MSU Hockey media day may have been a little peculiar. While it included the usual bunch of reporters holding microphones and cameras in player’s faces, it wasn’t long before the team decided it was their turn to ask the questions.
On September 25th, senior forward Brennan Sanford took the microphone and interviewed a reporter about his hairstyles. Standing in front of the podium, sophomore forward Jake Smith had a one-man press conference with junior defenseman Damian Chrcek acting as the reporter.
Though the team made a few moments of fun during the Tuesday afternoon, they made it clear that they were determined on and unwavered about having a successful season.
“There’s a lot of good things looking forward and we’re excited about this. We’ll be a better team this year. We’ll just keep moving that way. Just keep getting better every practice, every game and every week and we’ll continue to do that,” said head coach Danton Cole.
One of the biggest advantages that the Michigan State Spartans have returning, is the explosive trio made of juniors Taro Hirose, Patrick Khodorenko and sophomore Mitchell Lewandowski. The forwards became a triple threat by combining for 108 points last season, making them the highest scoring trio in the past ten seasons for MSU and one of the best lines in college hockey.
“Just bring that consistency every single night, having no off nights. If we show up every night and do what we do, I think we’ll give the team a chance to win,” said Hirose.
With Lewandowski tying for the most goals (19) in the Big Ten and ending the season ranking first in goals among rookies, he’s looking forward to bringing even more of that passion to the ice come October.
“I think this year we’re going to make some noise. I think we’re going to turn a lot of heads this year,” said Lewandowski. “It’s not going to be one of those years where we’re pushing for seventh place; we’re not satisfied with that, obviously. You see the rankings and what not but we’re not focused on that. We’re not even looking for fifth or sixth, we’re looking for that one spot.”
With the anticipation of seeing how returning players will improve, comes the concern of how new players will adjust.
“We’re young, but we’re getting bigger. As you can see from the new freshmen coming in,” said senior defenseman Zach Osburn. “We’ve kind of changed from being a smaller, fast team to having a little bit of bulk mixed in there. We’re kind of transforming into a bigger, heavier hitting team.”
This season, MSU has a seven member incoming class, adding depth to the lines with one goalie, three defensemen and three forwards. Opponents may be seeing double on the defensemen line as new freshmen twin brothers, Cole Krygier and Christian Krygier, compete for spots on a six man line out of nine defensemen.
However, incoming freshman defenseman, Dennis Cesana is more than ready to show his skills on the ice. Being a two-way player who can move around on skates, Cesana ended his previous season playing for the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with 14 goals and 61 assists for 75 points.
“I expect to learn a lot along the way...and hopefully we’ll win some big games and some championships and raise some banners while I’m here,” said Cesana. “I think we’re going to end up surprising a lot of people this year and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Leading the new and returning players through the season will be the newly appointed team captain Sam Saliba. The junior forward, who has never missed a game in his two seasons with MSU, takes being voted in as captain as an honor.
“Well it definitely comes with responsibility. I want to lead the right way, on and off the ice. My teammates elected me for who I am and who I was the first two years here so I think the biggest thing is just staying true to who I am,” said Saliba.
With a 12-22-2 overall record and a 6-16-2-1 record in the Big Ten, the Spartans finished last season ranking at number seven. This year, the team is hoping to expand on the improvement from head coach Cole during his second year.
You still have to bring the same mentality, the same process, the same focus as a staff, and you have to get that; you have to pass that on to the players,” said Cole. “We have to work as hard, if not harder than we did last year… We know that the Big Ten is a heck of a conference, I think everybody including ourselves got better.”
The Spartans will start the ‘18-’19 season with a exhibition match versus the University of Windsor on October seventh. The first regular season game will be a two game series, hosting Northern Michigan on October 12th to 13th.