Playing defenseman for the Spartans are two 6-foot-3-inch, 188-pound, left-handed shooters who play a physically-demanding game and have rarely seen the ice without each other: twin brothers Cole and Christian Krygier.
“If you’re talking to one, you’re talking to both of them. That’s kind of how it is,” Head Coach Danton Cole said.
Danton Cole even admitted when watching film, he doesn’t attempt split the twins up.
“If it’s (No.) 8 or (No.) 15, I just tag it and bring them both in and they can go through it because they tend to live everything together,” Danton Cole said. “They do have that bond that twins do and it’s an interesting thing. I think it’s an advantage for them.
Sports was always ‘just in the family,’ paving the ice to collegiate hockey
For Cole and Christian growing up, playing a sport was never in question.
“It was kind of always just in our family,” Christian said.
The Krygier boys started as mini mites at their local rink in Novi, Michigan.
The twins are the youngest of five siblings. Their older brother Brock played hockey for Michigan State for three years before finishing his collegiate career at Arizona State. Their sisters, Natalie and Grace, both played collegiate soccer for Division I teams as well.
Even their father, Todd Krygier, played in the National Hockey League for three different organizations (Hartford, Washington and Anaheim) scoring 100 goals and 143 assists.
Since his NHL days, Todd has moved to the coaching side of things, working as the assistant coach for Western Michigan hockey from 2016-19 before recently moving to take on the same position for the Grand Rapids Griffins.
As for the twins, Cole, who was born five minutes before his brother Christian, said playing hockey and attending the same college was always something they saw in their path.
“We’ve just been so close growing up. I think it was kind of expected more than a process of talking about it,” Cole said.
But that didn’t always mean coming to Michigan State.
At 15, both Cole and Christan committed to play for the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The original plan to wear the red and white was all but complete until both boys requested releases from their letters of intent in 2018.
“We had a fall with Wisconsin,” Cole said. “We went our separate ways.”
In an article put out by the Wisconsin State Journal at the time, it was reported that Todd cited playing time and academic factors as an influence on the releases.
Shortly after their releases were granted, the twins announced their commitment to Michigan State. Being only 45 minutes from their home of Novi, Cole described MSU as a “hometown team” and one that the boys were excited to play for.
With their move to East Lansing quickly approaching, the boys went through another hockey milestone together — the NHL draft.
Both were selected in the 2018 NHL draft. Christian was picked 196th overall by the New York Islanders, while Cole went 201st to the Florida Panthers.
“It was pretty special,” Cole said, reflecting on the day. The elder brother, who was ranked No. 216 among North American skaters by the Central Scouting Bureau, said he actually turned the draft off during the 6th round, not expecting any big news.
“It was just passing,” Cole said. “I actually went to go shower because it was later in the day and then I got a call from one of my buddies that said I was picked ... It was kind of a cool moment.”
The brothers went their separate ways, attending training camps for their respective NHL teams before meeting again in their new college home of East Lansing at the end of that week.
From playing apart to playing together: looking ahead to this season
Last season, Danton Cole was hesitant to put the twins out together, but now, as sophomores, the defensive pair has matured and sees the ice as a duo more often.
“After playing a full year, two years ago together, and then taking last year off and then coming back this year, we really haven’t skipped a beat, so I think it’s been really good.” Christan said. “I think we are physical together and we enjoy playing together.”
Danton Cole acknowledged the boys’ growing maturity as an improvement they have made from last year as true freshmen.
“They’ve progressed really well,” Danton Cole said. “They still have their moments where you can see the youthful exuberance where they kind of get out of position, but they’ve just really grown in that. The position of defense is an interesting one because there are so many reads and if you try and force things and not let the game come to you, you can really get in trouble and that’s hard with guys with personalities like theirs.”
Christian described him and his brother as being “both big and physical” on the ice. In just their second year with the Spartans, Cole has totaled up 19 blocks with Christian just ahead at 20.
“We like to have a mean type out there,” Christian said. “I just think we are puck and wing (defense), so, shut it down and keep it calm out there so that our offense can do the work.”
Cole referenced a similar toughness when describing the pair’s playing style.
“I’d say we are going to be hard defensively,” Cole said. “Consistently throughout the games we are going to be hard to play against.We are going to make it tough on the other guys.”
Last season, Cole made some offensive moves as well, scoring his first career goal to break a 2-2 tie with Minnesota, helping the Spartans sweep the series.
“I’d say offensively we’ll get the puck going, moving our feet and then see what happens,” Cole said.
The twins have proven themselves to be impactful players on the Spartans’ roster. Christian said this year, he and his brother are looking forward to having a “solid year.”
“I think this is a big year for both of us being sophomores and having such a big role on this team and being able to play together being so young. So I think just kind of growing and having a really big year,” Christian said.