As the MSU hockey team sits at an overall record of 4-15-1 and a winless Big Ten record at 0-6, the Spartans have been looking to find answers to their dismal season.
MSU head coach Tom Anastos has constantly said throughout the season that a major flaw in this year’s team is centered around the Spartans’ special teams unit.
The Spartans are currently No. 60 in the NCAA on the penalty kill and No. 46 in on the man advantage.
Although MSU’s penalty kill play is dispiriting, the Spartans have been improving on the power play, scoring a power-play goal in six of the Spartans’ last seven games.
A major factor of the Spartans positive refinement on the power play lies upon freshman forward Taro Hirose.
“He's a key guy out there,” Anastos said during his weekly press conference Tuesday. “He’s got terrific vision. He’s got really good hands. He helps plays develop both when he has the puck on his stick and really when he even doesn't have the puck on his stick by his positioning. So he’s the kind of player we’ve been trying to get here for a while because I think he’s a real good power play type player.”
Most recently, Hirose recorded an assist on the man advantage in each of last weekend’s losses along with a goal in Saturday’s 5-3 defeat by the Nittany Lions.
“Lately, we’ve definitely been a lot better, I think, creating some chances (on the power play),” Hirose said on the team’s power play improvement. “We switched up the power play a little bit. I think we have more options down low now, so they can get there on the goal-line. … It’s coming along here, and hopefully we can step it up (to) end the season here.”
As one of MSU’s most productive freshmen this season, Hirose has logged four multi-point games, which is tied for the team lead.
The left-handed forward from Calgary, Alberta is No. 2 on the team in points with 14, and his 10 assists so far this season is tied for the lead with Mason Appleton.
“Obviously, that’s definitely a plus to be up there in points and assists, but I think (we should) definitely translate that in for a couple more wins,” Hirose said.
Last season, the forward was ranked No. 13 in the British Columbia Hockey League in points with 71 and was No. 4in the BCHL in assists after registering 56 with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The 5-foot-10 freshman led the Silverbacks in both of those categories.
Anastos said having an effective and consistent power play game will drastically benefit his team, and added that Hirose can help do just that.
“And you got to get a good 20 to 30 percent power play (efficiency) — I mean 30’s really high — but you get a power play that’s scoring one-in-four, one-in-five (goals on the power play) a night, that really helps your team,” Anastos said. “And so, (Hirose is) the kind of guy that can help deliver that over a period of time.”
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