Spartans look to bye week following comeback win against Ferris State
After adding 10 incoming freshmen to the MSU hockey team, head coach Tom Anastos announced at his weekly press conference the addition of four Spartans to next year's team.
Of the four recruits, three of them signed National Letters of Intent during the early signing period. The fourth, defenseman Ty Farmer, signed last year but opted to stay and play in the United States Hockey League, or USHL, this season following an injury, Anastos said.
Along with Farmer, MSU will pair defenseman Tommy Miller with forwards David Keefer and Mitch Lewandowski to round out the four new Spartans. Miller is currently a member of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, based out of Plymouth, Mich. The other two, Keefer and Lewandowski, play for teams in the USHL.
While MSU has added four incoming recruits, Anastos said this was just the beginning as he anticipates more student-athletes joining the program.
“We’re very excited about the players that we were able to sign to a Letter of Intent,” Anastos said. “At this point, we’ll have a fairly decent sized class once again. This is just kind of the beginning of what will ultimately be next year’s freshman class.”
The current Spartans will head into their bye week after splitting a home-and-home series against Ferris State University last time out. Anastos said the time off comes at a convenient time because of illnesses and a few injuries.
“I’d say close to half of our team is sick,” Anastos said. “(The bye week) comes at a good time where we can give them some time off.”
In the second game of the series against the Bulldogs, the Spartans mounted a comeback after being down 3-1 in the first period. The team scored three straight unanswered goals, coming out victorious, 4-3.
“I thought we took a good step (against Ferris State),” Anastos said. “Whether it was big or not remains to be seen as we look ahead. I thought on some individual performances we keep seeing guys get better.”
Looking at the freshmen on his team, Anastos said they’ve played a big role so far this season. He mentioned during the last 30 seconds of the game against the Bulldogs — while nursing a one-score lead — three freshmen were on the ice protecting it. All things considered, Anastos said he’s been impressed by his current group of freshmen and their progress.
“I’m very pleased overall with where we are (with the freshmen),” Anastos said. “I think guys are really emerging. It’s important to me that they’re gaining confidence. Each guy is going to go at his own pace, but I think those guys are progressing.”
While the youngsters on the team have garnered much of the attention, Anastos stressed the comeback against the Bulldogs was mainly because of the upperclassmen his team features.
“We had a number of upperclassmen who I thought probably had their, if not their best, games of the season," Anastos said. “That makes everyone around you a little bit better. I think that's important for us. We talk about the young guys because we have so many of them, but I think for our team to have success we have to have our upperclassmen have their best seasons.”
After a mixed performance on special teams, Anastos said both ends of the ice will continue to be a point that will be addressed in practice.
“Special teams has to be an emphasis and has to be successful,” Anastos said. “It was nice to get a couple goals over the course of the two games. I’d like to see our percentage increase, but it has been since the start of the year.”
Over the course of the weekend, the Spartans had a combined 15 power-play opportunities in the series against the Bulldogs. They were only able to skate away with two goals, however, converting at just a 2-for-15 clip. Anastos said while he wanted to see more goals scored from his team, he emphasized the chances his team has been generating are positive ones.
“We are getting good possessions (on the power play),” Anastos said. “We’re getting good scoring opportunities, we’re getting good looks at the net. I think all those things are really positive. You look at the process, you could tweak the process, but if things are progressing, ultimately you’ll get results and that’s the next step we have to take.”
MSU will be back in action following its bye week when the team faces University of North Dakota Nov. 25-26 in Grand Forks, N.D. in an away series.