After the first half of the Big Ten 2020-2021 season schedule was released, Michigan State ice hockey Head Coach Danton Cole spoke with the media about the upcoming season.
MSU ice hockey looks ahead to season opener
Cole began by saying he was happy to finally have a schedule to look forward to and one that gives the team ten games before the holiday break.
However, the schedule does provide some challenges for the Spartans. First, six of the ten games will be played on weekdays, which differs than the team's usual schedule.
“You’re at home that means your guys are going to class all day and then coming and playing as opposed to being on the road where you are staying at a hotel, getting really good rest, maybe sleeping in a bit, getting good meals scheduled with the team,” Cole said.
Playing ten games before the New Year will be nice, but the middle of the schedule is where things get tough. The Spartans will play six games across 12 days from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 against three solid programs: Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin, respectively.
“I am not disappointed or angry or anything like that about it, but I think it is an interesting challenge. That is a quick turnaround for us,” Cole said. “Normally we would play six games in 20 or 21 days.”
In addition to speaking about the schedule, Cole announced the captains and assistant captains for this season. Senior forward Tommy Apap and senior defenseman Tommy Miller both received captain honors while junior defenseman Dennis Cesana and senior forward Mitchell Lewandowski received the assistant captain position.
With nine freshman and one transfer on this season's roster, Cole said he believes that Apap and Miller will serve as strong leaders for the team.
“If the base is there and the things you have taught them is there, young men can handle an awful lot. If you give them a good reason why, then they usually get the job done if you got the right people on the bus and I think we do,” Cole said.
Cole, who is entering his fourth year as head coach of the Spartans, believes that this year's team depth is one of the best he has had since taking over in 2017. With last year's two leading scorers, Patrick Khodorenko and Sam Saliba, graduated, consistent goal scorers for the team is a need going into this season.
This year's sophomores, Josh Nodler, Nicolas Müller and Jagger Joshua, are potential easy candidates to solve that problem.
“Whether Josh Nodler as a sophomore breaks into the type of point-producer we think he is gonna be over four years, that is certainly what we are looking for. He has to kinda jump in and take part of that,” Cole said.
Charlie Combs, a graduate transfer from Bemidji State, should serve as another weapon for the Michigan State offense. In his three years at Bemidji State, he scored 13, 11 and 12 goals respectively. His 12 goals last year would have been second on the team behind Khodorenko.
With the season opener less than two weeks away, preparation is now underway for a two-game tilt versus Arizona State. Last year, the Spartans went 1-1-0 versus the Sun Devils.
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