Comley trying to keep team positive during rough stretch
When the puck isn’t bouncing your way, it’s easy to get bummed out.
And that’s exactly what is happening to the MSU hockey team as it still struggles to find a good bounce or two to lift its spirits.
MSU head coach Rick Comley is doing all he can to boost the morale of his team and focus on the not-so-evident positives coming from four straight losses.
“I think you can really beat them up if you aren’t careful,” Comley said. “If you come in too negative or you pound them with what they aren’t doing, I think you could lose them.
“Right now their biggest problem is lack of confidence. But you have to have success to have confidence — but you can’t create success.”
And the Spartans offense has been anything but successful of late. Not since the 1952-53 season have the Spartans scored a total of only three goals over a two weekend span.
Also, MSU’s offense is ranked 56 out of 58 teams in the country.
Senior forward Matt Schepke isn’t disappointed with the way the Spartans have been playing — he just thinks they haven’t been able to catch a break.
“The puck’s not hopping in the net for us right now,” Schepke said. “It’s frustrating but as long as guys can stay positive, it’s going to come through eventually … there’s no magic formula.”
Comley wants his team to find a way to score before they are too deep into the season, but he isn’t going to transform the Spartans so they think with a completely defensive mindset.
“You can’t win with one goal a game,” Comley said. “I don’t care what style you play. You could lay back and trap but it’s tough to win one to nothing. I think we have to play how we are playing.”
The MSU power plays of last weekend went a dismal 0-for-14, and Comley said success with the man-advantage might help to get the offensive ball rolling.
“We have to get shots to the net,” Comley said. “I think you can make bigger strides in that area than you can in 5-on-5 offense.”
Freshman defenseman Tim Buttery is trying to contribute to cure the offensive woes without forgetting his defensive responsibilities.
“You don’t want to try and do too much,” Buttery said. “If you try to do too much as a defenseman it can come back to haunt you or go back the other way. You’ve got to be careful and pick your spots.”
To make matters worse, three shoulder injuries are plaguing the struggling Spartans.
Senior forward Nick Sucharski is likely to be out for the rest of the season, Comley said. Sucharski dislocated his shoulder for the second time in Saturday’s game and Comley thinks he will opt to have surgery to repair the shoulder and redshirt the rest of this season.
Freshman forward Andrew Conboy also injured his shoulder Saturday night and Comley expects him to be out for “several weeks.”
The third shoulder issue on the roster is found on junior defenseman Ryan Turek, who Comley called week-to-week after he injured his shoulder at Ohio State.
The injuries to Sucharski and Conboy causes the Spartans to be weak up the center of the ice — which is a big problem in Comley’s eyes.
“How good can your team be in basketball if you don’t have a point guard?” Comley said. “In hockey, if you aren’t strong down the middle of the ice it’s really tough to be good offensively.”
Comley obviously isn’t pleased with the results of the past two weekends, but he’s not going to throw in the towel anytime soon, and he sees an opportunity to get back on the right track this weekend against Nebraska-Omaha.
“I have no doubt that we are going to get better and that we are going to be competitive and be in the thick of this thing,” Comley said. “Can we finish first? That’s a pretty lofty expectation right now. But (we want to) be home in the playoffs and I still think that’s realistic.”