Hockey season is approaching ever closer as the annual Michigan State hockey media day took place Tuesday afternoon at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans still have a little over two weeks before they play their first game of the 2018-19 regular season.
With plenty going on during Ice hockey media day, there was quite a bit to take away from the event regarding the Spartans' upcoming season.
The freshmen already made an impact
Michigan State has quite the freshman class coming in, and plenty of have caught coach Danton Cole’s eye early on in practice.
“Just from being around in practice enough, I think the three defensemen coming in, the two Krygiers (Cole and Christian) and Dennis Cesana have done a really nice job," Cole said. "I think their hockey pedigree and the amount of ice they have in high level competition, they’ve done a really nice job.”
Both Cole and Christian Krygier were drafted in the seventh-round of the NHL draft earlier this year, but decided on attending Michigan State University after decommitting from Wisconsin. The two Novi natives are expected to be a big part of this team going forward.
Cole has also liked what he’s seen from his freshman goalkeeper, Drew Deridder.
“Drew in net has been outstanding,” Cole said. “His compete level is off the charts, he keeps getting better and better everyday. I think one thing that he brings that really helps is that compete level in practice and never giving up on pucks.”
Though he is just a freshman, Deridder may challenge junior goalkeeper John Lethemon, who started 32 games last season, for playing time.
And Cole said he can’t wait to get his freshman on the ice.
“They’ve made an impact,” Cole said. “And like I said, the sooner they all get playing every night, I think the better team we’ll be.”
Spartans have more depth behind first line
Despite having three forwards in Mitchell Lewandowski, Taro Hirose and Patrick Khodorenko named to the , the offense last season was stagnant at times, as they had the lowest scoring offense in the Big Ten. Much of that was rooted from the lack of depth behind the aforementioned trio.
However, with a solid freshman class coming in and a number of other emerging players, Cole is confident this year will be different.
“I think it will be a deeper situation,” Cole said. “If we can find a true number two line, that would be really good for us and hopefully that’s emerging.”
Cole is also confident in his new captain, junior forward Sam Saliba, to help produce on offense.
“Sam Saliba I think is going to have a good year,” Cole said. “He scored 10 goals his freshman year, was down a little last year, but I think we put him in a lot of tough situations.”
The players want a Big Ten title
After finishing at the bottom of the Big Ten regular season standings last season, the team is hungry for a trip to the top.
“Well, we want to be competing for a Big Ten championship for sure,” said Saliba.
Saliba isn’t the only one with lofty expectations for this team, senior forward Brennan Sanford wants to reach new heights in his final season on the ice with the Spartans.
“I want to put up some banners this year,” Sanford said. “We want to win the Big Ten Championship and we want to give ourselves a good shot of at least making it to the NCAA tournament.”
But even with the high expectations, Saliba thinks his teammates are willing to put in the work to help reach those heights.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Saliba said. “We just know that everyday we’ve got to come to the rink working hard and looking to get better. We’re in a tough league in the Big Ten and there’s no easy nights. There’s no easy nights period in college hockey, so we’ve just got to focus on one day at a time.”
It’s only uphill from here
“The first year was interesting,” Cole said. “A little bit like a mosquito at a nudist beach. I knew what I wanted just didn’t know where to get started.”
Cole is in his second year with the team and expects a major improvement over last year’s seventh-place finish in the Big Ten.
“The Big Ten is a heck of a conference,” Cole said. “I think everybody including ourselves got better, so it should be a lot of fun.”
With just three seniors, the Spartans won’t have much turnover going into next season. With the amount of youth on this team, Cole is quite optimistic going forward.
For his team, getting results is all about putting forth the effort to get better
“The results will take care of themselves,” Cole said. “It’s up for us to take care all the other stuff and make sure our guys are working hard enough and doing the right things. We don’t want to get outworked in games and we don’t want to get outsmarted, and that’s on the coaches and the players.”