scott Greenham, had quite the impressive month as well. Through the end of October, the winger was tied for national lead in goals (7) and ranked second in points (13), was the CCHA's leading point (13) and goal scorer, and ranked third in assists (6) . Tropp also led the CCHA in power play goals, assists, and points (4-4-8), and was a +3 He had multiple-point efforts in six of eight games , including his first career hat trick in a road win at Maine. He ranked second nationally in power play goals (4) , tied for third in shorthanded goals (1)m and also tied for second in game-winning goals (2). He was11th nationally in points per game (1.62) and fifth in goals per game (0.88) (among players appearing in more than one game), and through eight contests, was assessed just one minor penalty. He was named the CCHA Player of the Week after the Maine series in which he had four goals and an assist (Oct. 19).

... so he kept on going
Corey Tropp continues to lead the country in points (15), and goals (8), and is second in power play goals (5) and game-winners (2).

him, too
Freshman Derek Grant had a goal and an assist in last weekend's set with UNO, and leads all rookies nationally in points (12).

hot hand
Drew Palmisano has turned in a 1.46 GAA and .956 saves percentage over his last four starts. He now ranks 12th nationally in GAA (1.97) and 15th in save percentage (.931). He is also 10th in winning percentage (5-1-1, .786).

firsts
Anthony Hayes scored his first collegiate goal and had his first collegiate assist on Oct. 31. His assist set up the first college goal for his linemate, Dean Chelios. The two combined on a Hayes goal in the Nov. 5 game against Nebraska-Omaha.

mad hatter
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.

o from the d
Jeff Petry is third on the team in scoring with a 1-9-10 scoring line, and leads all CCHA defensemen in that category as well. In the CCHA, he leads the conference in assists, and is third (behind Tropp and Grant) in power-play points (0-6-6)

block party
Petry is leading the team in blocked shots (22), while Brock Shelgren and Torey Krug each have 20 blocks.

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 seven games, and has a 2-1-3 scoring line.

an eclipse ...
It took six games for Corey Tropp to eclipse the 11 points he amassed in his sophomore campaign, with 6-6-12 in his first six contests. In 2008-09, he had three goals and eight assists in 21 games.

...and close
Andrew Rowe (7) and Dustin Gazley (6) are at nearly half their scoring output from a year ago (14 points), as is blueliner Matt Crandell (0-3-3, 0-5-5 in 2008-09)

multiplicity
Corey Tropp started off his junior season with five multiple-point efforts in eight games, and has scored goals in five of the eight contests.

multiplicity, take two
Derek Grant started his college career with three straight multiple-point games, and has at least a point in seven of eight MSU games this season.

offensive defenseman
Jeff Petry leads all CCHA defensemen in scoring (1-7-8) and ranks second in the conference overall in assists. He is tied for 10th nationally among defensemen in points per game (1.00).

among the bretheren
In the CCHA overall statistics, Tropp is first in points (15), goals (8), power-play goals (5) and in power-play points (10), and is tied for fourth in assists (7). Grant is second in points (12), tied for fifth in goals (5), tied for fourth in assists (6) and is second in power play points (7). Jeff Petry leads the conference in assists (9), is tied for sixth in points (10) and third in power play points (0-6-6).

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 and Bobby Jarosz have split time in three of the four weekend sets; Palmisano has drawn seven starts (5-1-1) and owns a 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage. Jarosz has three starts, a 2.69 GAA and .909 save percentage, and is 2-1-0.

road warrior
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-Lowel7l. Four of his five road starts were in hostile, spirited road venues: Western Michgian, Minnesota, Michigan, and Notre Dame.

penalty shots
Andrew Rowe's penalty shot attempt on Oct. 23 against Miami was 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

goalie u
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 ...

next up
MSU engages in an unconventional home-and-neutral site series with Notre Dame next weekend. The teams will play on Thursday evening in East Lansing, then on Sunday in Fort Wayne, Ind.