Michigan State defeated the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 Team 5-1 at Munn Ice Arena on Sunday in what was one of the Spartans’ strongest showings to date.
“I thought that we played, besides maybe the first couple minutes in the first, a really good game,” MSU captain Joe Cox said.
The Spartans notched the first goal of the game just five minutes into the first period when a shot was fired from the point and was tipped right in front of the net. The puck was live which caused a scramble and a deflection off a USA defender’s skate lead to the puck finding the back of the net. Michigan State’s Thomas Ebbing was credited with the goal.
The game’s second goal came after a Spartan turnover in their own zone that gave the USNTDP a one-on-three chance on the break. Boston College commit Joey Cassetti converted the scoring opportunity with a snipe from the blue line that beat Spartan goaltender John Lethemon on his high blocker side.
Michigan State found themselves with a 2-1 lead after a somewhat quirky goal was scored on a shot from the corner, near the bottom of the circles. The goal was scored by defenseman Damian Chrcek and the shot flew through some traffic in front of goaltender Dylan St. Cyr and somehow ended up in the net.
The Spartans dominated the shot totals in the first period, racking up 13 shots compared to just six from the NTDP. Mason Appleton and Zach Osburn lead the way with each notching three shots in the first period alone.
Two NTDP players, Matt Miller and Tommy Miller, will be continuing their hockey careers next year with the Spartans. Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said that although it’s tough to gauge the performance of players on the opposing team, he thought Tommy Miller had a strong outing.
“I think he’s a terrific player. He competed hard and I noticed him a number of times and his ability to get pucks to the right spot from the offensive blue line,” Anastos said of Tommy Miller.
The Spartans third goal of the game came on the power play. Appleton, the Spartans leader in goals, assist and points, fired a shot from the blue line that flew past St. Cyr before he ever saw it. The goal was assisted by Taro Hirose and Villiam Haag.
The Spartans managed to keep St. Cyr screened for much of the afternoon, and it paid off as several of the team’s goals were either partially or directly the result of the screening.
“It was a focal point for the game, particularly because Dylan is a smaller goalie, and we felt that we should get some bodies in front of him and make him really work to see the puck,” Anastos said.
The Spartans scored two more times to seal a 5-1 victory. The goals were scored by JT Stenglein and Osburn.
The scoreboard wasn’t the only thing the Spartans dominated. They outshot the USNTDP by a score of 39-16 for the game, and once the Spartans took a 2-1 lead in the first period, they never looked back.
Due to MSU having a comfortable lead and the match just being an exhibition, some players who typically don’t get as much ice time were provided a chance to show what they can do. Chris Knudson was one of the players who Anastos spoke of specifically.
“It was a good opportunity for those guys to play. Chris Knudson is an unsung hero on our team. He’s a player who doesn’t get in the lineup much, he hasn’t been in the lineup up to this point this season, plus he changed positions. He does everything he can to try and help our team and his role,” Anastos said.
The three stars of the game were Appleton, who had a goal and an assist, Chrcek, who had a goal, and Ebbing, who added one goal and one assist.
The Spartans will open up Big Ten play on Friday, Dec. 9 when they take on the Minnesota Gophers at Munn Ice Arena for a 6:30 p.m. puck drop.