Series Preview: Lake Superior State @ Michigan State
Michigan State: 2016: 7-24-4, 2017: 2-2-0
LSSU: 2016: 11-18-7, 2017: 1-3-2
I Ain’t Afraid of no Coles
Another week, and another mention of major changes within college hockey. After six years of being the bench boss for the Spartans, Tom Anastos (71-98-20) stepped down as head coach with former NHL veteran Danton Cole (318 GP).
This year’s Michigan State team looks much different than the team the Lakers faced off against last year during GLSW, where they clobbered the Spartans 6-1 & 7-3. They’ve split the last two weekends, both home-and-homes with Bowling Green and Western Michigan, making their home record perfect for the year.
Leading the scoring are a pair of sophomores and a freshman. In four games sophomore forwards Patrick Khodorenko has posted a 3-3-6, Taro Hirose a 2-4-6 and freshman forward Mitchell Lewandowski has a 1-5-6. Goaltending is led by sophomore John Lethemon who has a 2-1-0 in four games (Ed Minney looks to have started a game with 3 goals against in 10 minutes). Lethemon has a 2.36 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
Don’t Hassel the (Koss)off
Last weekend was a mixed bag of emotions for Laker fans. The boys in blue faced off against the reigning national champions, Denver, for a two game series. Junior goaltender Nick Kossoff broke a school record facing 66 shots, and saving 63 of those on the way to a 3-3 tie. Denver tied the game up at the 16:26 mark of the third. The tie did put a bit of a hamper on the Pioneer’s night as they raised their championship banner Friday night.
Saturday night was a different story. Mareks Mitens faced 54 shots, saving 49 on the way to a 5-1 loss. One thing did remain the same, however: seemingly a lack of offense and defense. Both nights the Laker goaltenders were peppered with shots, and they only recorded 17 shots (Fri) and 16 shots (Sat). While these numbers were kind of expected, going against the number 1 team in the nation, they are also quite shocking to see on a box score. We also lost two defensemen in Colin Saccoman and Lukas Kaelble to injury. No timetable has been announced as of this release.
But I think the Lakers did send a message to the college hockey nation. I’m not sure there are any other teams in the nation that could lead Denver for 5 of 6 periods. On the surface, this seems like a very good thing, and in many ways it is, but I’ve already seen one scout at Abel Arena, and I would fully expect to see more after this past weekend. The players know this, and I hope that the leadership group on the team, along with the coaching staff, keep them focused on team play & not individual play. It was readily apparent at the end of last season that many players were playing for themselves and not the team – that cannot happen if we hope to succeed.
The Lakers will need at least a split on the weekend to gain some momentum going into the month of November. They will have one WCHA series to start the month against Alaska Anchorage before going on the road for two weeks against Bowling Green and Alabama-Huntsville before wrapping up against the US U18 team. It doesn’t get much easier from there.
This weekend looks to be a fun one as a former CCHA rivalry is renewed again. Each year that the two teams have played since realignment has been very physical, almost as if they still play each other four times a year and this year does not look to be any different. The Spartans are playing tougher than they did last season, and the Lakers have gained some size in the offseason.
Without knowing how Danton Cole coaches, it is hard to say what the keys to success will be for this weekend. With former coach Anastos, you kind of knew his coaching style and what to expect from his teams. My gut feeling is that the Cole era will force a power shift within the B1G, with this being his first step.
Locally the game will be broadcast on 99.5 YesFM where Bill Crawford will be calling the game from Munn Ice Arena. It looks to be streamed on BTN Plus. As always, the Laker Legion will be hosting viewing parties for both games – Friday night at Peacock Cove in the Cisler Center and Saturday night in the Library lecture hall just outside the doors to the library – completely free of charge.