Even though this year’s men’s hockey freshmen class is small with four players, they still have the potential to have a large impact on the ice for the Spartans this season.
“I think it’s a real good freshman class and that’s coming off a real good freshman class from last year,” fourth-year coach Tom Anastos said. “I think that’s what is important, to put some consecutive groups together to build our talent level and the depth on our team.
Anastos sees a lot of skill and potential in this class, which includes defensemen Josh Jacobs and Carson Gatt, forward Dylan Pavelek and goaltender Ed Minney.
Jacobs, who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the second round of this year’s NHL Draft in Philadelphia, might be the face of the class.
“He has the physical skills of a very high level prospect,” Anastos said. “He’s a big strong kid. I’ve been real impressed even beyond what I expected of his tenacity his intensity and work habits so far. His practice habits in the little that I’ve seen have been really good.”
Jacobs owes some of that to what he learned while at the Devils’ rookie camp over the summer.
“Learning from Scott Stevens, one of the greatest defensemen to play the game, he had a lot of great things to say about me, but I definitely need to work on a lot of things too,” Jacobs said. “There’s always something you need to work on. Off the ice using the weight room and then nutrition is a big factor to the game now.
“Nutrition helps you prepare the game, makes you more focused, and that’s what the big keep away for me that I took from New Jersey was that. Now that I’m here, I’m just keeping my nutrition up and I’m psyched to be playing here,” Jacobs added.
Anastos also praised his leadership abilities from his days with the Indiana Ice of the USHL.
“Jacobs won the Clark Cup in the USHL and that’s not an easy thing to do,” Anastos said. “He went from a team his first year that lost a lot and he was part of changing that culture and elevating that team and he took a leadership role on that team.”
As for the new goaltender, junior Jake Hildebrand has liked what he has seen so far.
“I think we’re really excited to have him in here,” Hildebrand said. “He played for the national team, so he’s a very high-caliber prospect and he’s a great goaltender. Coming in as a freshman, I want to make sure I show him the ropes and things like that. He’s definitely going to push me to make sure I’m at the top of my game.”
The championship experience and leadership is something Anastos likes a lot about the new crop of Spartans as well.
“They have that mentality which to us is of great value,” he said. “They’ll be able to come into an environment that I think is really healthy for them because now they are going to be playing with some players who have some experience.”
The experience of this year’s upperclassmen is something that has not been around in a few years. Anastos lost a good amount of his players in his second and third seasons, which made the freshmen play a lot and learn their own way, but not this year.
Another thing Anastos has been able to get his freshmen classes to buy into is the mentality of the process the team is in.
“We have been recruiting guys to come here who have the mentality knowing we’re going through a transition, and at times it’s difficult,” said Anastos. “You have to be able to stay focused, weather the storm and keep your eye on the target, and the target is hanging banners. These guys have all been recruited with that mentality.”
Brian Bobal is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports