Taro Hirose becoming key part of Michigan State hockey's offense
Taro Hirose’s impact is felt every time he steps on the ice.
The Calgary, Alberta native has brought a spark to the Spartans’ offense during his three seasons on Michigan State’s ice hockey team.
The junior forward’s superb connection with his linemates was on full display in MSU’s Nov. 2 two-goal victory over Ferris State. Creating a play out of nothing, Hirose, Mitchell Lewandowski and Patrick Khodorenko recorded the first goal of the contest. Upon entering the zone, Lewandowski dropped the puck off to Khodorenko, who in turn did the same for Hirose, who then found Lewandowski again for the goal.
“That line – they create an awful lot … they’re able to create stuff out of nothing,” hockey coach Danton Cole said. “They just fill lanes and find things. We see that a lot. It happens a lot in practice. They move the puck real well.”
Serving as a left winger — complementing center Khodorenko and right winger Lewandowski on the Spartans’ most effective line — Hirose has made a name for himself as a facilitator since his freshman season.
Hirose has been exceptional for the Spartans since arriving on campus in 2016, though you might not know it by the manner in which he carries himself. Described as “quiet, but a great leader” by Cole, his mild-mannered temperament is reflected most notably in his facilitating MSU’s main scorers with assists.
Hirose was given the Outstanding Rookie Award after a freshman season in which he recorded 24 points (6 goals, 18 assists), the second-highest on the team.
He was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team as a sophomore, along with winning the Ron Mason Team MVP award and being named MSU’s Outstanding Offensive Player, after leading the team with 42 points last season.
Hirose has picked up where he left off last year, posting a team-high 19 points — which ranks third nationally — and 13 assists on the season. His tally of six goals is good for second-highest on the roster.
As former forward Mason Appleton moved on to play for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose prior to his sophomore season, Hirose took on the role of go-to playmaker for the Spartans.
“I think coming into last season, we lost Appleton there, and he was the guy that we look to win us some games by himself sometimes when he had to,” Hirose said. “That’s the role I want to step into and be ‘the guy’ for the team. I think that mindset allowed me to — along with my line-mates — push the team forward and help us do better.”
While his linemates may get more of the shine — as Khodorenko had a hat trick against Ferris State and leads the team in goals (9), and Lewandowski’s threat as a scorer often draws attention from opposing defensemen — Hirose’s quiet contributions do not go unnoticed by Cole or his teammates.
“He drives a lot for us offensively,” Cole said about Hirose. “Confidence-wise, I think guys like the way he plays. He blocks shots, and he does good things defensively. He works hard and doesn’t run a lot of guys over, but he does things the right way. And when your better players do things right that just makes it a lot easier. He’s a heck of a hockey player and a really, really good young man.”
Cole also noted how Hirose’s impact stretches beyond the scoresheet, which is evidenced by him bettering his teammates not only in games but also by presenting a challenge in practices.
“Just being able to compete and practice and things like that will help our team get a lot better,” Hirose said. “Those other two guys on my line (Khodorenko and Lewandowski) are really good players, and it helps our teammates when you can see us making plays, and maybe gives them a new perspective on things they can add to their game.”