2015 is now upon us, and if you are a college hockey fan then you are salivating at the mouth because the bulk of the Big Ten season starts in earnest in a few short weeks.
For Michigan State hockey (7-10-1 overall), 2015 offers a chance to “right the ship” so to speak on a so far sub-par season. Here are my six New Year’s resolutions for Spartan hockey in 2015.
Play With Confidence
This is a lot easier said than done, but it is essential for MSU to start playing like a contender and not a pretender. MSU head coach Tom Anastos has talked all year long on confidence and how it can impact a team. In their last four games Michigan State is 2-1-1 and have played pretty competitive hockey. Guys like Brett Darnell and Joe Cox are becoming impact players because they believe in the system and in their own abilities. The rest of the team needs to follow suit.
Stop Defensive Errors
Hockey is a thinking man’s game, you have to be constantly processing about a million things at once and a mental error often times results in the puck in your net. While defense normally is a strong suit for the Spartans, they have recently been making some drastic mental errors on defense like bad line changes, giveaways in the defensive zone and just poor decisions in general. The most recent example was in the GLI championship against Michigan, where multiple defensive errors led to a two-on-one and UM’s first goal. State would end up losing that game 2-1. For a team as offensively handicapped as MSU, defensive errors usually mean the difference between victory and defeat.
A welcome sign so far this season is the fact that scoring for MSU has not come from just one or two guys. Michael Ferrantino and Mackenzie MacEachern have also elevated their game to become the go-to guys for MSU. In addition, individuals like Darnell and Cox have also emerged as scoring threats and playmakers. Thomas Ebbing and Matt DeBlouw have also started to contribute to the score sheet as well. MSU needs to continue this trend, and get their top scorers (Ferrantino, Berry, MacEachern) scoring in tandem with guys like Darnell and Cox.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the past few weeks has been the absence of senior forward Matt Berry. Berry has missed the last four games. While Michigan State has not been reeling in his absence (2-1-1), having your second-leading goal scorer out for any extended period of time is troubling. The Spartans desperately need Berry back in the lineup to provide some much-needed depth, as he is arguably MSU’s most only true goal scorer.
More Bodies in Front
Everyone who plays hockey knows that if you want to score goals you have to go to the front of the net. MSU seems to sometimes forget this at times. While going to the front of the net does require you to take punishment, it is a tried and true method to score. For a team that lacks in explosive offensive skill, getting greasy garbage goals as a result from net front presence is a must. When they do get bodies in front, they usually score more goals and generally win games. If the Spartans want to have success in 2015, they are going to have to pay the physical price and get more bodies in front of the net on a more consistent basis.
Last but certainly not least, Michigan State has to make it a personal mission to beat the hockey team from Ann Arbor wherever and whenever possible. The Wolverines beat the Spartans 2-1 in the Great Lakes Invitational championship game, depriving MSU of its first GLI title since 2009. In the last 16 meetings against Michigan, MSU is 4-11-1. This team needs to steal its resolve and commit themselves to beating the Wolverines not just to avenge their GLI loss, but to reverse the trend of Michigan dominance in the rivalry.
Jason Ruff is the host of Behind the Mask for Impact Sports
Photo: Brian Bobal/Impact Sports