As captain of the MSU hockey team, Bryan Lerg pulls double duty — to put it lightly.
That “C” sewn on his jersey takes hard work.
Not only does he carry the responsibilities of any normal collegiate hockey player, but as the leader of the defending national champions, Lerg also must answer as an MSU representative to media, fans and the CCHA, among others.
Try filling the shoes of former captain Chris Lawrence, who led the Spartans to the national title, and add the school workload of the average college student. That’s a tough role to play.
“You’re the main guy,” Lerg said. “You’ve got to say the things that need to be said. I don’t think it’s affecting my play, (and) I think I’ve balanced it well. You’ll be nervous at first — that’s how I felt, anyway.”
That nervousness could have contributed to an early season scoring slump for Lerg, who has rebounded for nine goals and eight assists — making him the leading scorer — since Jan. 1.
MSU head coach Rick Comley said Lerg’s ability to grow into senior captain has only increased since the start of the season.
“He’s playing well, working hard, and the puck’s going in for him,” Comley said. “I tried to counsel him on being yourself first. He was worried more about the team than himself. He had to learn to trust other leaders on the team.
“He’s at a very good place mentally. Captain is a big role. With the media attention, the exposure (and) visibility, it’s not easy to do. It’s easier at the smaller schools, but here it’s demanding.”
Rowe, Rowe, Rowe your boat
Fast feet, advanced decision making and above average puck handling skills have worked in favor of Andrew Rowe.
From being scratched to riding the pine to moving his way up to the second line, the freshman forward has been causing a stir.
Rowe’s played in the past five straight games, tallying a goal and three assists for four points.
“I think he still has to work at consistency and staying within himself and the kind of game I want him to play,” Comley said. “He’s showing us he has the chance to be a very solid player for us. He skates so well.”
Rowe had an assist in Saturday’s game at Western Michigan and was a key contributor — playing alongside Lerg and junior forward Tim Crowder.
“I got comfortable playing with Rowe and Crowder lately,” Lerg said.
“I know (Rowe) was a little nervous at first, and he even told me that. You could tell, but he’s been fine. He’s opened up to me. I like playing with him because he brings so much speed. I think that’s good for a player like me because it keeps my feet moving. I think us three make a good match.”
Freshman forward Dustin Gazley will miss the next few weeks of games and practice after being checked hard enough to injure his knee, Comley said.
The No. 6 Spartans take on No. 1 Michigan in a two-game weekend series, and U-M’s second-leading scorer, Chad Kolarik, could miss four to five weeks of action thanks to a hamstring injury he sustained in the Lake Superior series.
“(U-M) is very good,” Comley said.
“I have a great respect for them and what they do. It’s an unfortunate injury to Kolarik — especially this time of year. I don’t think it changes much of the series, Michigan and the way they play is difficult. It’s not so much about the individual player.”