When the No. 12 MSU hockey team plays at Western Michigan this weekend, it will look for continued offensive balance to continue the team’s early season success.
The Spartans (3-0-3 overall, 1-0-1 CCHA) have generated goals — 18 from 10 players — across the roster. But junior forward Brett Perlini has led the offense and looks to continue his breakout season against the Broncos (4-2-2, 0-1-1).
Perlini has a point in all but one game this year — a 1-1 tie against Alaska. The junior’s four goals are more than half of his seven-goal total last year.
Head coach Rick Comley said the early departures of last year’s leading scorers — Corey Tropp, Andrew Rowe and Jeff Petry — have left a need for a player to step up. Perlini has been that player.
“His work ethic (and) his energy have gone up,” he said. “He’s been challenged to do more of that because his skill package is really good. He’s one of those guys who can shoot and score whether it’s from five feet or 40 feet. He’s an important player for us.”
Perlini is happy with the start he and the team are having early this season.
“I came into this season with high expectations, and so far I just want to take it game by game and work hard in practice,” he said. “Once I was in the lineup, I knew what I was capable of.”
Perlini and the rest of the Spartans are treating this road trip like a late-season series, Comley said.
“We play a lot of games; you treat them all the same. And, you know how important wins are, and you can’t make them up later,” he said. “Whether you’re playing anyone in early November or late February, the degree of difficulty stays the same. We have a good start going, so you want to keep it going.”
The hostility of Western Michigan’s home ice won’t make the game an easy one for MSU, sophomore defenseman Torey Krug said.
“It’s a tough rink to play in,” he said. “It’s tough to get up for a game in a rink like that. There’s not much room behind the net, and that makes the game tough for me.”
The game will be the first on the road for the freshmen on the team.
“I’m going to talk to them (about Lawson Ice Arena),” Krug said. “But they know coming into Michigan State you play in some many hostile environments, and they know the tradition of all the other schools. When Michigan State comes into the arena, it’s a rivalry game.”
Krug said one important aspect as the season progresses is to continue growing as a team.
“We can grow as a team in the locker room, and coming together and playing these bigger-named schools (helps in) creating that bond,” he said. “That bond is important because our talent is best when we play within (Comely’s) system, and we have to realize that once we start playing out of the system we play sloppy.”
Last Friday’s late-game collapse and tie against Alabama-Huntsville was a huge bonding experience for the team and will help them the rest of the season, Krug said.
“Any time you go through something like that, you’re almost shocked,” he said. “Obviously a few guys stepped up in the locker room and had something to say, and we responded well to that. The next night (we won, and) a win is a win. Anytime you get a win, it’s big for the team. Hopefully that continues.”
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