Freshmen forward Mitchell Lewandowski and defenseman Tommy Miller are creating a new surge within the men's hockey program.
"It’s kinda crazy I didn’t jump into the year thinking with high hopes like that," Lewandowski said. "It’s good how things worked out."
Before coming to MSU, Miller started out at the USANTDP where he tallied 20 points in his first season and helped the team win a gold medal at the IIHF U18 World Championship in Slovakia with two assists. Lewandowski played for the USHL’s Chicago Steel who won the 2017 Clark Cup and produced 12 points in 13 playoff games.
Head coach Danton Cole knew he was going to have one or two freshmen playing in the top six lines. He chose Miller because of his mature character and continual improvment. With Lewandowski, he put with sophomores forwards Taro Hirose and Patrick Khodorenko for his skill.
“I asset them outstanding,” Cole said. “They have been outstanding and we needed them. Thank god they had a great start to their careers.”
According Cole, Miller played over 30 minutes of ice time when they faced Penn State on Nov. 24 and 25. This season he tallied three assists.
Miller began the season playing with senior defenseman Carson Gatt and continues still. He feels Gatt has helped him along his journey of his beginning of his college hockey career.
“It’s nice to play with him,” Miller said. “He’s played three more seasons of college hockey than I have and he took me under his wing and showed me how to do things. He makes playing hockey easy out there.”
Communication is what Miller credits as one of their strong points together. When he feels he does not understand something, Gatt guides him through the process.
Cole paired the two to help Miller learn from the veteran defenseman. For him, he feels Miller has proved that he deserves the ice time that he plays.
“When we looked at our group, we put him with Carson early on and we said, 'Hey you can learn a lot from a senior’ and they click real well,” Cole said. “Players decide ice time and he has made his plan.”
Currently, Lewandowski leads freshmen nationally in goals and points. He has scored nine goals in 16 games and produced 18 points. He is tied with Hirose in points to lead the Spartans.
Before starting his Spartan career, Lewandowski played along with his current linemate Khodorenko with the Honeybaked Hockey Club.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing with linemates on the first line here,” Lewandowski said. “I try not to think about it too much. I just keep playing my game and not get caught up in all that, but it’s been great so far.”
Cole credits him as an impactful player with the numbers he has put up this season.
On the first day of practice, he put Lewandowski with the two sophomores to see how their skills would work out and he never changed it since. He calls it a smart move.
“The first day I think anyone could have seen those three play together, the chemistry they have and how they moved, you would have been crazy not to leave them together and then things go right,” Cole said. “Sometimes being smart is just not doing anything so we kinda left them alone.”
The high-producing freshman feels to improve his game that he can focus more on getting a better stick angle and working more of a threat on his defensive skills.
On the other hand, he credits his linemates on his current success of where he is right now.
“I think just a combination of just working hard and getting stronger and playing with my linemates Patty and Taro, who have helped me a lot,” Lewandowski said. “They find me all over the ice and have played strong games together.”
For Miller, he feels that he can produce more shots. One of the things he looks to work on is turning his passes into shots.
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His main improvement he feels that has gotten better is making easy passes to Gatt along with his break outs.
“I’m really happy with the break outs that I’ve been making, you know, putting pressure on the puck, just the easy bump to Gatt or something like that,” Miller said. “I have really improved and I’m happy with that.”
Lewandowski credits his successful hockey career to his previous coaches in the pass from Honeybaked to the Chicago Steel. After playing for the Steel, he believes the team has helped him transition well into his college hockey career.
He also credits his parents who have supported him and never missed a game he has played in.
“I would just say my parents just with the support to put me through it,” Lewandowski said. “They never missed a game and all that cheeky stuff. They have always been there.”
Miller credits his coaches and family member, but especially his older sister Margot who played college hockey at North Dakota from 2008 to 2012.
He feels she and her boyfriend have taught him the things he needs to know to in college hockey to make things easier for him.
“My oldest sister Margot went through college hockey and kind of showed me the ropes and told me how to do things,” Miller said. “Makes life easier and made me more comfortable going into an uncomfortable situations.”
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