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Spartan hockey rookies and transfers contributed heavily to impressive series one sweep

October 9, 2023
<p>LSSU captain Harrison Roy and MSU forward Red Savage battle for a flying puck at Munn Ice Arena on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. Both skaters recorded one goal in the matchup. The Spartans won 5-2.</p>

LSSU captain Harrison Roy and MSU forward Red Savage battle for a flying puck at Munn Ice Arena on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. Both skaters recorded one goal in the matchup. The Spartans won 5-2.

Photo by Jack Armstrong | The State News

The Spartans came into their opening series against Lake Superior State looking to win, and they ended up with two. Sweeping Lake Superior State University is a positive in itself, but the standout performances from players across the roster — including new additions in transfers and freshmen — is a positive that will carry outside of the first weekend.

The players who netted goals against the Lakers included senior captain Nash Nienhuis (1), senior alternate captain Nicolas Muller (1), junior defenseman Viktor Hurtig (1), transfer junior forward Red Savage (2), transfer sophomore forward Isaac Howard (1), sophomore forward, and alternate captain Karsen Dorwart (1), freshman defenseman Artyom Levshunov (1), and graduate transfer Reed Lebster (1). There were 16 different Spartans on the score sheet over the weekend, whether it be from a goal or an assist.

“The stadium was really pumped and the atmosphere is great, so it is easy to play and easily feed off that energy,” Savage said. 

Savage was drafted in 2021 by the Detroit Red Wings, during the fourth round of the draft. He played for University of Miami Ohio before he transferred to MSU this year for his junior season. His first goal came to him halfway through the third period of game one, where he had an opportunity and ran with it. 

“It was pretty blind,” Savage said about the goal. “I kind of just threw it. It was either one of those where you score, or it was going around the glass. I am happy that it (the puck) was able to go in and my teammates made a great play.”

Also logging his first goal as a Spartan on night one was Isaac Howard, who scored less than two minutes into the second period. Howard, a Tampa Bay Lightning first round draft pick, transferred from Minnesota-Duluth in the offseason to start his sophomore season in the green and white.

The Spartan roster also has its fair share of returning weapons like Nash Nienhuis. In the first series of the season, Nienhuis had the opportunity of playing in a defensive pair with freshman defenseman Artyom Levshunov

“You can see his raw talent, and he’s got such a bright future,” Nienhuis said. “I’m just trying to be there for him and talking to him, helping him out wherever I can.”

Levshunov previously played with the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League (USHL), and is now predicted to go within the top five at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. Nienhuis also commented on Levshunov’s qualities as a great skater, great defensemen and great hands, which facilitate what it takes for him to such an asset to the team. While Levshunov did not have the opportunity to score on opening night, he took his chance on night two, landing himself as the first star of the game. 

Reed Lebster was another new face that found a shot in the back of the net. Lebster is now in his fifth year of collegiate play, and has found himself playing on one of the youngest teams in the country.

“A lot of younger kids are playing their first weekend in college hockey,” Lebster said. “I thought they all did great, and they have a lot of skill. I think they’re gonna be tough players and a strong team who are tough to beat.”

Sophomore forward Joey Larson, a transfer from Northern Michigan University, also put himself on the score sheet in another way, with a combined three assists throughout the weekend. 

“Obviously it is super hard to sweep in college hockey,” Larson said. “We knew we wanted to do it, and we just stuck to the game plan and got it done. We had to stick to our game plan and worry about us, not them. When we worry about ourselves everything will take care of itself.”

Coming from Northern Michigan University, Larson had the opportunity to play against the Lakers in the past, with their tough defense and game play. 

As the Spartans look to head out next weekend for their first away series, they are on the prowl and are hungry for more sweeps than just this first. 

“Obviously we got 15 new guys, if you look at our roster within that we have 10 freshmen and eight sophomores,” head coach Adam Nightingale said. “A lot of those guys are true freshmen, so our job is to help them grow their game. I thought we took a step today (Sunday), and we still have a lot to work on, but that’s the kind of progress you’re looking for as a coaching staff.”

With the first two games of the season under the Spartans' belt, the team will head out to Colorado next weekend to take on Air Force on Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m., where they look for their second swept weekend in a row.

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