Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Pierce Charleson's postseason performance gives hint of what he can be for MSU hockey

March 16, 2021
Freshman goalie Pierce Charleson stands in a line, prior to the start of the Spartans' 2-0 victory against the Buckeyes on Jan. 24, 2021.
Freshman goalie Pierce Charleson stands in a line, prior to the start of the Spartans' 2-0 victory against the Buckeyes on Jan. 24, 2021. —
Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

The debate of who would start in the cage for Michigan State for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament was an interesting one.

There was junior Drew DeRidder who had a phenomenal first half of the season, had more experience and was named as one of three finalists for Big Ten Goaltender of the Year.

Then there was freshman Pierce Charleson who had played in just six games with two starts but was the hotter goaltender of the two options. The decision looked to be a near coinflip. Both were viable options. Many thought that DeRidder would get the nod simply because of his experience. But now in hindsight, it is pretty safe to say that Head Coach Danton Cole made the correct decision to go with Charleson on Sunday. It was not the result Michigan State wanted, a 2-1 overtime loss, but Charleson was an extremely bright spot giving the Spartans lots of optimism heading into next season.

Cole and the rest of the skaters could not have asked for a much better performance from the freshman. Charleson was locked in for the entire 69:25 of Sunday’s game making spectacular highlight-reel plays to give MSU a great chance to pull off the upset.

He had 48 stops total, but two particular saves elevated his performance from a great outing to a wonderful outing.

The first one came in the second period with the Spartans up 1-0. Charleson let up a long rebound off of a pad save. The puck then found the stick of Minnesota forward Blake McLaughlin. Sliding from left to right, Charleson barely got the top of his stick to deflect the puck away from the MSU net.

The shot also resulted in Charleson losing his stick for a decent amount of time, and with the puck still in play, he had to make a few key saves without his stick until a whistle was finally blown.

“It just kind of came off of my pad weird,” Charleson said. “I just kind of followed it out and saw where it was going right to that guy's tape, so I just tried to get as much of my body over there as I could and try and get in front of it.”

Still with the lead, he made another phenomenal stop in the third period. Charleson made the initial stop but then lost the puck. As the puck slowly trickled toward the entrance of the goal, he found the puck in the crease and just in the nick of time swiped it away to prevent the goal.

The list goes on and on of stellar saves that Charleson made on Sunday, and as that list grew so did the positive impressions of the coaches and players. It was a group decision between Cole and Assistant Coaches Joe Exter and Chris Luongo to give Charleson the nod, one they are happy with.

“Bottom line, coach Exeter, coach Luongo and I discussed it,” Cole said after the game. “He had been just consistent over the 60 minutes. So, nothing against Drew that’s just the way we saw it right now. I was kind of hoping that we would get Drew to start a game this weekend as a fresh goalie. That was it. Drew has been a horse for us. He has been unbelievable, but you make those same decisions at the backend as you do on defense and forward.”

Throughout his ice time this year, Charleson faced with a tremendous amount of shots. While a small sample size, he finishes the season with a .938 save percentage, including 95 saves in his last two starts. That save percentage ranks fourth in the country of goaltenders who have started at least three games in 2020-21.

For such a young player with lots of playing time ahead of him, Charleson’s recent performances in the regular season and now with a playoff game under his belt surely is something to build on for next season. It will be interesting to see how the ice time is split up with both netminders playing well.

Unfortunately though, now with the season over, we will not get to see any more of Charleson, or even DeRidder, until the fall. To complement the goaltenders, Michigan State will have to work on things over the summer such as scoring goals and not allowing as many shots against in order to start winning some games and maybe even go from worst to first in the Big Ten like Wisconsin did this year.

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