This past weekend went better than expected for the Michigan State Spartans hockey team, as they were not swept off the ice by the 5th ranked Michigan Wolverines. There was a time when a series split (including a a loss at Munn Arena meaning a season sweep to your arch-rivals) was not a cause for massive celebration. However, when you are mired in a season with massive winless streaks, and a 7-19-2 record you take happiness where you can find it. The Spartans played possibly their best game of the season in a 3-2 overtime victory Friday night at Joe Louis Arena, before being mostly over-matched in a 4-1 home loss Saturday.
5 Takeaways from the weekend
- Joe Cox has some silky hands- That shoout-out goal on Friday night was beautiful. A little shot fake, backhand toe drag, open up the goalie's five-hole, and slid the puck on in? I had no idea that Cox had hands like that, because he is just such a great player at doing the little things right all of the time. It's my belief Cox will be voted captain next season, and I am pretty excited for that.
- Sorry Jake Hildebrand- The Spartans left Hildebrand out to dry on both goals Friday night. On Tyler Motte's first goal no one was aware of his expiring penalty, and on the second goal Carson Gatt lost track of him being wide open in the slot. Then Saturday Hildebrand saw his team outshot 20-3 in the first period. Jake Hildebrand is the hockey program of Drew Stanton.
- Compete Level- Say what you will about Tom Anastos (who I am growing more and more sure of being back behind the bench next season) but if this is his last season his players are going down with much more fight than the last season under Rick Comley. The Spartans rebounded from a poor start Saturday by taking control of the second period, registering 13 of the first 14 shots. The ability to finish chances is the reason Michigan pulled away, as the score is not really indicative of the way that game played out.
- Finishing- The Spartans hit multiple posts on Saturday night during 2-on-1 rushes that could have changed the tenor of the entire game. This team is definitely not as bad as their record indicates, but the lack of finishing ability continues to plague Anastos led teams.
- The nightmare of only 5 defenseman- The Spartans, due to offseason departures and injuries, came into the year with only 6 scholarship defenseman. That number has dwindled down to 5 with an in-season injury, and now forward Justin Hoomaian has been transitioned back to defense. Anastos has had to shorten his bench which is frightening against a team like Michigan, and that was made worse on Saturday when starter Rhett Holland missed shifts due to an apparent foot injury. Luckily Holland returned to action but I think no matter who is the coach next year, this team will see a natural bounce back to their potential due to having a fully stocked roster of defenseman.
I just went and talked with Hildy and he said (Racine) likes to spread his legs,’’ Cox said. "So I tried to go five hole
Joe Cox describing help from Jake Hildebrand in his shootout goal.
Welcome Aboard: Logan Lambdin
Proud to announce my commitment to play D1 hockey at Michigan state university. Thanks to everyone that's helped me along the way! #SpartyOn— Logan Lambdin (@Lamby_7) February 10, 2016
Yesterday saw the commitment of Logan Lambdin, a forward from the USHL's Bloomington Thunder. Lambdin, a 1995 birthdate, will be aged out of the USHL after this season so he will pretty much certainly be in East Lansing next season with the Spartans.
Lambdin is a smaller player at 5'9" and 176 pounds, but the good news for the Spartans is that he will be 21 early next season which hopefully helps him be ready physically to contribute. Lambdin has had strong goal output this year on a middle of the pack Bloomington team, and he also has shown the ability to jump from the NAHl to the USHL while keeping his production steady.
A look at next year's class
Lambdin's commitment brings the list of 2016-17 commits to 11 according to College Hockey Inc.'s commitment page. The Spartans are graduating 7 scholarship players and I wouldn't expect any early departures so clearly some guys will reclassify to 2017-18 rather than coming to campus next fall. So far five players have signed their National Letter of Intent for next season; Mitch Eliot (D-Muskegon Lumberjacks USHL), Ty Farmer (D-Youngstown Phantoms USHL), John Lethemonm (G-Chicago Steel USHL), Taro Hirose (F-Salmon Arm Silverbacks BCHL), and Sam Saliba (F-Green Bay Gamblers USHL). With Lambdin likely coming to campus next season that would seem to leave just one scholarship available for the remaining five players.
I would imagine with the aforementioned lack of defense on the roster, and three forwards already in the class the final spot would go to a defenseman. So let's move Tommy Apap, Mitch Lewandowski, and Noah Lalonde to come in 2017-18. That would leave the final spot to come down to 1998 born Ryan Bederka or 1996 born Damian Chrcek. I believe the final spot in the class would go to Chrcek who is playing in his 2nd season of the BCHL, compared to Bederka playing just 13 games in the USHL. Also, Chrcek being a 1996 birth date helps him in gaining the final spot.
The class would consist of 3 forwards, 3 defenseman and one goaltender. I love this defense in the class and Hirose and Saliba are each one of the leaders on their teams in scoring. This class will be pretty fun, even though it pushes the arrival of the majority of the "Honeybaked" class to next season.
The Spartans currently have 9 juniors on the roster so there will be room to add to the class of 2017-18. At this point using my predictions the 2017-18 class stands at Lewdowski, Lalonde, Apap, Bederka, David Keefer and Tommy Miller (gem of the class). The Spartans also have commitments from Matthew Miller (2018-19), and Nolan Moyle (2018-19) who could always reclassify into this year.
HockeyDB profiles of the 2016-17 Class