Gophers Come to Munn for Non-League Set
Michigan State breaks from CCHA action to host No. 2/3 Minnesota. MSU and the Gophers have met annually since 1993, but most of those games came in the now-defunct College Hockey Showcase.
On the radio, all games will be carried by the Spartan Sports Network. Both contests will air on WJIM 1240 AM. Scott Moore and Rob Woodward are in their seventh season together on the call of Spartan hockey.
Both game will be shown on FS North, the flagship channel for Golden Gopher hockey.
FS North can be found on DirecTV Ch. 668, and Dish Network Ch. 436. Check with your local service provider for availability in your area.
Live audio on the internet can be found at www.spartansportsnetwork.com.
Livestats can be found at www.livestats.ath.msu.edu/hockey.
The Gophers own a commanding lead in the all-time series (101-42-12), and a 43-25-5 mark in games played in East Lansing. The current Spartan seniors own a 1-1-1 mark against the Gophers, with the win and the tie coming at Mariucci Arena. Last season, the Spartans took a 5-2 victory in the final meeting between the two teams in the aforementioned College Hockey Showcase. In the last five games between the teams, the series is tied, 1-1-3; in the last 10, there is a slight edge to the Gophers (3-2-5).
It has been more than 30 years since the teams lined up for a two-game set in the regular season: the teams last had a regular-season two-game series in Minneapolis in February of 1981 (the Gophers swept, 8-3 and 4-2); the last two-game set at Munn was the previous year, a 7-6 MSU win followed by a 7-1 Gopher romp.
The teams are lined up for this weekend's series, as well as a Spartan trip to Mariucci next October. The following season, the teams will begin to meet four times each season - two-game sets at each team's home venue - when the teams begin play in the Big Ten Conference in the fall of 2013.
Michigan State got a split on the road at conference foe Northern Michigan, getting a win the first night before seeing it's season-best winning streak come to a conclusion on Saturday.
On Friday, MSU got a goal and two assists from Lee Reimer and a 25-save effort from sophomore Will Yanakeff to post its fifth consecutive victory, a 4-2 decision. Mike Merrifield extended his goal-scoring streak to five games while the defense chipped in with a pair of goals (from Torey Krug and Tim Buttery) and four assists on the night.
In Saturday's rematch, Michigan State had its five-game winning streak snapped with a 2-1 loss to the Wildcats. It was a tight game throughout, with the Spartans having late chances at an equalizer which never found the back of the net. The goalies - MSU's Yanakeff and NMU's Justin Coreau - were the first and second stars of the game, respectively: Yanakeff made 28 stops, while Coreau's night included 20 saves in his own end. Freshman Matt Berry had the Spartan tally.
Saturday's game against NMU was marred with multiple disqualifications as a scuffle broke out at the end of the contest. Northern Michigan ended up with three players - all defensemen - getting DQ'd, which included one abuse of officials call; Torey Krug (facemasking) and Greg Wolfe (fighting) both received major penalties for those infractions and will not be available for Friday's game against the Gophers after also receiving game disqualification penalties. They will return to the lineup on Saturday.
Don Lucia's Golden Gophers have split each of their last two series to fall from the consensus No. 1 to No. 2/3 in this week's national polls. The Gophers bring the nation's top-ranked offense (better than four goals per game) and third-ranked defense into the weekend set to go along with their second-ranked power play (19/70. a remarkable 27.1%) and 12th-ranked penalty kill (55/66, 87.9%).
Reigning WCHA Player of the Week Nick Bjugstad ranks fourth in the country in points per game and second in goals per game, boasting a 13-8-21 scoring line. Eric Haula (7-13-20) and Kyle Rau (9-8-17) round out the top three, while defender Nate Schmidt is third nationally in assists per game, and owns a 1-15-16 scoring line. The Gopher roster features 19 freshmen and sophomores, which includes its top four scorers; but in net, it is senior Kent Patterson who has played every minute of every game for Minnesota, boasting a 1.71 GAA and .933 save pct.
Minnesota split last weekend in a home-and-home series with rival St. Cloud State, as each team won its home game. The Gophers outshot the Huskies 43-18 on Friday, but fell 4-3. Scoring for Minnesota was Nick Bjugstad, Tom Serratore and Kyle Rau. On Saturday, Minnesota bounced back in a big way with a dominating 5-0 win. Kent Patterson set a school record with six shutouts in a season and Bjugstad recorded his first career hat trick. Jake Hansen and Mark Alt also added goals for Minnesota as the Gophers improved to 6-1-0 at home.
The Spartans had a difficult bye week at the beginning of November, as freshman Branden Carney sustained a serious neck injury in practice on Thursday, Nov. 3. Carney has feeling, movement, and strength in all extremities, but remains under the care of neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Bill. Carney will not return to play this season, but he has been released from the hospital and visited the team in Kalamazoo prior to the Spartans' game against Western MIchigan on Nov. 12.
The Spartans had two players suffer injuries in the Robert Morris series which have had them out since: junior Dean Chelios (upper body injury) and freshman Justin Hoomaian (leg injury). Chelios' return is targeted for this weekend; Hoomaian is out likely through December.
On Oct. 25, 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.
Michigan State has re-entered the national polls this week at No. 20. It is the first time that MSU has appeared in either poll (USCHO.com or USA Hockey Magazine/USA Today) since Nov. 17, 2010.
Minnesota, which spent the previous two weeks as the No. 1 team in the nation, is now ranked second and third in the most recent polls, announced Monday.
The Spartans improved one spot in the conference standings with the split at Northern Michigan, currently sitting in a seventh-place tie with Michigan. The two teams each have 12 points; MSU has the better winning percentage (.500), as Michigan owns a 3-5-2 record in CCHA games.
Additionally, MSU still has two games in hand - nine of the CCHA's teams have played 10 conference games, while the Spartans and Bowling Green have only played eight.
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.
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).
Of those nine new coaches, Anastos is one of the three that faced 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, while Princeton's Bob Prier skated to a 2-2 tie with then-No. 3/6 Yale.
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, and is currently 3-1-0 this season.
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 two with Hockey East entry Boston College - in addition to the season opener, BC is the fourth team in the GLI, and will play Michigan in the first round. The Spartans also had a two-game set against Robert Morris at Munn, and one game against Air Force for three total games against Atlantic Hockey.
Michigan State won a season-best five games in a row, until falling 2-1 to Northern Michigan on Nov. 19. It is the longest winning streak since December/January in the 2009-10 season, when MSU swept Bowling Green, won the GLI, and then took the first of a two-game set with Lake Superior State.
This season, MSU will play 20 games against eight teams in this week's USA Today Top 15 poll. So far, MSU is 3-4-0 in games played against current Top 15 competition, and 3-2-0 against teams ranked in either poll at the time of the game.
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. Through 12 games - a third of the season - there have been 14 different combinations this fall.
MSU's most productive line through seven games is the trio of Dean Chelios, Lee Reimer, and Greg Wolfe, who had a combined 8-9-17 scoring line (-2) in those games. When Chelios got hurt in the first game of the RMU series, he was replaced on the wing by Mike Merrifield - and with Reimer and Wolfe, that line has produced 10-15-25 (+32) in the last five games.
On defense, MSU has used the same three pairings for each of the 12 games. Torey Krug and Brock Shelgren are a combined +14 with a 5-12-17 scoring line this season.
MSU has been outshot this season in eight of 12 games, and overall, MSU is -34 in total shots, an average just under three per game.
MSU outshot its opponents in just 14 of 38 games last season, including holding its opponents to 20 shots or less four times.
The MSU penalty kill was 6-of-7 against Northern Michigan last week; on the season, MSU is now 45-for-51 (.884) on the penalty kill, which is fifth in the CCHA and 11th nationally.
On the man advantage, MSU is 8-of-50 (16.0%), and ranks sixth in the league. The Spartans were a combined 0-for-7 on the power play against the Wildcats.
MSU's power play has struggled over the last five games, going 1-for-17 (.058) on the man advantage after going 7-for-33 (.212) in the first seven contests. In the first two CCHA series against Lake Superior and Ohio State, MSU was 5-for-18 (.277).
Michigan State was swept for the first time this season on the road at Lake Superior (Oct. 14-15). Since then, the Spartans have registered two weekend sweeps of their own, against Robert Morris (Oct. 28-29), and Western Michigan (Nov. 11-12).
In 2010-11, MSU recorded its first and only sweep of the season in the final regular-season weekend against Bowling Green.
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.
In its last eight contests, MSU has scored first six times; on the season, MSU is 5-2-0 when scoring first and 2-3-0 when allowing its opponent to do so.
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 12 games, there are 19 skaters who have appeared in six games or more. Of those 19 players, 18 have at least one point, and 15 have at least a goal.
This season, MSU has scored less than twice in any game just one time - its most recent game at Northern Michigan (2-1)
Last season, MSU was shut out five times and scored once in five other games. Currently, MSU is third in the CCHA, averaging 3.25 goals per game.
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.
Senior defenseman Brock Shelgren and sophomore goaltender Will Yanakeff were named the CCHA Defensive Player and Goaltender of the Week, respectively, after the Nov. 11-12 Western Michigan series.
Shelgren had a team-best eight blocked shots - including a career-best seven on Friday - in the Spartans' sweep of the Broncos. Shelgren was a +4 on the weekend and contributed three assists, including the helper on the game-winner in Saturday's contest.
Yanakeff made a career-best 38 saves in Friday's victory, and another 28 on Saturday in helping the Spartans to a two-game road sweep WMU. On the weekend, Yanakeff stopped 66 of 70 shots against (.943). The sophomore has won three straight starts.
Lee Reimer was named the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 31. Reimer had a hat trick and a five-point night in Saturday's win over Robert Morris (6-2), which came on the heels of a two-assist effort in Friday's 5-2 victory. Reimer's seven-point, +7 effort is far and away his career best for a single weekend's offensive output. Reimer and his linemates combined for nine goals and 14 assists (23 points) on the weekend, and were a +22.
MSU's 11-goal output against Robert Morris on Oct. 28-29 was a big weekend for many players.
Greg Wolfe had his first career two-goal game on Friday vs. RMU, then on Saturday had his first career four-point night, and MSU's first four-assist effort since Bryan Lerg did it in a Oct. 24, 2005 game at Cornell.
Lee Reimer's five points in the Saturday game was the first five-point effort for a Spartan since Jim Slater had five in a 7-3 win over Western Michigan on Oct. 25, 2003.
Mike Merrifield had three goals in the two games, and his four-point effort in the Saturday game was a career high. Merrifield and Reimer were the first Spartan teammates to each have at least two goals in the same game since Jan. 4, 2008 at Lake Superior State (Tim Crowder and Mike Ratchuk).
The Spartans continue to get offense from the Wolfe-Reimer-Merrifield line. The trio combined for a 2-2-4 scoring line at NMU (+7) against Western Michigan. All three had lengthy point-scoring streaks come to an end on Saturday against the Wildcats, as Matt Berry scored the lone Spartan goal.
Sophomore Lee Reimer ranks 10th nationally in points per game (1.42), and 11th in assists per game (0.92). He ranks second in the league in points, behind TJ Tynan of Notre Dame (but has played one less game). He is second in the league in overall assists to Tynan as well.
Mike Merrifield had his five-game goal-scoring streak snapped on Saturday. However, he still ranks fourth in the league in goals (7), and his .88 goals per game would rank fourth nationally; however, because he missed the first four games of the season, he has not played in the requisite 75% of his team's games to be ranked.
Mike Merrifield has had seven goals over the last six contests; it is the first time in his career that he has had goals in back-to-back games, let alone a multiple-game streak.
Reimer is third in the league in scoring (17 points), ranks second in assists (11), and ranks 10th in goals (6). while Wolfe is tied for 14th in points (12) and seventh in assists (8). Merrifield is fourth in the league in goals (7) and leads the CCHA in game-winning tallies (3). Torey Krug ranks fifth league defensemen in scoring with a 4-5-9 line.
Brent Darnell earned his first collegiate point with an assist on Torey Krug's goal against Northern Michigan on Nov. 18.
Lee Reimer's hat trick against Robert Morris on Oct. 29 was the first of the season for the Spartans, and the first since Torey Krug scored three times in a 4-3 overtime victory over Michigan at Munn last January. They are the only two active players with hat tricks.
With 12 points (4g, 8a), Greg Wolfe is the latest to eclipse his freshman year total of 11 points. Lee Reimer owns a 6-11-17 scoring line, and has already well eclipsed his freshman season total of seven points (2g, 5a).
Mike Merrifield had a 4-4-8 line last season, and career numbers of 6-6-12 in two and a half seasons on the Spartan roster. After missing the first four games with injury, he has now appeared in eight games this season, he has surpassed his career goal total (6) and currently has a 7-3-10 scoring line, better than his junior-season numbers and well on his way to bettering his career totals before the team breaks for the holiday.
Brock Shelgren has bettered his single-season career high with six assists this season. With a 1-6-7 scoring line, he has tied his junior season output, and is nearly halfway to his career total of 16 points (5g, 11a).
Junior Kevin Walrod had both scores in MSU's Oct. 21 loss to Ohio State. It was Walrod's second career two-goal game, the first coming last December against Michigan Tech.
With six career goals, Walrod has two career two-goal efforts. The first came last season against Michgian Tech in the Great Lakes Invitational. Walrod has tied his career single-season career best in goals, netting his third marker of the season against WMU on Nov. 11.
Lee Reimer has been MSU's top faceoff man, with 149 wins and 105 losses (.587).
Torey Krug and Brett Shelgren, who have been MSU's top defensive pair in all 12 games, have a combined 56 of MSU's 170 blocked shots this season, ranking first and second individually (Krug has 25, Shelgren 31). Tim Buttery has 19 blocks, and Matt Crandell 14.
Drew Palmisano's Oct. 20 shutout of Ohio State was his second straight over the Buckeyes. Alex Szczechura's second-period goal in the second game of the series 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.
Will Yanakeff's 38 saves against Western Michigan on Nov. 11 was a career-best performance for the sophomore. His previous high was 37, which came against Michigan on Jan. 7, 2011.
Yanakeff allowed just two goals each night in a split at Northern Michigan last weekend. He stopped 53 of a combined 57 shots (.930). Yanakeff has allowed just two goals in each of the last four MSU games, stopping 119 of 127 shots against in those four contests (.937).
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; he has maintained that he does not have a strict philosophy, and that the play of the goalies during the week and the previous games will determine who gets the start.
Drew Palmisano opened the season with 30 saves against the aggressive, talented Boston College offense, his 23rd game at MSU with 30+ saves. Palmisano has played five of MSU's 10 games, and owns a 2.82 GAA and .901 save percentage.
Will Yanakeff played in each of MSU's last four games. In seven games this season, he owns a 2.44 GAA and .920 save percentage.
Trevor Nill skated in his 100th career game last Friday night. He is the thrid player this season to reach the milestone: Tim Buttery played in his 100th career game against Ohio State on Oct. 20, and Brock Shelgren did it in the season opener vs. Boston College; Daultan Leveille (122 games) and Matt Crandell (120) registered their 100th last season.
Next likely to reach that plateau is Brett Perlini (97 career games entering the Minnesota series).
Senior Brett Perlini had a goal and two assists on Oct. 14, pushing him to the 50-point plateau. Junior blueliner Torey Krug surpassed the 50-point mark with a goal and an assist in the same game - he now has a 18-40-58 scoring line in just over two seasons.
Krug is the team's second-leading active career scorer - only Daultan Leveille (24-39-63) is ahead of him.
Greg Wolfe has points in seven of MSU's 10 games this season, a best for the team. Brett Perlini, Torey Krug, and Brock Shelgren all have points in five of 10 games.
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.
Olympia Entertainment in partnership with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan announced Monday that the agreement which ensures a Spartans-Wolverines game is held annually at Joe Louis Arena has been extended through the 2013-14 hockey season.
The archrivals have squared off in regular season action at JLA in at least once per year since 1990, with Michigan having earned ten victories to Michigan State's nine over that time; four of the games ended in a tie.
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, and has since been recalled, while Tim Kennedy has twice been recalled by Florida from San Antonio. Kennedy's arrival with the Panthers came days before Florida shipped David Booth to Vancouver in a trade. Most recently, Corey Tropp made his NHL debut for the Buffalo Sabres, and scored his first goal in the NHL against the Winnipeg Jets. Tropp and Kennedy were both recalled to the NHL clubs this week.
The Spartans remain at home - a novelty, after a month between their last two home series - and host Bowling Green next Friday and Saturday. Pre-holiday play concludes on Dec. 9-10, when MSU will play a home-and-home with archrival Michigan.
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