After an upper body injury plagued Ryan Keller the first half of the season, the freshman forward finally is finding his stride for the MSU hockey team.
Of the Spartans (9-20-3 overall, 7-16-1-0 CCHA) 32 matchups this season, Keller has played in only 18. He took the ice for MSU’s first four games, then proceeded to sit out for 13 of the next 16.
“He’s making real good progress,” head coach Tom Anastos said.
“It’s unfortunate that he had a bit of a setback during the injuries that he dealt with early in the season, but we thought he was starting to play pretty well.”
Saturday’s 4-2 win against Northern Michigan marked Keller’s first multiple-point collegiate game.
He had two assists — one on sophomore forward Tanner Sorenson’s goal and another on senior forward Chris Forfar’s game winner — to bring his season total to three assists and one goal.
“I thought I played well this weekend,” Keller said.
“I mean, I had a little struggles with the injury earlier in the year, and coming out and getting two assists and helping produce some goals, it was obviously a huge confidence booster for myself.”
Not only was his success a confidence boost for himself, it was a boost for the whole team.
Sorenson said part of the reason MSU was successful Saturday was because players such as Keller, who usually aren’t on the forefront of production, were able to make things happen for the Spartans.
Standing at 6 feet 2 inches — the tallest forward on MSU’s roster — Keller also provides a physical presence to the Spartans offensive efforts.
Keller said after Friday’s 5-3 loss to Northern Michigan, Anastos stressed the importance of going into the “dirty areas,” something Keller thinks his size helps him do.
“I’m that guy that stands in front of the net and battles in the corners,” he said. “I try to just battle in the corners and get the puck out to the defensemen; size definitely helps that cause.”
Anastos agreed Keller is willing to use his body to go into those areas, and he said it’s one of the reasons Keller was brought to MSU.
The head coach said he expected Keller to be a “mucker and grinder,” but also noted his good hands, reach and ability to get up and down the ice.
“You wonder, ‘Oh geez, if he didn’t miss that period of time, where would his game be?’” Anastos said.
“But no sense in fretting about it. It happened, it’s behind us, and hopefully (Saturday) will help his confidence continue to build and he’ll continue to gain confidence as he has success.”