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Michigan State hockey prepares to say goodbye to its gritty senior class

February 25, 2022
Junior defensemen Dennis Cesana stands ready during the Spartans' game against the Buckeyes on Jan. 24, 2021.
Junior defensemen Dennis Cesana stands ready during the Spartans' game against the Buckeyes on Jan. 24, 2021. —
Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Michigan State hockey's season is finally drawing to a close. This weekend, the Spartans welcome Penn State for the last home series of the year. For MSU's seven seniors, Saturday night will be the last game they play at Munn Ice Arena.

These seniors have endured unusual hardships — namely, a pandemic that ended a season abruptly, and kept fans out of the rink for another. Lately, they have suffered through a 12-game losing streak, keeping the team winless in 2022.

But through all this, they persevered, growing as hockey players and as men.

“You have a certain fondness for all of them — they're all different,” Michigan State Head Coach Danton Cole said. “They all start at different spots, they all end at different spots, but when they come out with a degree from Michigan State, that's pretty special.”

Defenseman Dennis Cesana

Cesana will exit the program as the team's captain and top defenseman. He's been excellent for four years, notching an impressive 73 points so far in his career.

Cesana's future with the team did not look certain at the end of the 2020-21 season, as the signature kiss of the Spartan logo at center ice seemed to spell the end of a three-year stretch with the program. However, the defenseman decided to stick with the team.

Heading into this season, Cesana was anointed as the team captain, proving his importance to the team as a leader and as a player.

“It was a great learning experience for me this year, to have guys really leaning on me and looking to me for advice,” Cesana said. “It kind of helped me grow up.”

This year, Cesana leads the team's defenseman in points with seven goals and eight assists — and is clearly the leader of the Spartan blue line. His absence is sure to be felt next season. Finding a defenseman with Cesana's offensive skillset, defensive strength and leadership is not an easy task.

Goaltender Drew DeRidder

DeRidder has carried the torch of excellent Michigan State goaltenders. During his four year tenure at Michigan State, DeRidder's season average save percentage has not dipped below .900. Last year, he finished with an impressive .923 save percentage on a team that finished last in the standings. This season, he currently holds a .921 save percentage in 24-games played.

Throughout his time at Michigan State, DeRidder has illustrated the rare ability to “steal” a game for his team time and time again. On any given weekend, the Spartan goaltender can snag a win from the clutches of defeat.

DeRidder has held down the pipes valiantly for four straight years. Although his legacy might not be remembered through trophies and team achievements, the stats speak for themselves — DeRidder has consistently been on of the most important players on the ice during his entire career.

Defensemen Cole Krygier and Christian Krygier

The Krygier brothers are classic Michigan State defensemen — big, bruising and not afraid to show their emotions on the ice. Both of the brothers have been served as assistant captains on a rotating basis throughout the season.

The duo have grown as players throughout their time at Michigan State, slowing increasing in points and ice time. Cole has 25 points through four years at the program, while Christian has 15. Both have notched career-high points in their senior year with eight and seven respectively.

This season, the Krygiers have been essential members of the defense, anchoring down the second and third defensive pairings. The twins have also fostered the growth of two up-and-coming Spartan defensemen, freshman David Gucciardi and sophomore Nash Nienhuis.

Like Cesana, the Krygier brothers will be missed next season. The twins often set the physical tone for Michigan State, dishing out massive hits and pushing around opponents.

Forward Mitchell Lewandowski

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This will be the second senior class that Lewandowski has been a member of. Last season was his fourth year, but the talented forward decided to return to MSU for one last run.

Lewandowski has racked up an impressive number of points through his time at Michigan State. He was especially lethal in his freshman year, scoring 34 points alongside Patrick Khodorenko and Taro Hirose, both of which are currently playing in the AHL. In total, Lewandowski has 120 points with a chance to tack on some more this weekend.

As a fifth-year senior, his contribution to the team this season has been invaluable. Despite missing nearly half the season, Lewandowski has the third most points on the team with seven goals and 12 assists. Without Lewandowski is the lineup, Michigan State is 1-14.

Elected as an alternate captain for the season, Lewandowski has been a leader on and off the ice.

“He brings a certain confidence to the guys on the team,” Cole said. “You like guys with a little bit of swagger, and Lewie's a guy that might come across as a nice guy, but he's got pretty good edge to him.”

If Michigan State can pull of a miraculous run in the Big Ten tournament, the team will need more offensive excellence from Lewandowski.

Forward Adam Goodsir

“You love seeing them get better as players,” Cole said. “But what you really, as a coach, want to see is what they become as men.”

Before the start of last Saturday's match against Notre Dame, Goodsir spotted a kid in the crowd with a poster illustrating rock-paper-scissors game on the front. “Hey Adam,” read the sign, “I win, you come to my game tomorrow at Suburban Ice 1:00 pm Crusaders, No. 4.”

Well, Goodsir must have lost the rock-paper-scissors match, because the following day, he attended the young man's hockey match, presenting him with a signed hockey stick.

“After a tough stretch and a lot of other responsibilities going on in his life right now, probably a lot of distractions and places and things he could've done, but he was over there with a young man and made that young man's day,” Cole said.

Goodsir might not have put up the points of a Lewandowski or a Cesana during his time at Michigan State, but for four years, the Okemos native represented the university and the team with class, illustrating the individual growth that coach Cole pushes his players to develop.

“That the story about Adam,” Cole said. “We play hockey, that's something we do. But what we are as men, what they are as young men, that's a fascinating and fun thing to go through.”

Forward Mitchell Mattson

Mattson never quite stuck in the lineup consistently during his time at Michigan State. Like Goodsir, Mattson is a blue-collar player that earns ice time on the bottom-six, deployed in as a defensive forward meant to stifle opposing offenses.

Mattson is the quintessential Danton Cole forward — while not the flashiest, he's a hard worker that's not afraid to do the dirty-work of the team at the bottom of the lineup. He's been a stop gap for the team this season, filling in when the situation calls for him.

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