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MSU hockey dealing with injuries, look to youth heading into Big Ten opener

December 8, 2016
The Spartans celebrate with freshman defenseman Damian Chrcek (7), center, after scoring the second goal of the game during the first period in the exhibition game against U.S. National Team Development Program U-18 Program on Dec. 4, 2016 at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans led the first period, 2-1.
The Spartans celebrate with freshman defenseman Damian Chrcek (7), center, after scoring the second goal of the game during the first period in the exhibition game against U.S. National Team Development Program U-18 Program on Dec. 4, 2016 at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans led the first period, 2-1.

The MSU hockey team is slated to face off against No. 11 University of Minnesota to begin Big Ten conference play this upcoming weekend. After posting a winning 3-2-1 record in November, the Spartans will be hampered by injuries in their effort to repeat their winning ways in December.

Defensemen junior Carson Gatt and freshman Butrus Ghafari are both banged up and might be sidelined come game time Friday. Gatt is dealing with a lower-body injury he suffered in the team’s win against the USA Hockey National Team Development Program on Sunday, head coach Tom Anastos said.

Anastos said he anticipates Gatt might be back by their match against Northeastern University on Dec. 18. At this point, though, he said it’s too early to tell. However, Anastos said losing Gatt back on defense against a team like the Golden Gophers will hurt.

“Going into the Big Ten opener against a team like Minnesota in particular,” Anastos said. “Having (Gatt’s) experience back there would’ve been incredibly valuable.”

Anastos said Ghafari has been dealing with an upper respiratory problem, which means his status for this weekend is up in the air.

“(Ghafari) had a very limited practice (Monday),” Anastos said. “He didn’t even come to the rink on Sunday, didn’t practice Saturday. I’m not sure what his status will be. We’ll have to wait and see, but he’s kind of fighting through that. Ultimately, he’ll be fine but I don’t know if he’ll be ready this weekend or not.”

In their place, two freshmen defensemen will look to take a role after receiving some playing time against the national team over the weekend. The duo, Anthony Scarsella and Damian Chrcek, both suited up for the Spartans, assuming their respective roles and getting some time on the ice.

Both players recorded their first collegiate points during the weekend, Scarsella with an assist and Chrcek scoring a goal. Unfortunately for the two, because it was an exhibition match, it won’t go down officially. However, Scarsella said it was nice getting it out of the way and gaining the experience.

“I got an assist (in the game against the national team), so I got my first collegiate point,” Scarsella said. “I know it doesn’t count. But it was good and that’s just confidence I can keep going into the next week of practice and just something I can keep as motivation to keep moving forward.”

In the past, Scarsella slotted in for redshirt-freshman Jerad Rosburg when he was out with an injury. With a little bit extra playing time under his belt, Scarsella said he’ll be looking to use that on the ice and during a game.

“It’s good (getting playing time),” Scarsella said. “I’m just trying to get into that rhythm of playing games. The coaching staff has been great, every day they’re talking to me, telling me things to work, things to keep getting better. Everyday I’ve been progressing, and that’s all you can do.”

With the injury bug hitting the team, the rotations among the blueliners will experience a shift. In the eyes of fifth-year senior Rhett Holland, while he said the transition will be tough, the team will look at practice time to hone in on each other’s habits.

“I think we really just have to focus on practice playing with new guys, learning their tendencies, just little things,” Holland said. “But I think that’ll come in time with practice and I think that’ll be easy for us.”

The Spartans will be heading into the weekend banged up with injuries. However, Holland said the team can rely on its youthful defensemen and slot them into the lineup without any concern.

“(Scarsella and Chrcek) looked really good (against the national team),” Holland said. “Chrcek got his first goal, I think Scarsella had lots of opportunities. I think they both looked really solid. I’m not worried (about the depth).”

The Spartans are scheduled to face the Golden Gophers in a two-game weekend series. Game one is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9 and the second match will be at 8 p.m. on Dec. 10. Both games will be hosted at Munn Ice Arena and broadcast on Big Ten Network.

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