MSU hockey team captain and senior goaltender Jeff Lerg sat down with sophomore forward Corey Tropp Monday to talk about his future as a hockey player. By Tuesday, it was unclear whether that future would include MSU.
Lerg and Tropp’s chat came as a result of MSU head coach Rick Comley’s decision to suspend Tropp and freshman forward Andrew Conboy from the team for the remainder of the season following their actions in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to No. 8 Michigan at Yost Ice Arena.
Conboy has since decided to withdraw from the university, but Tropp is still weighing his options, Comley said.
If he decides to stay enrolled, Comley said he “would be willing to sit down with (Tropp) in the spring and discuss his status further.” But Comley didn’t say what would come of the meeting or if Tropp would be allowed back on the team next season.
Lerg said he and former Spartan Justin Abdelkader stepped up and tried to advise Tropp.
“(Tropp) went home to talk to his parents and try to get a feel for what’s a better situation,” Lerg said. “I think it’s good for him to take a couple days, and let it sink in and look at his options. We told him, ‘You don’t want to ruin your hockey career because of one thing and if you have to work through some tough times you are probably better off for it.’”
Tropp and Conboy’s suspension stems from their attack on U-M’s Steve Kampfer. Conboy punched and drove Kampfer to the ice. Tropp came in moments later and slashed Kampfer across the neck with his stick when he was down.
“I think the action that took place in the heat of the battle was inappropriate and something you don’t condone,” Comley said in his first comments since suspending his players.
“I don’t think the kids are bad kids. I don’t think it was premeditated, but I think they obviously made bad decisions at a critical time in the game, and I think it reflected badly on the program and a young man was injured because of it. I felt it was serious enough that it was action I had to take.”
Comley was quick to take responsibility for the actions of his players and said the incident “bothered him a lot.”
“I feel terrible of my inability to get a couple kids to the point where they would make the right decision in a tough time,” Comley said. “That’s something I have to live with now.”
The loss of Conboy and Tropp brings the Spartans (7-16-3 overall, 4-12-2-2 CCHA) roster to 18 healthy players, which is exactly the number of players that can dress every game. Comley said he will watch the hockey club team in the upcoming days to try and find anyone who can practice with the team in case a player goes down with an injury.
“It’s really hard to practice with these numbers and accomplish anything,” he said.
Lerg said it’s going to take something special in the latter portion of the season for the team to dig itself out of the last-place hole it’s in.
“Guys have to find some real character in themselves,” Lerg said.