MSU hockey looks to set season straight with home opener
The confines of Munn Ice Arena will be a welcome sight for the travel weary Spartan hockey team (1-2-1) that hasn’t played a game at Munn this season other than the exhibition game with Western Ontario on Oct. 4.
The Spartans opened the year with back-to-back road trips, heading out to Maine for the Icebreaker Tournament and then traveling to Denver the following week. In those four games the Spartans were only able to escape with one win and a tie at the Icebreaker Tournament and were swept by No. 5 Denver. However, that lone victory may be the key to the Spartans getting back on track.
The Spartans will open their homestand with two games against Lake Superior State, who they defeated 4-1 for their only win this season on Oct. 10. The Spartans open up a vital home stretch as they play eight of their next nine games at Munn Ice Arena. Certainly being back in the confines has the guys excited.
“Just the excitement of the first game is always awesome,” junior forward Mackenzie MacEachern said. “Hopefully we can get to a good start at home this year.”
The team held a 9-5-1 record while skating under the roof of Munn in 2014-15. Home ice is in no way a small advantage for the Spartans, and it is only further boosted by the presence of the raucous A-Team Student Section and core group of fans that have propelled MSU into the top 10 in attendance for past three seasons. It’s an atmosphere that draws guys to the program and gets them all riled up.
“I’m just pumped to get in front of our own crowd,” freshman forward Mason Appleton said. “I’m just really excited to play my first game here at Munn.”
Though LSSU may have been the Spartans lone victory this season, don’t expect automatic wins over the highly physical Lakers. Although the score was 4-1, the game was much closer than the score indicated, head coach Tom Anastos said. The Lakers enter the series at 1-3 on the year and are looking to turn their tides as well. The Spartans will have to churn out another gritty performance if they are to beat the Lakers for a second and third time this season.
“Lake Superior, their team is an inexperienced group, they’re playing a lot of freshmen,” Anastos said. “They’re getting better every game they play and they’re going to come in here, I think, playing with confidence.”
One thing that might be preventing the Spartans from winning, or at least playing at their full potential, is an early season visit from the injury bug.
“We have a number of guys that are out that we are monitoring day to day,” Anastos said. “We didn’t pick up coming back we actually lost some ground in terms of healthy bodies, so we’ll just keep moving forward.”
MSU lost another man to injury, this time to senior forward Matt DeBlouw, who was injured against Denver. He joins the ranks of the injured seniors as he becomes the third senior struck by injury. Senior forward Ryan Keller is out, as well as captain Michael Ferrantino. Both are considered day to day and could possibly be in the lineup for Thursday’s game. Sophomore forward Dylan Pavelek is also out. A loss of players with experience could spell trouble for the Spartans, but the group remains confident in the guys still standing.
One plus for the Spartans heading into this series has been the play of junior forward JT Stenglein, who leads the team with five points. A big body with scoring potential, Stenglein is en route for a breakout year and will need to continue his contributions if the Spartans are to take both games this week.