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MSU hockey celebrates senior day, players look to final games

February 26, 2017
The Spartan seniors kiss the Spartan head after the game against Penn State on Feb. 25, 2017 at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans were defeated by the Nittany Lions, 4-1
The Spartan seniors kiss the Spartan head after the game against Penn State on Feb. 25, 2017 at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans were defeated by the Nittany Lions, 4-1 —
Photo by Sundeep Dhanjal | and Sundeep Dhanjal The State News

As the MSU hockey team was defeated 4-1 by No. 11 Penn State University Saturday, several members of the team were visibly in tears.

While the loss stung, the reality was the eight seniors on this year’s MSU team played their final home game at Munn Ice Arena. Afterwards, each senior skated around the ice to cheers of the crowd.

To wrap up the night, each senior laid down at center ice near the Spartan logo to kiss it, a tradition mirrored in other MSU sports.

Despite the defeat, once the celebration of senior day hit senior forward Joe Cox, he said he quickly forgot about the loss and focused on the bigger picture.

“It’s frustrating to end here at Munn with a loss and everything,” Cox said. “But once the game was over and we went to the senior ceremony, the game was kind of small. It was really small compared to the big picture of coming here and being with the seven other seniors and all the memories we had.”

Cox said the bonds he created throughout the years have been a crucial part of his time at MSU.

“The ceremony definitely drew up some emotions from the majority of us and that’s what it’s all about,” Cox said. “It’s all about coming here and gaining relationships with some guys and just riding out the four years, so it was fun.”

The Chelsea, Mich. native said after four years in East Lansing, he feels he had a successful career.

“I think I came here with a mission to kind of develop my game, win some games here and have fun,” he said. “I definitely did all three of those, and I would say it was definitely an accomplishment.”

Cox added his most enjoyable moments during his Spartan career lay off the ice.

“There’s different on the ice and off the ice, but I would say my favorite memories are just off the ice — going through practice and then afterwards just sticking around and being a rink rat with the guys and having fun, poking at each other and just talking,” Cox said. “Those are the most fun times for me.”

In his last game at home, senior forward Villiam Haag recorded the lone goal for the Spartans in their loss to the Nittany Lions.

Haag, who came to MSU from Sweden, said he is unsure of his future, but hopes to go back to Sweden upon graduating.

“I’m not sure yet,” Haag said. “Probably looks maybe like going back to Sweden and that’s probably what I’d like to do — continue playing and then get a little bit closer to the family.

“I would have the degree and it just makes me more comfortable. I don’t have to maybe worry about an exam the day before a game. It’s going to be just nice to play some hockey, so hopefully that happens. That’s what I want at least.”

Fifth-year senior and Canada native Rhett Holland registered an assist in Saturday’s loss.

After the game, he said the experiences and memories built during his time as a Spartan will last forever.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be like, but it’s different,” Holland said. “The experiences and all the memories that I got coming here are just remarkable and will stick with me forever.”

Freshman forward Sam Saliba said not being able to send this year’s senior class out with a win at home is motivation for next season.

“It was tough seeing that out there, definitely emotional,” Saliba said. “You love each and every one of them. They’ve been through a lot and they’ve showed — especially the freshmen — showed us the ropes coming in.”

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While the festivities were a pleasure for Saliba, he said gathering wins would be a bigger emphasis going forward for the seniors next year and beyond.

“It’s tough to see,” Saliba said. “Definitely hard not to get a win for them, but I think it’s time to start turning this place around. It’s to a point where enough’s enough and just seeing them out there, you just don’t want next year’s seniors to feel that way. So, we’ve got to start being better.”

Head coach Tom Anastos — although frustrated by his team’s performance — spoke highly of this year’s senior class after the game.

“As a general statement, that’s a really good group of people and guys that come to the rink everyday and they bring it everyday,” Anastos said. “Their effort, they have smiles on their faces, they push each other, pretty close knit bunch even in spite of the different personality makeup. And so, the group in general, was a pleasure to spend time with.”

MSU’s eight seniors — Cox, Haag, Holland, forward Thomas Ebbing, forward Chris Knudson, forward JT Stenglein, forward Connor Wood and forward Justin Selep — will have four more regular season games as a part of Big Ten play.

The Spartans will hit the road against Ohio State University then Minnesota. Afterwards, the team will look to the Big Ten Tournament, hoping to turn around a dismal season.

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