Thursday, April 24, 2008
Ever notice that news comes in clusters?
The National Hockey League today announced its final Central Scouting rankings before the June draft. Two incoming freshmen - Daultan Leveille (47) and Brett Perlini (170) are among the top North American Skaters. Leveille's stock is apparently rising rapidly after a strong season for St. Catharine's in the Golden Horseshoe League in Canada, and an ever stronger playoff run. Some projections have him as a first-rounder, as he was profiled in Ken Campbell's Hockey News column earlier this month.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I'd like to thank everyone for the emails this season about the blog - the volume of emails picked up once the season ended for sure, with all the post-season activity - particularly about our seniors and underclassmen signing. Since a lot of the emails had similar themes and questions, I thought it would be a good idea to address some of them here. (Don't worry - I'm not going to do a Sports Guy-esque mailbag feature!)
In terms of more players leaving early - some players and NHL teams move very quickly (as we saw with Bryan Lerg, Justin Abdelkader and Mike Ratchuk), while other players or organizations just don't move as fast. It seems like a lot longer, because so much happened in the days right after the season ended - but as I write this, its been less than a month since we returned from Colorado Springs. If you all remember, Drew Miller signed in May, Jim McKenzie was into the summer last year, and Ryan Miller didn't sign until August before what was going to be his senior year. In a perfect world, I think all transactions would happen in the month after the season ends!
Some of you have asked that I post what some of our players are thinking about their futures, whether they are talking with pro teams, mulling an early departure, etc. We've announced the players decisions to leave on the days that their new teams have announced it - we can't announce anything until they sign, and we've been able to get those announcements out within hours of them signing contracts, in the cases of Abdelkader and Ratchuk. The news has to be official from the pro team, meaning that they have a signed contract or have agreed to terms. While the blog allows me to editorialize a bit, I still have to adhere to the guidelines of our athletic department, and what is in the best interests of our programs - and speculating and/or making public the private thought processes of a student-athlete (in what is a very tough decision-making process, in a lot of cases) goes against that.
I think one thing we've all learned - the most recent collective bargaining agreement with NHL and its players association has vastly changed the college landscape. I don't think we've seen the end of the exodus of juniors out of the college game quite yet, either - its something that every program with good, young talent is facing. Minnesota and Niagara both had players leave mid-season! There's a lot of pressure on the teams to get their young, still-inexpensive talent locked up.
As for recruiting talk ... our blog is a production of the university, so under NCAA rules, I'm only allowed to talk about athletes who have signed national letters of intent (NLIs), and not those who have given verbal commitments. We added two more athletes for this fall during the signing period in April, and have six inked from the November early period. Soon, we'll take a look at the post-season successes of our incoming recruits.
Speaking of the post-season ... we've been treated to some great hockey in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Congrats go out to Bryan Smolinski and the Canadiens, who finally eliminated pesky Boston in a seven-game series. John-Michael Liles and the Avs advanced and will take on Justin Abdelkader's Red Wings in the second round (nope, still not used to writing that, its going to take a while) Adam Hall and the Penguins have had a bit of a hiatus after sweeping their first-round series, but prepare now for the Rangers, and the only series not featuring a Spartan is Sharks-Stars in the West. Can one of the players listed above make it three straight seasons that a Spartan raises the Stanley Cup?
Monday, April 14, 2008
Some quick hits as we get ready for tomorrow's hockey banquet ...
The Skills Challenge has been a welcome addition to the Frozen Four weekend, in my opinion - it makes the day between the semis and the final relevant for fans. The Hobey Baker ceremony kicks off "Friday at the Frozen", followed by the presentation of the Humanitarian Award, then the Skills Challenge. In Denver, they took the glass off the sideboards to make it more fan-friendly, and it let the participants mingle more with the kids in the stands. The participants handed out tons of T-shirts, pucks, and other pieces of swag - in fact, a young girl sitting about a row behind me that "Number 5 was her new favorite player" after he tossed her a t-shirt. (Vuk wore No. 5 instead of his customary No. 28 in the skills competition.)
It really seems like all the participants have a good time, too - its a time for them to interact, share some laughs, and interact with some of the local youth players. They took in the Thursday semifinals, participated in the Skills Challenge on Friday night, then do a kids clinic on Saturday morning.
Andrew Hutchinson, the captain of the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League, was named the winner of the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL's Top Defenseman.
Several Spartans from this year's team made their professional debuts over the last couple of weeks. In the last blog we covered Justin Abdelkader's debut with the Wings, and beat writer covered Abdelkader's first couple of weeks in his blog.
Michael Ratchuk appeared in three games for the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers' AHL affiliate. He put up three points and was a -2 in those three games, but dazzled the crowd with an end-to-end rush for his first professional goal. Ratchuk and the Phantoms take on Albany in the first round of the Calder Cup finals.
Bryan Lerg made his professional debut in Springfield, and finished with two assists in four games, while Chris Mueller skated in two games for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Neither squad made the playoffs - the bright spot in that, of course, is that both will be back in East Lansing for the hockey banquet on Tuesday night.
The Prince George Citizen caught up with local product and former Spartan Mike Lalonde.
TSN columnist Bob McKenzie did a short piece on incoming freshman Daultan Leveille, while the St. Cloud Times did a bit on hometown kid and future Spartan Matthew Crandell
Friday, April 4, 2008
Its been two weeks since our last blog entry (and apologies for that) ... and its amazing how much the Spartan hockey world has changed since.
In that two-week span, the Spartans had their biggest win of the season, a 3-1 victory on Colorado College's home ice before a heartbreaking 3-1 loss to Notre Dame the next night in the NCAA Regional Final. We arrived back in Lansing at about 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, and less than 12 hours later, Bryan Lerg was on his way to being a member of the Edmonton Oilers organization. On Tuesday, Jeff Lerg was on stage with four other finalists for the Sullivan Award in New York City, and 48 hours after that, Justin Abdelkader was making his NHL debut for the Detroit Red Wings. On Friday, Michael Ratchuk signed with the Flyers.
Is it safe to exhale yet?
It sounded on Thursday night like they had planned on Abdelkader playing Friday night in Grand Rapids, then returning to the Red Wings for their Sunday matinee game (12:30 p.m.) at Joe Louis Arena against Chicago (televised nationally on NBC). With so many injuries in the Red Wings lineup right now, however, the word on the street is that plans have changed and he will stay in Detroit and not head to the western side of the state on Friday night.
Check out the following post-game audio from Abdlkader's first game in Detroit:
While Abdelkader and the Wings (wow, is that going to take a little while to get used to saying!) clinched the President's Trophy on Thursday, Adam Hall and the Pengiuns clinched the Atlantic Division.
Bryan Lerg headed out to meet his new teammates this week - he took a test on campus on Thursday morning, then caught a flight out and met up with the Springfield Falcons, the AHL affiliate of the Oilers, as they prepare for their three-game weekend series. The Falcons will play on Friday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Saturday night at Binghamton, and Sunday afternoon at Worcester. Lerg won't be in the lineup on Friday, but will be a game-to-game decision over the weekend. The Falcons website offers a live audio and video stream through their website through the b2 Networks.
Since Lerg signed his professional contract, Daniel Vukovic will take his place in the NCAA Skills Challenge in Denver.
Jeff Lerg spent the opening part of the week in New York City with his family (along with Coach Comley and his wife, Diane) for the Sullivan Awards Ceremony. Jeff and the other five finalists can be seen in this photo gallery, and hopefully we'll have some more pictures and video for you soon.
Catching up on some articles that came out before the NCAA Tournament, the Saginaw News profiled senior Zak McClellan, and the Denver post noticed that with the stress of being among the trade talks behind him, blueliner John-Michael Liles has played better since the trade deadline.
Thursday, March 21, 2008
Happy first day of spring, everyone!
While the Spartans are missing out on the CCHA Championship weekend for the first time in longer than anyone cares to remember, its not time for long faces or continued disappointment around Munn Arena.
Believe me - there isn't a single person who isn't incredibly disappointed that we aren't packing up today to head to the Joe. However, in running all the numbers, I also can't find a way that MSU won't hear its name called on Sunday's selection show. Thankfully, my friend Jayson Moy over at USCHO (who, as an RPI grad, is MUCH better at math than I am) has broken down the scenarios as we head into the final weekend before the NCAA selections. He firmly believes the Spartans are in the tourney, and that as of right now, there are 10 teams that are "locks". Clarkson is in the same situation as the Spartans - and the Golden Knights also appear safe. Miami found themselves sitting home this weekend last year, and were in a more perilous situation, since I believe they sat somewhere in the 12-14 range - and not only made the tournament, but advanced to the regional final.
The selection show will air on ESPN 2 on Sunday morning at 11:30. Coach Comley has been asked to phone in to the show at about 11:45, so you can hopefully work that in around your easter-egg hunt.
So ... where do we think the Spartans will end up? I asked Jayson that yesterday, and his response was that the only team among those 10 he considers safe that has any hint at where it will play is Colorado College, because its hosting the regional in Colorado Springs, and therefore HAS to be placed there. Five teams can still claim the overall number one, so no one has any clue at this point - and granted, the key is just being IN the tournament. Spartan fans are probably hoping for Madison, as its "driveable" - a 5-6 hour jaunt. I've told several people since January that I've had a hunch that we'd end up at an eastern site - no good reason, just a hunch.
Where do the Spartans want to play? Not that anyone really gets a choice, but here's something to consider: is it an advantage to MSU to be sent east? Both Worcester and Albany are NHL sheets (200x85), while the World Arena in Colorado Springs is an Olympic sheet, and the Kohl Center is a tad quirky at 200x97, which is three feet short of official Olympic width. The debate comes out every time a regional is on Olympic ice - whether its an advantage to the home team, or more importantly, a disadvantage to teams which regularly play on an NHL sheet. The Spartans went 2-2 this year on the big ice - they swept at Alaska, then lost two at Northern.
By the way - it appears now that the Spartans have avoided a recent trend - the last two National Champions (Denver in 2005, and Wisconsin in 2006) did not make the NCAA Tournament field in the year after they won the title. Denver, of course, had won the Championship in 2004 and repeated in 2005, but has not been in the field the last two seasons. (They are a lock this year, and will likely be a #2 seed). The Badgers won the title at "home" when the Frozen Four was in Milwaukee in 2006, but missed the tournament last year and are a bubble team this year - how nerve-wracking do you think things are in Madison this week, considering they are hosting the regional at the Kohl Center?
Tonight is the CCHA Awards show at the Fox Theatre, which is always a nice event. The coaching staff and award winners will be heading down - I'll get highlights of that, and hopefully a photo gallery from the CCHA. I can't betray the "code of silence" on the major award winners, but we'll have some news later tonight for sure, and hopefully some photos.
We'll also find out the 10 Hobey finalists today at 5:30. Inside College Hockey has Jeff Lerg in their 10 selections - will the commimttee?
Enjoy the basketball game this afternoon - and your weekend !
Saturday, March 1, 2008
With all the senior night buzz yesterday, I forgot a couple of pretty important upcoming television events that Spartan fans won't want to miss.
FSN Florida made the trip to mid-Michigan recently to complete a half-hour feature on David Booth. Talking to the producer, they've made trips all over the US and Canada to complete these pieces on all of the Panthers players - it was a lot of fun listening to their stories about their travels, and they really enjoyed being able to tell the backstory on their players. They had a lot of nice things to say about David's play for the Panthers, too - he seems to be establishing himself as a favorite. Boothy's feature has six airdates - and those of you with DirecTV can watch it on channel 634.
Many of you are probably aware of FSN Detroit's CCHA All-Access program - new episodes generally air at 6:30 eastern on Fridays, with multiple airtimes over the following week. Its a nice lead-in to FSN's Friday night broadcasts, and it gives a closer look inside each of the 12 hockey programs. While the crew was in town right after the first of the year (the team was still on winter break, and preparing for the Lake Superior State series), the show will premiere at 6:30 on Friday, March 14 - that's the night that the Spartans open CCHA quarterfinal play at home, so set your TiVO! Check out FSN's broadcast schedule for alternate air times. Those of you not in the Metro Detroit area can get FSN Detroit on DirectTV channel 636.
One other note on CCHA All-Access - it seemed to follow the Spartans this season. FSN filmed at Alaska when the Spartans were there in November, and next week's show will feature Ohio State - who's show was filmed in January when MSU was in town. Also, Jeff Lerg is featured in the CCHA's Award Show commerical that airs during its college hockey programming - the footage is from him accepting his CCHA Rookie of the Year Award in 2006. What can we say? The Spartans are good television.
Speaking of Jeff Lerg, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press gave his list of the 10 players who deserve Hobey Baker consideration.
A special thanks to everyone who participated in MSU's "Shoot for a Cure" - with the silent auction items, it has raised upwards of $5,000, with every dollar going directly to "Cure Kids Cancer" at Sparrow Hospital.
One last note on Senior Night - last night's tribute was a fitting one, with the class of `08 adding their own flair. The pre-game ceremony featured the traditional lap around the ice, the seniors getting photographed with their parents, and the fitting salute from the crowd. The five guys decided to start their own tradition - after the stick salute of the crowd, the band, and the student section, the five returned to center ice to kiss the block S. Afterward, the crowd was treated to a video the seniors recorded earlier in the week - taking a page from Zak and the Macs, the seniors lip-synched "So Long, Farewell" from The Sound of Music.
Off to catch the bus to Bowling Green ...
Friday, Feb. 29, 2008
The hard part, as coach alluded to, is regrouping - you're asking the seniors to go back to the locker room, regain focus, and take the to play an important hockey game ... all in about a 10-minute turnaround.
We caught up with all the seniors this week to talk about their four-year careers. For a group that has made a career of staying loose and having fun, the interviews really showed their insightful and thoughtful sides:
We'll have more of a senior tribute - both in this space and on the main athletics page - later on, once the season is actually over. Its hard to wax poetic on a group who's careers are incomplete. Without their fourth postseason in the books, we can't paint an accurate picture. Its my hope that I have another six weeks to think about it - and that their story isn't complete until mid-April.
As we enter the final weekend of the regular season, we know that MSU is locked into the third spot in the CCHA race. There are still some questions about how the final standings will all play out - but the top four are set, and there is little room for much to happen. Michigan would have to lose twice to Ferris for Miami to claim the title, so barring a complete Wolverine meltdown, the top four would be UM-Miami-MSU-Notre Dame. There is a four-way tie for fifth place, but we know that Omaha will finish eighth (they are idle this weekend, and own no tiebreakers with teams above them). LSSU rallied with a pair of third-period goals on Thursday night to beat Northern, so the Wildcats will hope to rebound with a win - and hope that Michigan and MSU take care of business with Ferris and Bowling Green, respectively. The road teams for the first round are all decided - Alaska, Ohio State, LSSU, and Western. The Broncos of WMU are the only team that is locked into a position (12th) in that final group, but Alaska is in the unfortunate spot of not being able to do anything to help themselves, as their regular season has finished. The Nanooks will head to the lower 48 next week, but have to wait until Sunday to book tickets for their destination.
Senior Captan Bryan Lerg has been selected to participate in the NCAA Skills Challenge at the Frozen Four. Of course, we're hoping he can't participate - players participating with their teams in the Frozen have to give up their spot to one of the alternates, as Tyler Howells did last year. If he does participate, its a pretty sweet deal - Nike Bauer outfits participants from head to toe, and gives them the red-carpet treatment throughout the weekend. Lerg is one of three CCHA skaters to be selected - Michigan's Kevin Porter and Ohio State's Tommy Goebel also made the West team. At first look, one has to be a little surprised that Miami's Ryan Jones isn't on the list ...
Many of you have been supportive of the Spartans' `Shoot for a Cure' initiative - the Chuck a Puck and t-shirt sales have totalled more than $2,600, and it's anticipated that the silent auction will bring that total to more than $4,000.
One of the inspirations for the "Shoot for a Cure" initaitive is 14-year-old Brandon Gordon, who dropped the ceremonial first puck last week at the Michigan game. Brandon will be undergoing surgery next week, and the thoughts and prayers of the entire Spartan family will be with him. If you'd like to send a card or letter, you can send it to Brandon care of Angela Howard, MSU Student-Athlete Support Services, Smith Center, East Lansing, Mich. 48824.
Enjoy the bye week !
Friday, Feb. 22, 2008
We're a few hours from the drop of the puck, and while its been a busy week, its been a relatively slow news week where the Spartans are concerned. However, after getting info on season-ending injuries to Horcoff and Brind'Amour in the last few weeks, perhaps no news is good news!
We certainly got some good news this week when we found out that freshman forward Dustin Gazley's injury at Western Michigan was not one that would cause him to miss any games. Gazely will be in the lineup tonight - and for the Spartans, that's certainly a good thing. Over the course of the season, this freshman class has really come into its own and has contributed. Coach Comley mentioned in his press conference this week that if you spoke to them one-on-one, they might say that they were disappointed, perhaps, in their point production. I think many competitive athletes, when moving to the next level, experience this. Truth is, there is an adjustment period, and their growth into the college game has been a positive step for all of them. The recent emergence of Andrew Rowe into a second-liner, the play of Gazley and Corey Tropp up front all season, and Jeff Petry's strong play on the blueline puts them in prime position to help this team make another strong run in the postseason.
It's been kind of a big week for Jeff Lerg. Quite frankly, its 100% deserving, if not a bit overdue, this recent string of awards and honors. Lerg is the backbone of this team, and there isn't a player in the locker room who doesn't admit that Jeff is the heart and soul of the hockey program. On Wednesday, it was the Detroit Free Press announcing that he was the winner of Michigan's Best," as the top sports figure for 2007. Beating out notable pro athletes Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, and Justin Verlander of the Tigers, Niklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings, and Chauncey Billups of the Pistons - its pretty impressive. Lerg noted that he would have voted for Lidstrom!
Earlier today, Lerg was named one of 11 finalists for the Sullivan Award. Presented annually since 1930 by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), the Sullivan Award honors the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. Based on the qualities of leadership, character, and sportsmanship, the AAU Sullivan Award goes far beyond athletic accomplishment and honors those who have leadership skill and strong character which is evident in his/her lifestyle as a whole. Fan vote accounts for one-third of the total voting to decide a winner, so be sure to vote at the link above. While you're surfing, check out the Hobey Baker Memorial Award promotional page for a bunch of neat video links and stories written about Jeff Lerg over his career.
To prepare for this weekend's big showdown between MSU and Michigan, Neil Koepke wrote a story for the Lansing State Journalon the goaltenders in the rivalry, Jeff Lerg and Billy Sauer. Koepke tells us that when interviewing Sauer, his favorite NHL goalie is ..... Ryan Miller! A native of Walworth, NY (about 30 miles east of Rochester), Sauer's pre-college years were spent rooting on Miller in the Sabres farm system, when Miller was playing in Rochester for the AHL's Amerks. I wonder if that's listed in the Michigan media guide?
For all you Zak and the Macs fans ... at tonight's Michigan game at Munn Arena, there will indeed be a new music video. We won't divulge the new song, but will tell you that three special guests - Otis Wiley, Ross Weaver, and AJ Jimmerson of the football team - will be featured prominently. After you get back from the game, check out the new "In the Box", where a "Behind the Music"-eque expose on Zak and the Macs is bound to entertain you.
Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008
Greetings from Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo, where we're about 20 minutes from the drop of the puck. In catching up on some pre-game reading, I checked out the weekly back-and-forth between Scott Burnside and Damien Cox, ESPN's NHL writers. This week's topic was the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver - after getting past how quickly that's going to sneak up on us, I was excited to find David Booth in their discussion of possible American Olympians. Enjoy hockey day!!!
Friday, Feb. 15, 2008
Happy Hockey Day/Weekend!
The recent "Have Fun, Play Hockey" clinic at Michigan State was a blast for all involved ... as you can see, there was a great turnout, and we're not sure who had the wider smiles - the little kids, or the big kids in Spartan jerseys! Check out the CCHA's Photo Gallery, and watch for the team's greeting during FSN's "Hockey Day in Michigan" coverage. During that coverage, FSN Detroit will try to uncover "Who are the smartest fans in Michigan?' Let's just say that MSU fans will want to tune in!
As part of the 'Hockey Weekend Across America' celebration, Kelly Miller will drop the ceremonial first puck before tonight's game. On the bad news front ... Rod Brind'Amour was injured in Thursday night's Carolina game against Pittsburgh, and will miss have reconstructive knee surgery on his torn ACL. Brind'Amour will likely miss four to six months with rehab.
Ryan Miller reached a significant milestone, collecting his >a href=" http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/sabresnhl/story/273640.html">100th career National Hockey League victory The Sabres win was overshadowed by the horrific injury to Florida's Richard Zednik. Miller is the sixth Sabres goalie to reach the milestone, but more importantly, has been a big part of Buffalo's recent success - Miller is undefeated in 10 consecutive starts.
The Vancouver Sun spent Two Minutes in the Box with Mike Weaver.
Today's Kalamazoo Gazette profiles two western-Michigan Spartans - Justin Abdelkader and Andrew Rowe, who this weekend will reunite with their former linemate from Muskegon-Mona Shores, Travis Paeth - who plays for this weekend's opponent, Western Michigan.
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008
Hello once again, hockey fans - its getting to be this scribe's favorite time of the year, the stretch run of the season. This is where the teams really start to bear down on the task at hand, which is as many points as possible! The Spartans feel pretty good about their current state of affairs - three points out of first place, and with two games against one of the two teams ahead of them in the standings left on the docket. We'll know a lot more after this weekend's series between Michigan and Miami in Oxford - a Miami sweep probably secures the regular-season title for the RedHawks, but anything less probably leaves the door open. What's most important is that the team's focus is on taking care of its own business. As captain Bryan Lerg has said repeatedly, "control what you can control". With just eight games left, MSU can still do a lot to help itself. In addition to a share of a regular-season crown, (which is really the only thing missing from the resume of this senior class), CCHA Tournament seeding and the team's PairWise ranking - the tool used to select and seed the 16-team NCAA Tournament Field - hang in the balance. The Spartans know that they won't sneak up on anyone this season, so their best every night is what they're striving for.
In case you missed it, Dave Goricki of the Detroit News did a nice feature piece on junior Justin Abdelkader, and his future in the Detroit Red Wings organization. While you're on the Detroit News site, make sure you vote for MSU's National Title as the top sports story of 2007. Three other alternative choices come from the Tigers (Justin Verlander's no-hitter, Magglio Ordonez winning the batting title, and the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the roster), and the fifth is Lloyd Carr retiring as the Michigan football coach.
Jeff Lerg is getting some attention on CSTV's Hobey Tracker. A reminder to vote often on the Hobey Baker website as the first phase of ballotting is underway. Jeff and Bryan Lerg, along with Tim Kennedy, are the Spartan representatives on the ballot.
After you head to the Hobey site, you can head over to NCAASports.com and cast your vote for Spartans in the NCAA Skills Challenge. In its third year, the NCAA Skills Challenge takes place on the Friday of the Frozen Four, after the presentation of the Hobey and Humanitarian Awards. In fact, some of you may have taken it in last year when the Spartans were in St. Louis - only seniors who have exhausted their eligibility can compete, which is why no MSU players participated last season. Colton Fretter went to Milwaukee as the Spartan designee in the event's first season. If MSU doesn't make it to Denver, your vote can help send either Bryan Lerg or Daniel Vukovic to the event, which participating players have really enjoyed in the first two seasons.
Some bad news out of Edmonton, as Shawn Horcoff is out for the remainder of the season. He was selected to participate in the All-Star game, but was shelved soon after returning. Best wishes on a speedy recovery from the whole Spartan family.
We're off to Marquette for the weekend series, but you can follow all the action on Gametracker, or via a live video feed on the B2 Networks.
Friday, Feb. 1, 2008
Happy February folks! The stretch run of the season offically kicks off this weekend, with the Spartans hosting Nebraska-Omaha in a two-game set. The teams face off Friday night at 7, but play a 4 p.m. game on Saturday at Munn. Saturday's game will be televised by FSN Detroit.
We have some other gametime changes or unconventional puck-drop times for the remainder of the season - the Saturday game at Western Michigan (Feb. 16) is a 4:35 start, since its the "Hockey Day in Michigan" doubleheader. MSU's game at Joe Louis Arena against Michigan, originally scheduled for 7:35, is now a 7:05 start.
Congrats go out to Shawn Horcoff, (featured by USA Today on Jan. 31) for winning the Fastest Skater compeitition at the NHL All-Star Game Skills Competition.
Its been a big week of accolades for junior goaltender Jeff Lerg. In the last four days, Lerg has earned CCHA Goaltender of the Week honors for the fourth straight week, recieved CCHA Player of the Month kudos, then on Thursday was named the Hockey Commissioner's Association (HCA) National College Hockey Player of the Month.
On Wednesday, Lerg talked to the Big Ten Network about his accomplishments.
Neil Koepke did a nice piece on sophomore defenseman Justin Johnston in today's Lansing State Journal
I've gotten several emails, and the hockey office has fielded a bunch of phone calls, about the "Zak and the Macs" videos that play at Munn. Unfortunately, due to rights issues with the music, these aren't something that we can post on our website - the ONLY place they can be seen is in the arena. Make sure that you check them out!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
A few thoughts as we're 48 hours from the drop of the puck in Ann Arbor ... plus, its All-Star weekend in the pro leagues. Lots of former Spartan sightings around here!
This is the most-anticipated Michigan State-Michigan matchup in recent memory, and with good reason. Reigning national champions vs. the current No. 1, one of the most storied rivalries of the college game, legendary coaches behind both benches, and proud fanbases who will turn out in droves. Many players are pretty close off of the ice, but have no problem telling you that during hockey season, those friendships are put aside for this fierce rivalry. Fans are getting a tripleheader this weekend - after the hockey series, the basketball teams will face off at the Breslin Center on Sunday afternoon on CBS.
If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and take some time to read "The Empty Nest", a first-person story by Daniel Vukovic on the CCHA website - he shares the story of his brother, Matthew, who spent time in the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan. There is plenty of fear, anxiety, and pride for any family who has a loved one abroad, and Daniel's story brings it all a little closer for those of us in East Lansing. However, his story touched a reader who took the time to send in an email :
"The Empty Nest" by Daniel Vukovic was a really nice narrative, and a portrait of a family that all of Canada can be proud of. Canadians never make a lot of noise or fanfare with respect to our accomplishments individually or as a country, particularly in the military arena. But if the cause was right, we've always been there, and more often than not, we've been among the first. Reading this story gave me yet another reason to be proud of my country and what it stands for.
- Jim Stephens
Jeff Lerg was also in the spotlight this week. He did the "Tuesday at the Rink" chat, and a day later was mentioned on InsideCollegeHockey.com's Hobey Tracker.
Speaking of Jeff and the Hobey - his numbers might not be good enough at the moment to be considered among the frontrunners, but folks would have a hard time denying that he's one of the best in college hockey, and few have come up bigger in critical games than the Spartan netminder. HobeyBaker.com has opened its Vote for Hobey balloting. Fans can vote once per day, and the fan vote counts as one percent of the final voting tally that selects the winner. While you're there, check out the selection criteria. Clearly, Im biased - but it seems to me that Jeff embodies precisely what the Hobey is supposed to represent: character, scholastic achievement, sportsmanship, and contributing to the integrity of the team and display outstanding skills in all phases of the game. Get out there and vote, people! Lerg for Hobey!
Fans of Zak McClellan's "In the Box" feature, part of the MSU All-Access package, may have noticed that he's branching out and going more mainstream ... he's now headlining "Zak and the Macs", a lip-synch band that performes exclusively in the Spartan locker room. Zak and the Macs debuted their first music/highlight video in Munn Arena in November - Loverboy's "Workin for the Weekend." I have it on good authority that a new video has been shot and will be shown quite soon on the video boards at Munn. Let's just say that fans of mid-80's superpop duos will be quite pleased. Also, a new "In the Box" was filmed last weekend at Ohio State.
Enjoy the games this weekend ...
Friday, January 11, 2008
First off, congrats go out to Shawn Horcoff and Duncan Keith, who were named to the NHL Western Conference All-Star team. Horocoff is a first-time all-star, as is Keith
Florida Panther David Booth is among pros who talked about the positive experience of college hockey.
Drew Miller was sent to Portland (AHL) last week, but it may be a short visit - he recorded his first professional hat trick in a 5-3 victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Jan. 9.
Those of you who have CSTV will likely see this during Sunday's game at Notre Dame, but CSTV did a feature on Jeff Lerg
Thursday, December 27, 2007
A little news from both the college and pro ranks today ... InsideCollegeHockey.com previewed the Great Lakes Invitational
The Daily Press and Argus did a nice piece on Spartan winger Kurt Kivisto and his brother, John, who will square off in the GLI this weekend. John, a year younger than Kurt, plays for the Michigan Tech Huskies.
David Booth hopes to return from a knee bruise this weekend, after missing six games for the Panthers. Florida has grown more and more impressed with Booth's game since his graduation in 2006, and former Panther goalie John Vanbiesbrouck has some nice things to say in this article.
In taking a break from being an unofficial spokesman for Buffalo's outdoor game on Jan. 1, Ryan Miller talks about his season. At Christmas, he had the second-most victories of any goaltender in the NHL. Miller will also be wearing a new mask for the outdoor game. According to the Buffalo Sabres' Behind the Boards' blog, Miller will auction off the mask following the NHL Winter Classic. Specifics haven't been finalized yet, but proceeds will benefit Miller's Steadfast Foundation.
Monday, December 24, 2007
A couple quick hits for you on Christmas eve ...
Jim Slater is looking for his first goal of the season, even if linemate Chris Thorburn has to shoot it in off his pants. Its not for lack of trying or hustle - we're sure it will come soon. And happy birthday to Bryan Smolinski, who is profiled in the Toledo Blade.
MSUSpartans.com is debuting its new partnership with Pictopia.com Soon, you'll be able to purchase photos in any uploaded photo gallery, in addition to purchasing photos of some of your favorite Spartan Athletics moments.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
A quick note for all Spartan and Red Wings fans - Justin Abdelkader will appear on the Red Wings Pregame show on Wed. Dec. 19! Abdelkader, a second-round pick of the Red Wings in 2005, will preview the upcoming Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena. Justin will be on the FSN pregame show with John Keating at approximately 7:10 p.m., before the Wings take on the LA Kings.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Its been a while since we had a chance to get to the blog, but we'll try to make it up to you with a good sampling of news from around the world of college and pro hockey
The Spartans closed the first half of the season with a sweep of Ferris State, and Tim Crowder's four goals in the series earned him CCHA Player of the Week kudos. In the same week, Crowder's brother, Paul, earned the same honor from the WCHA. Paul is a sophomore for Alaska-Anchorage, and seemed to be snakebitten, much like his older brother. A nice coincidence that both had breakout weekends at the same time.
The biggest bit of news may be the discussions of a game next December against archrival Michigan at Ford Field. Its not uncommon for a new or nontraditional venue hosting an upcoming Frozen Four to host a "trial run" - the Ohio Hockey Classic tournament now hosted annually by Ohio State came as a result of the Buckeyes hosting the Frozen in Columbus in 2005. Already dubbed "Cold War II" by the local media, it would be unique and special event if it was able to be a college-NHL doubleheader. If it were indeed a Detroit-Toronto tilt in the NHL nightcap, there would be no one more disappointed than current senior Daniel Vukovic - he may petition the NCAA for a fith year of eligibility just to be able to share ice with his hometown heroes!
And speaking of the Cold War - MSU is getting mentioned a lot recently with the upcoming outdoor game taking place in Buffalo. Both Ryan Miller of the Sabres and Adam Hall of the Penguins have become almost the defacto spokesmen, having played in an outdoor tilt already,. The NHL held a conference call on Monday with the duo, and the pair has shared their remembrances of the 2001 game. Something tells me that Buffalo on New Year's Day will not hold the same challenge of being cold enough to sustain outdoor ice that the MSU officials faced that October week back in 2001 ...
Buffalo has become a media market with frequent, positive mentions of the Spartan program. One hefty part of the positive press is due to Ryan Miller's rise to prominence in the city. The other side of the story is the rise of local talent making their mark on college and NHL rosters - Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason spent some time in East Lansing last spring, and he left impressed with the trio of Buffalo players. He chronicled the local talent making names for themselves - the Spartan trifecta of Tim Kennedy, Chris Mueller, and Mike Ratchuk all rank among Gleason's list of Western New York's top prospects. Gleason also referenced Kennedy, a draft pick of the hometown Sabres, as a up-and-coming prospect for the organization. Buffalo GM Darcy Reiger had some nice words for the Spartan program, as well: "Michigan State is one of the top schools in the country for developing NHL players. We knew, if we left him in college, he would continue developing in one of the top hockey schools in the country."
Freshman blueliner Jeff Petry has had a solid first half for MSU, earning a spot on the point of the power play and contributing at both ends of the ice. A second-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers two summers ago, Petry stopped by Joe Louis Arena to meet some of his possible future teammates during the Oilers' trip to Hockeytown. One of those possible future teammates, of course, is former Spartan Shawn Horcoff.
Another former Spartan skater, forward David Booth, has earned an everyday role in Florida, though he was disappointed in having to sit out his first pro game in Detroit. Booth, who grew up in the area and skated for MSU until his graduation in 2006, is expected back in the Florida lineup this week.
Speaking of hometown heroes ... Brandon Warner, a member of the 2007 National Championship team, is living a childhood dream by playing for his hometown Fort Wayne Komets.
Wishing everyone a safe, enjoyable holiday season ... we hope to see you all in Detroit for the GLI. Happy Holidays!
Friday, November 2, 2007
The team, by all accounts, is enjoying its trip to Alaska. It capped a 16-hour travel adventure on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. (local time - 11 p.m.) practice. The team left Munn at 5 a.m. on Wednesday for the Detroit airport, and made two connections on its trek to Fairbanks (Minneapolis and Anchorage) - so it was probably nice to get the legs moving a little.
Unable to practice at Alaska's Carlson Center, the team had ice time at the Big Dipper - the home of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (the NAHL team boasts freshman Joey Shean as an alumnus) The Big Dipper has an outdoor sheet, where the Spartans practiced for an hour. According to radio voice Scott Moore, it was all smiles - the players were having a ball, and Coach Comley wanted to bring the sheet of ice back to East Lansing - apparently it was perfect conditions.
The team did, however, get in a practice at the Carlson Center on Thursday, and will skate there again this morning in advance of the two games this weekend. Alaska is one of two schools in the CCHA that has Olympic ice. Most collegiate programs have "NHL sheets" - 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. An Olympic sheet is 200x100 - 15 feet wider. It does change the game a tad - there is more room to move out there for sure, and while it sometimes can be a challenge for an offense, its a lot of fun to watch teams with speedy skaters take advantage of the extra room. While not regularly playing on the big sheet, the Spartans do it just enough to have it not be a huge deal. The big sheet is also up at Northern, so Coach Comley certainly has enough experience in teaching the differences and nuances of the large ice surface.
Speaking of this weekend's series, Danny Martin of the Fairbanks Daily Miner has a preview of this weekend's series, which will be the first games for the Nanooks at home this season. Neil Koepke does the same in today's Lansing State Journal.
Also, for those of you following along at home this weekend, we learned on Friday afternoon that Saturday night's game will be available on a live webstream at www.PennAtlantic.com. Its $6.95 to watch.
For those of you who can't get enough of the championship celebration, here's the banner-raising ceremony and game highlights from the Oct. 19 tilt against Colgate.
We've once again upped our content in the All-Access platform, for both subscribers and non-subscribers alike. In addition to Coach Comley's weekly press conference, the beginning of each week will feature highlight clips of the previous weekend's games as free content. Subscribers will continue to get access to the game audio and live video streaming of home games (that audio sure will come in handy this weekend while the team is in Alaska!). In addition, you'll get the always-entertaining "In the Box with Zak McClellan..
As we noted in our blog last week, there would be some west-coast articles about Drew Miller's community service initiatives while he was at Michigan State, including his formation of the Spartan Buddies program. Both the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register did stories last week, in conjunction with the NHL's "Hockey Fights Cancer" program - a joint effort of the NHL and its Players Association - celebrating its tenth season.
Friday, October 27, 2007
Two weeks without an update, and we're back at you for the second day in a row!
Neil Koepke of the Lansing State Journal produced a feature on senior captain Bryan Lerg.
Thursday, October 26, 2007
Sorry it's been a while since we last updated - its been an amazingly busy time around the hockey circles, and most of the efforts went into our recent banner-raising ceremony and first home series. That ceremony was the last hurrah for the 2007 Championship -- to a man, the coaches and players have all expressed that while one of the best experiences they've ever had, its time to turn attention to the current season and leave the revelry in the past. Its certainly a good sign that the players have this focus, because we've got a busy month of November with some challenging games on the slate. (Bryan Lerg did blog about the banner-raising ceremony on the CCHA website, though!)
For those of us who just get to sit back and enjoy the revelry of the championship season whenever we can, we will soon have the video up of the banner-raising ceremony. I'll throw in another shameless plug for our all-access platform, where you can watch and/or listen to all of our games throughout the season. Its also a way that you can keep up with our webisodes of "In the Box with Zak McClellan" - the first episode of the 2007-08 season was recorded on Wednesday, so be sure to check it out.
For those of you not fortunate enough to know Zak personally, he's someone who is a natural for this type of stuff. Very little of what we film is cut out before posting - the occasional off-color joke is edited to protect the guilty - but for the most part, what you see in the show is what was recorded. He's great off the cuff - many times, he's just working off the cuff. He has an unbelieveable presence on camera, and the fact that very little rattles him has made some of the local television outlets take notice of his talent. When all's said and done with his on-ice hockey career, there may be some suitors lining up to try to take advantage of his talents behind a microphone.
I also don't want to ruin any upcoming surprises - but Zak has some great ideas for show topics for the upcoming year. Its hard to top the dance-off in the locker room from the Frozen Four or his interviews with the Hanson brothers, Gary Thorne, and Barry Melrose. However, if you know Zak, he's certainly going to try.
A source of pride in the program is that the hockey team is perhaps the most active on campus in regards to community service initiatives. Almost the entire team is involved in either the Big Brother program or Spartan Buddies, and the entire squad recently took part in the Trick or Treat event.
Neil Koepke of the Lansing State Journal did a nice feature piece on senior defenseman Daniel Vukovic, and CSTV's Hobey Watch has Jeff Lerg in week three.
Some alumni news ... Drew Miller was featured in the LA Times after his recent callup from Portland. We'll be reading more about Drew in an upcoming Times feature, as the Anaheim Ducks will be participating in the upcoming Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
A few quick notes as we wait for tonight's exhibition game to start ...
Head coach Rick Comley will be speaking to the MSU football team at its practice on Thursday.
Some alumni news ... Drew Miller was featured in the LA Times after his recent callup from Portland. We'll be reading more about Drew in an upcoming Times feature, as the Anaheim Ducks will be participating in the upcoming Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
A few quick notes as we wait for tonight's exhibition game to start ...
Head coach Rick Comley will be speaking to the MSU football team at its practice on Thursday.
For those of you looking for high-quality copies of the NCAA title game from last spring, the NCAA has made several games in their championship archive available on DVD. A quick search of "Michigan State" and "Hockey" on the site called up 17 total videos, which also includes the 1986 NCAA title game against Harvard.
Speaking of the 1986 title team, the Huntsville Times had a piece this week on the first week of practice for Alabama Huntsville and their new head coach Danton Cole.
John Niyo's piece in the Detroit News regarding the NHL Players' Association search for a new executive director has him chatting with former Spartan Shawn Horcoff, who is on the five-member search committee charged with hiring a replacement for the dismissed Ted Saskin.
We have some unfortunate news to share as well ... Matt Schoals, the 17-year-old cousin of Ryan and Drew Miller, has passed away. Matt, who suffered from leukemia, was the inspiration for Ryan's Steadfast Foundation, and Ryan has "Matt Man" in script on the back of his helmet as a tribute to his cousin. Drew dedicated his 2006 Ilitch Humanitarian Award to Matt, and talked about him with the New England Hockey Journal when he was playing with the Portland Pirates. Our thoughts are with the entire Miller family during this difficult time.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
It was a pretty busy morning for the hockey guys. The first official practice of the year was held this morning at 8 a.m., and the team ran through some things for its Green and White scrimmage on Sunday. By 10:30, they were showered, changed, and ready to go, and the team moved over to Spartan Stadium. The players were spread out around the student entrances, handing out schedule cards as the student section filed in.
In addition to the public appearances, several Spartans were guests on the pregame football shows. Jeff Lerg received his George Alderton Male Athlete of the Year Award from Coach Comley on the field during the first quarter, then the entire team was honored at the end of the quarter on the field. The crowd was warm and welcoming as the footage of the game-winning goal was replayed on the video board. All in all, a great day!
Inside College Hockey has posted its CCHA preview
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Since the team has been back on campus this fall, its been somewhat of another celebration all over again of last spring's championship. The highlight so far - and there are more to come - was Tuesday night's ring ceremony. It was a private event where all the members of the team and hockey staff, along with other athletic department staff and others who contributed to the championship run - were presented their national championship rings.
Scott Moore, who debuts next week as the new host of the Rick Comley Radio Show, emceed the event. Each person receiving a ring was called to the front of the room, and presented their new hardware. Athletic Director Ron Mason, University president Lou Anna K. Simon, and Trustee Melanie Foster presented the rings to the team and hockey staff, while Head Coach Rick Comley presented to the rest of the group. Everyone was instructed, in no uncertain terms ... NO PEEKING! Everyone in the room opened their boxes together, and you could tell that some people were getting a little anxious with those boxes sitting in front of them for what probably seemed like an eternity.
The rings are pretty special - not only for what they represent, but in themselves are pretty fantastic works of art. The top has a green-inset block S, with "Michigan State" and "National Champions" arced over the top and bottom of the face of the ring. one side has the 2007 Frozen Four logo with three small green stones, one to represent each National Championship in school history (1966, 1986, and 2007). The opposite side has the owner's name, and casted in metal is a "picture" of Justin Abdelkader's game-winning goal - complete with the puck in the back of the net. Inscribed inside each ring is Rick Comley's consistent message to the team during last year's title run ... "Just Play Our Game".
It was fun to watch the players during the event. The small smiles of pride as they watched a replay of the title game, watching them fidget as they waited out the complete group to be called to the front, and seeing their faces as they opened their boxes. A special thanks has to go to Senior Associate Director of Athletics Shelley Appelbaum for pullling together the event - its not a night that anyone will soon forget.
The team's docket is full of radio interviews and public appearances over the next three days - Bryan Lerg and Tim Kennedy will appear as special guests tonight on the Mark Dantonio Radio Show at Reno's to kick off the first weekend of hockey. On Saturday, listen for Rick Comley and Bryan and Jeff Lerg on the WJR Tailgate Show with Steve Courtney (approximately 10:30 a.m.), while Chris Mueller and Dan Vukovic will be on the WJIM pregame show at 10:45. The team and Coach Comley will be on the WJR Pregame Show with Will Tieman at approximately 11:40 a.m. During the football game against Northwestern, the team will be honored on the field.
If you're free on Sunday afternoon, be sure to swing by Munn Arena for the Green and White Game - it starts at 2 p.m., with admission set at $4 for adults and $2 for students. It will offer a great preview for the upcoming season of the returning talent and the newcomers to the roster!
Friday, September 28, 2007
We're under 10 days away from the Green and White Game, (Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. -- mark your calendars!), so the traditional hockey sites are starting to gear up their coverage. Inside College Hockey is ranking the recruiting classes, and the Spartan freshmen rank sixth. In a position-by-position breakdown of the recruits, Jeff Petry is ranked the third-best blueliner in this year's freshman class. For those of you who enjoy tha national picture of college hockey, the writers are celebrating their fifth anniversary, and are looking back at their favorite moments before kicking off year six of their coverage of college hockey.
For those of you not making the trip to North Dakota, Munn Arena will be the home to this year's basketball Midnight Madness.
Here's something to make part of your pregame football ritual tomorrow: head coach Rick Comley will be on the Inside Hockey Radio Show on Saturday to talk about last year's run to the championship and to look ahead at ther 2007-08 Spartans. The Inside Hockey Radio Show is heard every Saturday from 2-4 PM on "Home Ice" XM Channel 204 and AM Team 990 in Montreal. It can also be heard online at www.team990.com and is archived at www.insidehockey.com. The show is hosted by Kevin Greenstein and James Murphy. Coach Comley will be heard on the college segment "The Campus Buzz" with NHL.com NCAA Hockey writer Bob Snow at approximately 2:40 PM EST.
We're playing a little bit of catch-up, but congrats go out to former Spartan Jim Johnson (1975-78), who was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame this past summer. Johnson scored 249 goals during his four-year (1971-74) ice hockey career at Cranbrook High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and his national record for career goals has stood the test of time for 33 years. Johnson was an all-state selection four times and a two-time high school all-American. He then played four years at Michigan State University. Johnson currently serves as the athletic director at Troy (Michigan) High School.
Last weekend, the Spartans took on the Michigan Mustangs in a wheelchair hockey game at IM West. MSU fell behind 2-0 early, but rallied for a dramatic 6-5 overtime victory. The game was a fundraiser for the Mustangs, who participate in the Wheelchair Hockey League. For information on how to donate to the Mustangs to help offset their operational costs, visit the Mustangs' website, or email Mo Gerhardt at email@example.com.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Greetings from Detroit! We're waiting for CCHA Media Day to start, and coach Comley is making the rounds through the various TV outlets that are on hand to cover the event. Everyone is certainly sounding like they are anxious to drop the puck.
Some notes on former players -- the Pittsburgh Penguins have featured Adam Hall and Mike Weaver as preseason camp has worn on. Hall is in camp on a professional tryout agreement, as is Anson Carter in Edmonton.
Some other news on the media front - Scott Moore, a familiar voice to Spartan fans as the voice of MSU Hockey on the Spartan Radio Network, will add to his duties this year, taking over as host of the Rick Comley Radio Show. The show, which originates from Reno's East Side every Wednesday from 6-7 p.m. The show can be heard on the internet a www.rickcomleyshow.com. The first show is scheduled for October 10, and will preview the MSU game at North Dakota.
We'll have some photos later this week of the wheelchair hockey game against the Michigan Mustangs that took place last Saturday (Sept. 22).
Monday, September 17, 2007
The preseason stories and predictions are starting to roll in, and it looks like the Spartans are highly-regarded in the pre-season polls. Mike Scandura wrote a special to USA Hockey previewing the CCHA race, highlighting MSU's run to the title and Notre Dame's rise to prominence. As most likely will, Scandura has MSU, the Irish, Miami, and Michigan in his preseason top four or the CCHA race. We'll learn what the coaches and CCHA media think next week, as the league holds its annual Media Day at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
For those of you not headed to South Bend this weekend and looking for something to do before the football game kicks off at 3:30, make your way over to IM West to watch members of the hockey team take on members of the Michigan Mustangs in a wheelchair hockey game. The guys really have a blast at this event, and all proceeds ($3 at the door) support the Michigan Mustangs Wheelchair Hockey team. The event is co-sponsored by the MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities and the Council for Students with Disabilities. Tickets are available at the door, and anyone seeking more information can contact Mo Gerhardt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NHL officially announced today that featuring the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game will be played on New Year's Day at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, the home of the NFL's Bills. Of course, Ryan Miller has been a big part of the announcement, thanks to having played in the Cold War in 2001 at Spartan Stadium. NHL.com also has a list of recent outdoor hockey games.
Twenty days until the Green & White game, and 26 until the North Dakota game!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
It's a great day for football!
While maybe a little bit unseasonably cool, today's football crowd seems to be enjoying it for sure. Before today's game, several of the hockey players joined together with athletes from other teams to collect money for the Make-A-Change program. An initiative started by football player John Masters, student-athletes collect change outside of Spartan Stadium to donate to cancer research. The hockey team was involved with this back in April at the Spring Game, too. Something about the sun shining off of the gold plates on the National Championship trophy has plenty stopping by the table on their way into the stadium!
In addition, Dan Sturges brought the trophy to the WJR Tailgate show this morning and talked about not only the community service initiatives,but also the start of the hockey season. The team is already back on the ice preparing for the season, with the Green & White game a mere two weeks away. This won't be the last time that the hockey team is on the Tailgate show for sure -- be sure to tune in before MSU's next home football game (Oct. 6 vs. Northwestern), as we expect to have Coach Comley and some of the players on for an extended segment. Make-A-Change Photo Gallery
Monday, September 3, 2007
Well, the summer has all but come to an end, as all the students are back on campus, the football team opened with a big victory, and all the fall sports are underway. The hockey team is already holding captain's practices, and are going through the usual beginning-of-the-year stuff -- compliance meetings, physicals, media training, photo day, etc. Its nice to have everyone back around, and everyone seems pretty eager to get back after it.
We've already got Zak McClellan, host of MSUSpartans.com's "In the Box" website spots, thinking about the new season of that feature. McClellan is a three-time Goofus Award winner, given each year to the team humorist. Is an unprecedented four-peat on the horizon?
We've already gotten the guys through picture day, where they have new head shots taken for the media guide and website. We won't name names, but there is the long-standing tradition of multiple guys sporting the same shirt & tie -- some with shirts literally right out of the package. On a serious note, the guys look like they took the off-season training program seriously, and don't plan on resting on the laurels of the national championship. They look fit and ready to hit the ice.
Rem Murray has been named one of the captains for HIFK Helsinki for the upcoming season. As we mentioned in a previous blog, training camps in Europe start well before those in the NHL, and run significantly longer than those here in North America as well. This is a tremendous honor, as it's our understanding that HIFK holds the same esteem in Finland as the Maple Leafs do in Toronto -- and a foreign player wearing a "C" is quite significant. Murray was the fourth-leading scorer for the squad last season, behind another former Spartan, Steve Guolla, who had 56 points last season. HIFK kicks off its season on Sept. 11.
InsideCollegeHockey.com has profiled sophomore Mike Ratchuk as part of it's A-Z feature this summer. Ratchuk was one of 45 of the top American players who were invited to the US World Junior Evaluation Camp that took place in early August in Lake Placid. The team, which will be announced in early December, will compete in the IIHF World Junior Tournament Dec. 26, 2007-Jan. 5, 2008, in Pardubice and Liberec, Czech Republic. USAHockey covered the evaluation camp with blogs and photo galleries on its website, while USCHO.com has photo galleries of each of the days of competition. Last year, Justin Abdelkader was a member of the US Team which captured a bronze medal.
CSTV.com's Eliot Olshansky took a look at each of the 16 teams which qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2007, and predicted whether they would be better or worse in 2007-08. National expectations for the Spartans will likely be high, with a quality crop of freshmen complementing the returning players.
The hockey team will also be honored on the field during the Oct. 6 football game against Northwestern -- mark your calendar! The annual Green & White game will take place the next afternoon at 2 p.m., and the first external competition will come on Tuesday, Oct. 9 against Windsor.
Friday, August 21, 2007
As part of the new Spartan Sports Podcasts, Dan Dugger headed to the recent Pro Camp and caught up with Bryan Smolinski, Shawn Horcoff, and Drew Miller - you can hear their take on returning to East Lansing and their time as Spartans. In addition, Assistant Coach Tom Newton talks about the pros who return to East Lansing every year to sharpen their skills.
And, to get you through the dog days of summer ... here's the call of the game-winning goal in the National Championship game against Boston College. In the words of assistant coach and color analyst Rob Woodward ... holy mackerel! (He's not the best colorman in the league for nothing, folks!)
Friday, August 17, 2007
Having the opportunity to watch some of the most recognizable names from the Spartan hockey program is really a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon. The annual Pro Camp, run by MSU Assistant Coach Tom Newton, is not only unique, but something that really makes this program stand out from the others in college hockey. The players will compete all levels of professional hockey, but for one week during the summer, they once again wear green and white.
The names are some of the most beloved by Spartan fans when they skated for MSU -- Mike York. John-Michael Liles. Ryan and Drew Miller. Bryan Smolinski. Adam Hall. Shawn Horcoff. Chad Alban. Mike Weaver. Whether a long-time MSU fan or someone with much less time in Green and White (like myself) -- if you are a fan of the game of hockey, this was just fun to watch. And while the guys were working hard to get themselves ready to head to camp, they were certainly enjoying themselves, jawing at one another and sharing some laughs. (In addition to the guys mentioned above ... here's the complete list of participants over the course of the week: Ash Goldie, Brandon Warner, Jim McKenzie, John Insana, Ethan Graham, Jared Nightingale, David Booth, Jim Slater, Tony Tuzzolino, Colton Fretter, Andrew Hutchinson, Corey Potter, Tyler Howells, Joe Markusen, Chris Bogas, and Jason Muzzatti (who split time between donning the pads and coaching).
Watching camp on Thursday, there were about 25 guys running drills. Most of the guys who will be playing in Europe - Rem Murray, Steve Guolla, Brian Adams, Brad Fast, Mike Lalonde -- are already across the pond, as the European camps start much earlier. Tuzzolino is headed back to Italy as well, but was on hand for camp this week. (He's pretty easy to spot on the ice, with all the advertising on his pants -- overseas, the teams sell advertising on the team's uniforms.)
It also gave me a chance to catch up with some of the more recent graduates -- all the guys from the 2006-07 team skating in their first pro camp. Tyler Howells will be heading to Milwaukee's (AHL) camp -- the Admirals are an affiliate of the Nashville Predators. Ethan Graham is headed to Dallas' AHL affiliate in Iowa, while Jim McKenzie, who gave up his final season of eligibility to sign with Ottawa, heads to Sens camp. Brandon Warner will head to camp with the Fort Wayne Komets, and Chris Snavely has also signed a pro contract, with the Wheeling Nailers.
CSTV.com's Eliot Olshansky has tabbed Jeff Lerg as a player to keep an eye on in the 2007-08 Hobey Baker race. The rest of college hockey has certainly caught on to what we already knew in East Lansing -- he's the real deal.
The Spartans will be playing in the US Hockey Hall of Fame Game on Saturday, Oct. 13 in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The 2007 induction class was announced this week, and the dinner will take place on Friday, Oct. 12 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Ticket information for the Hall of Fame Induction Dinner will be released next week by USA Hockey.
In other news, Craig Simpson is leaving his position as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers and joining the broadcast team on Hockey Night in Canada. The Big Ten Network, set for launch on Aug. 30, has promised that it won't ignore hockey.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Welcome to the newest addition to MSUSpartans.com's hockey coverage!
This is the place where you will find noteworthy items regarding the Michigan State hockey program, whether it's a feature story in a current player's hometown newspaper, or maybe an NHL trade or free-agent signing of a former Spartan. On other days, maybe just a fun, off-the-wall tidbit from practice or a road trip that would give you a look at the "inner workings" of the MSU Hockey program. You'll still find all the pertinent news regarding this year's team - the release of the upcoming season's schedule or when the team names its captains as feature stories on the main hockey page. However, check the blog frequently for some other newsworthy additions.
It's been a pretty busy summer for Coach Comley and the team. After winning the title last spring, the team has visited the Michigan Statehouse, meeting with Governor Granholm and also traveled to Washington, D.C. in mid-June and had its photo taken with President Bush. The day was a scorcher, and filled from dawn to dark with activity. There was also a touch of melancholy - the players realized that it would be the final time that all members of the team would likely ever be together as "one." The trip to Washington was the last activity for the 2006-07 squad that created so many memories for themselves, the University, and the community. It really was a wonderful way to end to a memorable season.
CCHA.com did a piece on Comley throwing out the first pitch at the May 24 Tigers game. Comley is a big baseball fan (at his weekly press conferences in the fall, there is inevitably a solid five minutes of Tiger talk - and the enthusiasm he has for Spring Training kicks up right about the time that the stretch run of the hockey season starts.) Truth be told, Coach is a huge sports fan across the board - he's always on top of what hot topics of the day.
The Big Ten Network will launch on August 30, and there will be some MSU hockey games on the new network for sure. Some may wonder about the possibility of Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin one day competing under the Big Ten banner, but as Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told reporters recently - and was reported in Marquette's Mining Journal - there are no plans for form a Big Ten hockey conference. So for the time being, fans can continue to enjoy MSU's rivalries within the CCHA, and the College Hockey Showcase games against Minnesota and Wisconsin will be must-see games each Thanksgiving weekend.
Some former Spartans in the NHL will be playing in new cities this summer - the most recent is the free-agent signing of Mike Weaver on August 8. Andrew Hutchinson went to the Rangers from Carolina in a July 17 trade that sent Matt Cullen back to the Hurricanes, while Mike York signed a free-agent deal with the Phoenix Coyotes. Bryan Smolinski was the first former Spartan to move after the free-agent market opened on July 2, when he signed a one-year deal in Montreal. While he's not moving to a new city, its also noteworthy to mention that Jim Slater re-signed with the Atlanta Thrashers.
Moving from former Spartans to future Spartans ... we're getting close to Welcome Week here on campus, so thoughts are quickly turning to the 2007-08 team. The Detroit News's Dave Goricki caught up with incoming freshman Jeff Petry. He has a famous father - former Detroit Tiger Dan Petry - but is in the process of becoming a star in his own right. He was honored as the USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year back in June, and will look for a regular spot in the MSU lineup this fall. And if you haven't seen it yet, the ticket office's season-ticket renewal promotional video will get you pumped for the upcoming season!.
Fans are familiar with Drew Miller, the captain of the 2005-06 Spartan team, and his capturing the Stanley Cup as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Drew brought the Cup to East Lansing on July 5; his day was chronicled on the Hockey Hall of Fame website. It was a great day all around, and very indicative of the Miller family's commitment to their community that Drew and his brother, Ryan, first brought the Cup to the pediatric ward at Sparrow Hospital. The site also chronicled Newell Brown's day with Lord Stanley's chalice in his hometown of Cornwall, Ontario. (Brown is an assistant coach for the Ducks) Wonderful to see former Spartans enjoying the fruits of their labors! (If you do a little digging, the site has similar journal entries from the summer of 2006 - when Rod Brind'Amour and Andrew Hutchinson had their turns after the Carolina victory.)
Speaking of the Millers and their commitment to the community - Ryan Miller's Steadfast Foundation held a "Catwalk for Charity" event on Aug. 8 in East Lansing. Miller, who opened up The Refinery - a clothing boutique in East Lansing earlier in the year - has proven to be a man of many talents.
Congratulations go out to Danton Cole, who was named the head coach at Alabama-Huntsville. He had spent the last year as an assistant coach on the Bowling Green staff, and in his playing career, won both a collegiate national championship (he was on the Spartans' 1986 title team) and a Stanley Cup (in 1995, with the New Jersey Devils). One of his first recruits? Wyatt Russell, the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.
And for those of you who enjoy playing the "six degrees of separation" game ... Cole replaced Doug Ross at UAH, who had been the Chargers' head coach for 25 years. Doug's brother, Tom Ross, is Michigan State's all-time leading scorer and will be inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame on Sept. 8. Tom Ross currently lives in Livonia - where he is a neighbor of current Spartans Jeff and Bryan Lerg. Tom Ross was also a collegiate teammate of John Sturges, who is the father of current junior Dan and incoming freshman A.J.
In our next installment, we'll catch up with some of the more recent MSU graduates, and also on the annual MSU Pro Camp at Munn Arena.
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