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MSU hockey gaining confidence after slew of wins heading into conference play

December 6, 2016
Sophomore defenseman Zach Osburn (2) and freshman defenseman Anthony Scarsella (4) celebrate after Osburn's goal during the third 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 defeated the U.S. National Team Development Program U-18, 5-1.
Sophomore defenseman Zach Osburn (2) and freshman defenseman Anthony Scarsella (4) celebrate after Osburn's goal during the third 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 defeated the U.S. National Team Development Program U-18, 5-1.

The MSU hockey team is currently 4-6-1 overall but will head into Big Ten conference play with a momentum swing after an exhibition win over the U.S.A. Hockey National Team Development Program Sunday.

After a regular season win over Ferris State and an upset victory and draw against then-No. 5 North Dakota, the Spartans haven’t lost since Nov. 10.

“To have a comeback win on the road where it’s a tough place to play I think was a confidence boost,” head coach Tom Anastos said after the exhibition win. “And then, to go to North Dakota and have some success in a real tough place to play continued to boost our confidence.”

Sophomore forward Mason Appleton said they have built up confidence leading up to facing No. 11 Minnesota on Friday to kick off conference play.

“It’s good, especially coming into the Big Ten season,” Appleton said. “(It) starts this Friday, so we’ve got the momentum rolling now, and I think that’s definitely going to help our team and kind of jumpstart us to the Big Ten season.”

Sunday’s win over the USNTDP was only an exhibition match and won't count toward the Spartans' overall record, but Appleton said there are positive takeaways from the game.

“We’re going to take that confidence we built from that game,” Appleton said. “Obviously Minnesota is a fast, hard-working team and they’re coming off a tough loss, so they’re going to be in our building really ready to work hard, so we have to match that intensity and it’ll be a good game Friday night.”

Beginning this season, Appleton said the team wasn’t where they wanted to be when it came to performance, but said they are now hitting their stride and they will continue to get better.

“I think Coach Anastos is doing a good job of coming in Monday afternoons with our first practice and working on what we did bad in the previous weekend and making that better,” senior forward Joe Cox said. “We’ve been doing that over the past couple weeks and it’s been working.”

The 6-foot-0, 176-pound captain said he senses a change of the mood in the locker room after the recent slate of wins.

“It’s great because you see just the confidence and the experience in the (locker) room just steadily climbing,” Cox said. “Guys are getting a lot more comfortable in their roles, getting more comfortable with the puck and how the college level game is for the freshmen, and you can see them settling in and making good plays.”

As the team prepares for Minnesota, Cox added that he feels the team is in a good place.

“We never want to settle, but I think we’re in a really good place right now,” Cox said. “I think we have some good confidence with us — got some momentum going for us — and I think that’s a really good spot for us going into the Big Ten (conference play).”

MSU is scheduled to face No. 11 Minnesota in a two-game series from Dec. 9-10 at Munn Ice Arena to begin Big Ten play.

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