Mixed defensive performance reflected in series split against Michigan Tech
During the week’s practice leading up to the MSU hockey team’s matchup against the Michigan Tech Huskies, the team was without one key defenseman — redshirt-freshman Jerad Rosburg.
With the change in personnel, two key defensemen — sophomore Zach Osburn and freshman Butrus Ghafari — were pressed into action and played the bulk of the minutes. At points throughout the weekend, they were playing every other shift on the ice.
In game one against Michigan Tech, both players saw significant playing time. Osburn, a member of last year’s All-Big Ten Freshman team, chipped in two points and scored a goal while assisting on another.
Osburn said he credited a lot of his offensive production to the forwards he was playing with. In particular, the duo of freshmen Taro Hirose, Patrick Khodorenko and sophomore Mason Appleton, all of which combined for five points. Osburn said playing with them helped him with the type of game he plays.
“I see myself as kind of an offensive defenseman,” Osburn said. “When those guys are out there, I know they’re going to be making plays and something’s going to happen. Something’s going to open up and we can focus on, for the most part, playing offense that shift.”
Osburn said Ghafari, on the other hand, made his contribution with small things on the ice not seen in the box score. Osburn said Ghafari had a game-changing impact in MSU’s overtime win Friday night.
"(Ghafari) ended up having a really good night,” Osburn said. “He had a lot of ice time, he played with me for I think every shift. He got his ice time tonight, and I think that’s a big stepping stone for him, becoming a better player and developing here.”
Junior goaltender Ed Minney explained how he has to work along with the defensemen to be on the same page mid-game. As a result, Minney said he’s seen just how good the duo has been, not just defensively but on the attack as well.
“I thought (Osburn and Ghafari) played really well,” Minney said. “I thought that was one of their best games of the year, defensively and just transitioning into offense. Overall, they were moving the puck well and they were taking guys in front of the net. I thought they looked really good.”
While the duo excelled in the first game against the Huskies, it was a different story in game two. Neither scratched through with a point and defensively made detrimental mistakes. Ghafari had trouble with the puck next to the net, which resulted in freshman goalie John Lethemon left vulnerable and Michigan Tech capitalized on the opportunity with a goal.
Both Osburn and Ghafari struggled on the ice, showing some of the inexperience that comes with being an underclassman. However, head coach Tom Anastos said it’s still a learning experience for the two young blueliners.
“Those guys competed hard,” Anastos said. “I thought Osburn had a very good weekend overall. I think Ghafari continues to get better each night, too. I think he got frustrated giving up that goal, as anybody probably would, but you have to play over it and move on. Those guys will be fine, they’ll keep getting better.”
While Osburn and Ghafari received a bulk of the time on the ice, the reshuffling of the lineups led to one freshman being pushed into action — Anthony Scarsella. Scarsella wasn’t on the dress list for all of the games thus far this
Scarsella was out on the MSU power play unit whenever it had the man-advantage. Anastos said that was by design because Scarsella has a left-handed shot, like the injured
Along with the special teams
“(Scarsella’s) slowly getting his feet wet right now,” Osburn said. “He had a good night tonight when he was out there. He did his job, focused on doing the little things well. I think he accomplished that. He played good, sound defense.”
While the trio of Ghafari, Osburn and Scarsella got some of the
Holland, however, said there were things that can and must be improved on as the season goes along.
“We dressed seven defensive linemen,” Holland said. “I think (Mitch Eliot), (Damian
Overall for the weekend, it ended in a loss in game two of the series, but some of the young defensemen received necessary experience moving forward, Holland said. With the regular season now in the full swing of things, Holland explained his team will continue to get better while also creating its own identity.
“We have to look at the positives this weekend,” Holland said. “I think our game got a lot better, we started building an identity a little bit. Even though we lost tonight, 5-1, I think we still had a lot of moments and bursts in that game where we showed who we can be. I think for our young guys, they have to learn what it’s going to take to win two games in a weekend.”
The team will continue its regular season when it faces Ferris State University in a home-and-home series. Game one is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Munn Ice Arena. The second game will be in Big Rapids, Mich. on Nov. 12.