It was a rough weekend for the Michigan State hockey team, getting swept at the hands of No. 4 Cornell. A bright spot in the Spartan lineup, however, and a possible future star of the team, was freshman center Josh Nodler. Nodler notched his first collegiate goal during Saturday’s 6-2 loss, relieving him of some pressure as his workload increases for the green and white.
The goal, which came on a power play, came in the third period while the Spartans were down 5-0. Nodler, camping out at the top of the right circle, took a pass from junior defenseman Tommy Miller and put it past the Cornell goaltender. It was a big boost for a Spartan power play that had been struggling up until that point.
“It’s definitely a weight off my shoulder,” Nodler said. “It was nice to do it in front of the home crowd, but obviously we wanted a different result. We’ll take what we learned from this weekend and move forward.”
Head coach Danton Cole is expecting a lot from his young forward this season. With depth not being a strong suit for the team, Cole is throwing Nodler right into the fire as opposed to easing him in. Nodler centers a line in between freshman Jagger Joshua and junior Mitchell Lewandowski.
“We need production out of him,” Cole said. “He’s playing with a couple good players ... he’s on one of our power plays, he can make plays. ... Kind of like basketball, I say ‘at Christmas we need him playing like a sophomore, not a freshman.’ He’s going to continue to get ice time ... and when he’s on he makes us better.”
Nodler played for the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League (USHL) last season, putting up 17 goals and 25 assists in 54 games. In this year’s NHL draft, Nodler was selected by the Calgary Flames in the fifth round (150th overall). While it’s still taking time to adjust to his expanded role, Nodler is feeling more comfortable as the season progresses and credits his teammates for helping him along.
“(It’s) a tough adjustment, but the whole team has been really good with me in adjusting to that." Nodler said, "I think one of the things I just got to keep working on is my endurance and my speed, and being able to play at the high pace that college is. I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far.”
As Big Ten play opens up next weekend, Nodler is eager to keep things moving and help produce for the team moving forward.
“I’m super excited about it and definitely going to take every opportunity that I get and I won’t take it for granted. I think I’ve got to just keep learning from the guys and use it everyday.”