MSU ready to face off against future teammate in exhibition game
After stunning then-No. 5 University of North Dakota during Thanksgiving weekend, the MSU hockey team will be tested in its last exhibition game of the season. The Spartans are scheduled to face off against the USA Hockey National Team Development Program for the fifth straight year at Munn Ice Arena.
“(The national development team) will come in here and play hard,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “It’s a young team, as it always is, but very talented and very skilled. I think it will be a good test for us to prepare coming off a big weekend we just had.”
With the result of the game not mattering to either team besides bragging rights, Anastos said this would be the perfect chance to try out his ideas and players in a competitive environment.
“We will go into the game, maybe try a few things,” Anastos said. “Maybe dress potentially some additional players. I don’t know what I’m going to do in goal yet.”
On the current MSU roster, there are a few players who have been on the other side of the rink. Before their Spartan days, both freshman forward Patrick Khodorenko and junior goaltender Ed Minney suited up for the development team based out of Plymouth, Mich.
For the Spartans, it will be their second exhibition game of the season after tying the University of Toronto earlier, 2-2. While nothing is on the line between the two teams, Khodorenko said he expects the youngsters from the development team to be dialed up for the in-state matchup.
“When I was playing for the (national development team), against any college team, we tried our best every single game” Khodorenko said. “We knew going into the games they were bigger, stronger, faster, not necessarily more skilled, but they definitely hit us a lot more. So we came out with everything we had.”
The players on the ice donning the green and white come game time will undoubtedly be older than their foes. The Spartans might have the edge physically, but from a skill standpoint, they’ll be well-tested, Minney said.
“The biggest thing is you can’t overlook (the national development team),” Minney said. “They’re obviously really skilled. You see the team that I had when I was there and there are five, six guys playing pro hockey right now, so it’s pretty crazy to look at that.”
Following a successful weekend for the Spartans on the road at North Dakota, the team’s confidence is on the upswing, Minney said. But the junior also acknowledged this low-stakes game will be important in keeping the team’s morale high.
“If we come out sluggish and not playing well, it can hurt our own confidence going into the next week against Minnesota,” Minney said.
In the friendly confines of Munn, MSU will also be facing off against one of its four recruits it signed earlier this season. Defenseman Tommy Miller, a 6-foot-2 West Bloomfield, Mich. native, is scheduled to play his future team.
“(Miller) is not the kind of player that will jump out at you, you have to watch him,” Anastos said. “From a coach’s perspective, you love him because you know what you get. He plays with a lot of intelligence on the ice, he’s a very good puck mover.”
In the past when MSU has played its recruits, Anastos said he prefers to watch the game tape afterward to watch the contributions his future player had on the match. He said he figures to do the same for Miller this upcoming weekend.
The Spartans and national development team will face off at 3 p.m. on Dec. 4 at Munn. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network Plus.