Following a series split against Michigan Technological University as the Spartans dig deeper into their schedule, more injuries have begun to pile up on MSU's roster.
Redshirt-freshman defenseman Jerad Rosburg was missed all of last week with an upper-body injury, head coach Tom Anastos said. It forced a shuffle among the blueliners, affecting the Spartans’ game against the Huskies.
In game two against Michigan Tech, sophomore forward Mason Appleton — MSU's leading scorer — also went down with an apparent upper-body injury.
Anastos addressed the issue during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. There, he announced both players were day-to-day and playing them will be a game time decision come Thursday, when MSU hosts Ferris State University.
“We still have some guys banged up,” Anastos said. “I don’t know the status of whether Appleton will play this week or whether Rosburg will play this week. We’re taking it one day at a time to see.”
In Appleton’s absence against Michigan Tech, there were a few key Spartans who stepped up. Freshmen forwards Taro Hirose and Patrick Khodorenko etched their marks later in the match. Hirose scored a goal in the first period of game two after chipping in a couple assists in the first game of the series.
“(Hirose is) a quiet kid, so he doesn’t draw much attention to himself,” Anastos said. “But he’s been very consistent so far, even as a freshman player. I expect as he gains experience and he gains confidence at this level, he’s going to be a very impactful college hockey player.”
While Khodorenko hasn’t been filling up the stats sheet compared to his two peers, the freshman forward has been making strides in his game, Anastos said.
“I see the confidence growing in Patrick’s case,” Anastos said. “He’s one of the youngest kids in all of college hockey. I think between now and the end of the season, you’re going to see huge growth in his game.”
Playing frequently with California native Khodorenko, Hirose said there were a few times in games and practices when he wasn't entirely sure how Khodorenko pulled off a move.
“He has the offensive talent, but he definitely cares about the defensive zone, too,” Hirose said. “There’s times where you’ll be skating up the ice and he’ll find you, slipping it under a guy’s stick and didn’t think it was possible to get you the puck.”
With the shift in lineups on the offensive side of things for MSU, Anastos adapted by using freshman forward Logan Lambdin to fill in Appleton’s skates.
“Logan Lambdin’s a good, fast player, plays a lot like Appleton,” Khodorenko said. “Getting to know another player that we weren’t used to playing with, I think we struggled a little bit. I think it just takes some time to get used to linemates.”
With Lambdin joining Khodorenko and Hirose on the ice, it meant the Spartans were rolling with a lineup of three freshmen. At some points during the weekend, all six players on the ice — including goaltender John Lethemon — were collegiate novices.
“During the time when we were out there, it didn’t really feel like that,” Hirose said. “Now that we look back at it, it’s like wow, to have six freshmen out there is definitely something that doesn’t usually happen. That’s definitely something a little weird, but I thought we did a good job of adjusting to the game after that.”
Anastos said he couldn’t remember a time when he played a trio of freshmen on the ice at any time since his arrival at MSU. He did recall his days as a player for the Spartans, where he said he played alongside two other freshmen on the ice.
With the status of his players in limbo, Anastos said he’ll have to start considering potential lineup changes late in the week on Thursday. He didn’t commit to specific lines until he put more thought into them.
MSU play the Ferris State Bulldogs in a home-and-home series with the in-state rival. The first game is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Munn Ice Arena. The away game will be played on Nov. 12 at Big Rapids, Mich. on the Bulldogs’ home ice.
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