With the intrasquad Green and White Game behind them, the MSU ice hockey team faces its first test against real opposition Tuesday.
The USA Development Team, a fertile breeding ground for MSU recruiting, will visit Munn Ice Arena at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday for an exhibition game.
Entering the season, the Spartans are ranked first in the CCHA media poll and second in the coaches poll behind Michigan.
Last season, the Wolverines won the regular-season CCHA crown while the Spartans won the CCHA playoffs, defeating Nebraska-Omaha. The Spartans season came to an end with a heart-wrenching 6-5 overtime loss to Boston College in the NCAA playoffs.
Head coach Ron Mason said the Spartans should have another good season.
We have big, strong players, we just have to know how to utilize them, Mason said. We have good team speed and the freshmen look really good.
Mason will again juggle two goaltenders this season. Senior Joe Blackburn and sophomore Ryan Miller shared time in the net last year with solid results.
Millers 1.53 goals against average and .932 save percentage broke the team records that Blackburn set a year earlier. The pair combined for a 27-11-4 record in the 1999-2000 season.
Mason will decide Tuesday which netminder will start that nights game and will play the rest of the season by ear.
Senior right winger Rustyn Dolyny is the captain of this years squad, succeeding departed CCHA Most Valuable Player Shawn Horcoff. Dolyny has 114 career points, 44 away from 30th place on the Spartans all-time scoring list.
Junior right winger Adam Hall led the CCHA in goals last year with 26 and promises to be a dangerous scoring threat again this season. He tallied a goal and an assist in the Green and White Game on Saturday night. He and senior left winger Damon Whitten will be Dolynys assistant captains.
After the exhibition season, the Spartans will travel to Anchorage, Alaska for the Johnson Nissan Classic where they will take on Alaska-Anchorage (Oct. 13) and Merrimack (Oct. 14).
The CCHA season starts Oct. 20 with a two-game home stand against Nebraska-Omaha. Other highlights on the docket include a two-game series at Munn against Yale, a team MSU has never played.
MSU will also compete in the Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena in late December, looking to win its fourth straight GLI title. Boston College, U-M and Michigan Tech will also skate at the GLI.
MSU and U-M will also play non-league games at the Joe again on Jan. 27 and Feb. 17, in addition to one game at each school.
Last year, the team notched an impressive 17-3-1 record at home, while floundering to a 6-6-2 record in away games.
Sophomore right winger Kris Koski said the next few weeks are key for the Spartans development.
Were going to get better every game. I think well really jell in the next couple of weeks, Koski said. Were just showing the younger guys what college hockey is about.
Heading into Tuesdays exhibition, Mason said hes concerned about the Spartans game-timing.
The U.S. teams game-timing will be there. Theyve played 10 games or so already, Mason said. Well get blown away in the first period if we play like this (the Green and White Game) on Tuesday.
Current Spartans Troy Ferguson, Joe Goodenow, Adam Hall, Andrew Hutchinson, Jon Insana, Jeremy Jackson and John-Michael Liles all played for the development team at some point before coming to MSU.