After a split weekend against Penn State, the Michigan State hockey team pulled out a win for night two with a score of 5-3. Along with the win, night two showcased an outstanding two-goal performance from freshman forward Gavin O'Connell making him the leading goal scorer for the team.
O’Connell has been off to an amazing start this season for MSU, after logging four goals for the Spartans during their sweep against Ohio State, the freshman is soaring high along with his line-mates junior forward Red Savage and sophomore forward Joey Larson.
“When they (the line) are dialed in on both sides of the rink, they are a really good line,” head coach Adam Nightingale said following game two. “I’m thankful those guys want to be coached and held accountable. It was good to see them have some of those winning habits.”
With the line meshing well together, their core production right now has been coming from O’Connell, who not only has lit up the ice so far in his collegiate career, but also played great hockey when he was in the United States Hockey League (USHL) for the Waterloo Black Hawks last year.
“Coming from the USHL he (O’Connell) had over 20 goals, and that's a pretty good test when you can produce in the USHL,” Nightingale said. “He's still a young player, he’s draft eligible and I had the chance to work with him when I was with the national team for a couple of games.”
In the two games he played with the National Team Development Program (NTDP), O'Connell had the opportunity to go up against solid collegiate teams like Minnesota and North Dakota.
“He walked into the locker room and was not intimidated,” Nightingale said. “I think part of being a really elite athlete is to have to be a bit of an alpha and he had that confidence and swagger and set a good start here.”
Before O’Connell decided on his commitment to Michigan State, he was originally committed to Minnesota Duluth being a Minnesotan born player and wanting to play for his home state.
“My first year in juniors I was committed to Duluth,” O’Connell said. “When I knew I was going to decommit it was pretty easy to come here. I got to play a couple games at the NTDP with Adam (Nightingale) and once I got in contact with some of the guys it was a no brainer for me.”
O’Connell also mentioned how much love Nightingale had shown him at the program and his coaching ability under him and the team.
With the two goals scored during the Penn State series, O'Connell took sole possession of being the number one goal scorer on the team. He has been able to help the team secure the lead against Ohio State in the first weekend in November including a first night 6-0 shutout on night one and a 6-4 win on night two.
After his four-goal weekend in Columbus, O'Connell also received Big Ten First Star of the Week.
“I’m pretty fortunate to be playing with some awesome players,” O’Connell said. “Especially at the time of the goals, they were obviously huge and I was really excited to get them. I give all the credit to my line-mates.”
While the Penn State weekend was split, massive effort was still shown through the series against the Nittany Lions, but still always leaving room for improvements.
“I think we need to have a great week, and we will start on Monday,” Nightingale said. “We’ve told the guys that's where we are about. We’re about getting better and we’ve got a lot of stuff to keep growing.”
Being at the top of the score sheet in goals, O’Connell will come out ready to play against Wisconsin next Friday and Saturday at Munn Ice Arena.
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