Redshirt-senior defenseman Jerad Rosburg has been an anchor on the blue line over the course of his tenure with Michigan State hockey. Now in his final season, he is helping to lead a young and talented defenseman-core that has played a big role in the team allowing just 2.29 goals-against per game, good for 16th in the nation.
Rosburg dealt with injuries before coming to MSU, and he didn’t play a single game during his freshman year as a result of it. Each year since, he has improved his game while being able to stay healthy, bringing a physical presence and lockdown style of play to the team that has become irreplaceable. Last season, he was recognized as the team’s most outstanding defensive player, finishing the year with 16 points.
“I think the strongest part of my game is my hockey sense,” Rosburg said. “Defensively, in my mind ... I can kind of see where things are coming from. I can kind of sniff out plays before they happen ... really whatever I can do to help the team is what I’m trying to do.”
This season, the Clarksville, Maryland native leads the team with 53 blocked shots, and the 227 he has collected over the course of his career ranks him fourth in program history. His partner, sophomore Dennis Cesana, has 15 points on the year, good for third in the Big Ten among defensemen. Cesana’s offensive style of play compliments that of Rosburg’s almost perfectly, giving the Spartans a top defensive pairing that can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the country.
“Our games compliment each other pretty well,” Rosburg said. “He’s an intelligent player. I think whenever I have the puck, I have the feel and sense where he’s going to be. I think it’s the same with him, we’re always pretty good supporting each other. He’s probably a little more offensive, so I think it works out ... it’s a great partnership.”
While Rosburg and Cesana log a lot of ice time and are relied on heavily, the four other Spartan defensemen that play on a regular basis have made significant strides this season as well. Coach Danton Cole has shuffled the forward lines around at various points this season, but has kept the three defensive pairings intact for the most part. The Krygier twins, sophomores Cole and Christian, make up the second pairing while senior Butrus Ghafari and junior Tommy Miller combine for the third.
“I think our (defensemen) core is really good this year,” Rosburg said. “I think (the Krygiers) have really stepped into their own this year. They’re big guys, they’re physical, they’re tough, they skate really well ... you don’t see that many guys their size that can move like they can ... the sky's the limit for them.”
“(Miller) is a real great defensive mind,” Rosburg said. “Same with (Ghafari). They are really responsible and are smart players. They can really block shots and help out in the (defensive) zone ... no matter who is on the ice, we’re comfortable with it. We’re happy with where the d-core is at. Also with our goaltending, (John Lethemon) has been playing awesome, so I think the combination of all that has been good for us this year.”
Rosburg comes from an athletic family with connections in all types of sports. His sister, Megan, played volleyball at American University while also winning the Gatorade Volleyball Player of the year in high school. Jerry, his father, just recently retired from coaching after spending 11 years with the Baltimore Ravens as the team’s assistant head coach and special teams coordinator. During the summers, Rosburg would spend time with his dad around the Ravens’ facility, befriending the players and taking part in their rigorous workout sessions.
“I’ve learned so much from training there and just being around,” Rosburg said. “I think from a young age I’ve learned how to handle myself professionally and just be a pro. I was blessed with the opportunity to be able to study from those guys from a young age, so a lot of that stuff hasn’t really been needed to be taught to me. I just kind of picked it up as I came along.”
Steve Saunders, the Ravens’ strength and conditioning coach and a good family friend of the Rosburgs, took the Spartan defenseman under his wing and trained him during the offseason. Rosburg credits Saunders for helping him in his career and keeping him in shape for the grind of a college hockey season.
“At that level it’s so competitive,” Rosburg said. “I’ve learned a lot just about details, paying attention to the smallest details because that could make or break the game. As far as training-wise, those guys are freaks of nature ... What’s awesome is that they embrace having me there. They invite me in and I feel like a part of the group, so it’s awesome training there.”
Now, with just 10 games remaining in the regular season, Rosburg will be called upon to put everything he has worked for into action on the ice, hoping to help navigate his team into the NCAA tournament, somewhere the Spartans haven’t been since 2012.