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Solid play from Appleton leads MSU hockey during rough stretch

January 11, 2017
Sophomore wingman Mason Appleton (27) celebrates after scoring a goal during the second period of the 52nd Annual Great Lakes Invitational semifinal game against Western Michigan on Dec. 29, 2016 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Spartans were defeated by the Broncos, 4-1.
Sophomore wingman Mason Appleton (27) celebrates after scoring a goal during the second period of the 52nd Annual Great Lakes Invitational semifinal game against Western Michigan on Dec. 29, 2016 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Spartans were defeated by the Broncos, 4-1. —
Photo by Nic Antaya | and Nic Antaya The State News

The MSU hockey team (4-13-1, 0-4-0 Big Ten) is currently riding a seven-game losing skid after being swept this past weekend on the road against the Wisconsin Badgers.

While the team has been on a downslide this year, evidenced by its seven-game losing streak, sophomore forward Mason Appleton has been a bright spot for the struggling Spartans.

The Green Bay, Wis. native has been the Spartans’ go-to threat this season as he is currently leading MSU in goals with eight, has nine assists and 17 points.

“Obviously, winning comes first and that’s really (where) the attention should be, that’s what should have the most attention,” Appleton said. “But points-wise, I think I have done a good job of producing. … I’ve got to continue doing that and stay consistent with my play, and obviously I’ve got to be one of the best players on the ice to give our team a good chance to win the game.”

Head coach Tom Anastos agreed it is often easy to overlook extraordinary play when a team is losing, but complimented Appleton’s play this season.

“I think Mason’s game has been pretty consistent,” Anastos said. “I think his point productivity has been consistent, but I think there’s more there to give. I do think this past weekend (at Wisconsin), he was putting a little more pressure on himself and started cheating the game a little bit too, and when I say that, I’m not saying that in a derogatory manner.”

In the Spartans’ last seven games, Appleton — who was drafted in the sixth round by the Winnipeg Jets in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft prior to arriving in East Lansing — has been off the scoresheet just once and recorded five points through the last five games.

In the 18 total games the Spartans have played, Appleton has recorded a point in all but six of them. One of those such games also included when Appleton went down against Michigan Tech University with an apparent shoulder injury.

Appleton’s play has placed him among the best in the country in multiple categories. Six of Appleton’s goals have found the back of the net on the power play, which is tied for No. 6 in the nation, and his 17 total points this season is No. 10 in the Big Ten.

The 6-foot-2 forward had a career night against Michigan Tech on Nov. 4. He set career-highs in power play goals and points in the Spartans’ 3-2 win over the Huskies. In the victory, Appleton also tied his career -high in goals scored with two along with notching the game-winner in overtime.

Other notable highlights this season include registering his second game-winner of the season on Nov. 12 in the Spartans’ win over Ferris State.

MSU’s 2015-16 Outstanding Rookie produced 22 points last season, including a team-high 17 assists after appearing in all 37 games.

Appleton enters this weekend’s matchup against Penn State five points shy from his point total from last season. Appleton became the first Spartan since 2009 to pick up a point in his first three collegiate contests, recording three assists.

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