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Spartans defense struggles in GLI performance

January 2, 2018

Junior forward Brennan Sanford (13) looks for a pass followed closely by sophomore forward Adam Winborg (18) during the game against University of Michigan on Jan. 2, 2018, at Little Caesars Arena.  The Spartans fell 6-4 to the Wolverines.
Junior forward Brennan Sanford (13) looks for a pass followed closely by sophomore forward Adam Winborg (18) during the game against University of Michigan on Jan. 2, 2018, at Little Caesars Arena. The Spartans fell 6-4 to the Wolverines. —
Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

DETROIT — After coming out of the 53rd Great Lakes Invitational winless against Michigan Tech and the University of Michigan, the Spartans begin to look at the struggles in the defensive zone. 

Head coach Danton Cole felt U-M challenged the Spartan defense Tuesday afternoon in the second day of the tournament by putting more pucks on the net and out playing them, eventually beating MSU, 6-4. 

"I give Michigan credit,” Cole said. “They played hard and kept throwing pucks at the net and we didn’t defend well enough. That’s probably the biggest thing we have to address.” 

After leading the game 2-0 in the first period, the Spartans went on give up three goals within the second period with a goal bouncing off sophomore goaltender John Lethemon’s glove and another going off junior defenseman Zach Osburn’s skate. They also allowed U-M’s Cooper Marody to score three goals, making him the second U-M player besides Tony Calderone to score three goals on them this season.

Senior defenseman Carson Gatt, who currently leads the Spartan blue line with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists), believes that him and his fellow blue liners can be more productive on their end.

“We got away from defending and three easy goals from us not really defending very hard,” Gatt said. “From a defenseman perspective, that’s not good.”

While the defense was struggling, the offense went on to score four goals in the night with two of the goals coming from the power play scored by sophomore forward Patrick Khodorenko. The offensive line of Khodorenko and forwards sophomore Taro Hirose and freshman Mitchell Lewandowski have produced around 49% of the team’s total points.

Hirose, who scored within the first few seconds of the game, feels the offensive played in their best form so far this season against U-M. 

“I think we were moving the puck pretty well and finding spaces in the offensive zone,” Hirose said. “The (defense) was moving the puck up the boards pretty well.” 

A little over halfway through the season and a handful of games left, the Spartans don’t feel that all hope is lost heading towards the end of the season to try and improve their performance.

While the team currently stands 8-11-1 overall and 2-8-1-1 in the Big Ten, Cole feels his team can bring some positives out of the tournament to help fuel the team’s momentum. 

“I get confidence out of something like this,” Cole said. “That’s what I’m going to try and get them to figure out that they do things right, then things will go right.”

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