Before the season started, Michigan State Head Coach Danton Cole said he expected forward Charlie Combs to help the team offensively.
“... He’s a goal scorer and he plays hard on the edges and gives us a little something that we haven’t had in kind of a down-low type game," Cole said. "I think he is gonna help our powerplay, help us five-on-five, and really attack.”
Through the Spartan’s first four games of the season, Combs has done nothing but live up to that hype.
Combs joined Michigan State this year as a graduate transfer. The St. Louis, Missouri native spent his first three seasons playing for Bemidji State University before deciding to transfer.
Combs made an immediate impact as a Beaver scoring 13 goals as a freshman. He followed that up by scoring 11 goals his sophomore year and then 12 goals his junior year before transferring. In 108 career games he produced 60 points with 24 assists.
In Combs' first game in the green and white versus Arizona State, he recorded one assist and three shots on goal. For his assist, which was a goal scored by defenseman Christian Krygier, Combs was working right where Cole said he does - on the edges and down-low.
In the second game versus Arizona State, Combs did not get a goal or assist, but he put four shots on goal in a 2-0 MSU victory.
Although, this past weekend versus Ohio State was when Combs really broke out as an offensive weapon. He recorded seven shots in the first game and six shots in the second game to go along with two goals, both on the power play.
The Spartans top line of Combs, center Josh Nodler, and right wing A.J. Hodges was flying all weekend long and playing with confidence. Those three, along with left wing Mitchell Lewandowski and defenseman Dennis Cesana to round out the top power-play unit, all did a great job of holding the puck in the offensive zone during the man advantage.
Both power play goals by Combs on Saturday and Sunday night came from him manning the slot.
His ability to use his compact 5-foot-6 frame to wiggle free from defenders plays a part in why he is able to get off so many shots. Alex DeBrincat, a 5-foot-7 left wing for the Chicago Blackhawks is perhaps a fair NHL comparison.
Combs is currently tied for fifth in the country in shots per game at 5.00 and also tied for first in the country in power play goals at two.
The individual offensive effort by Combs through three games has played a massive role in the Spartans 2020 revamped offense. Last year's team struggled to provide a high volume of shots on goal, only having two games where they had 40 or more shots on goal.
The story has been different for this year’s squad. For three consecutive games they have eclipsed the 40 shot mark, already passing last year’s team.
Though early, this is an encouraging sign for the Spartans. If they are able to continue to get the offensive production from Combs and other players combined with starting goaltender Drew DeRidder’s solid start in net, they have the potential to make some serious noise in the Big Ten.
Michigan State will have a tough test of their capabilities this week when they host Minnesota, the No. 5 team in the country, Thursday and Friday.
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