Spartans sweep the Gophers: What we learned

Mitchell+Lewandowski+

Mitchell Lewandowski

EAST LANSING, Mich – The Spartans finished off a weekend a sweep against the Minnesota Golden Gophers after a 5-3 win Sunday night. The series marked the first time Michigan State has ever swept Minnesota at Munn Ice Arena. This is the Spartans first true sweep in Big Ten play this season and it looks to have reenergized this team, here’s three quick takeaways from this past weekend.

  1. The KHL line is the most dominant line in the Big Ten right now

Spartan fans have watched the KHL line lead Michigan State’s hockey team the last year and a half but the trio is starting to take it to another level. Taro Hirose, a Hobey Baker candidate, leads the country in points and assists. He added five assists this weekend against the Gophers. Hirose, while the star this season, had to take a back seat this weekend to Mitchell Lewandowski, who is absolutely on fire after scoring four goals this weekend.

“When your better players a doing things right, it’s pretty contagious,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said.

The KHL line carried the offensive load once again, but its work in the defense zone this weekend shows just how important this trio is to MSU. Patrick Khodorenko and Taro Hirose both spent major time on the penalty kill this weekend.

“They are good hockey players, so we rested them the first half of the year, now we will get them out there a little more,” Danton Cole said with a grin.

  1. MSU has bona fide talent on its D

Having a puck-moving defenseman is like having an option quarterback in college football, Danton Cole often says, it opens up all sorts of opportunities on the offensive end. Zach Osburn and Dennis Cesana both fulfill that archetype for this Michigan State squad.

“I’ve been trying to do the right things, play good on defense and make the right plays on offense, and tonight (Sunday) was one of those nights it started to fall for me,” Osburn said.

Cesana was in on two goals on Saturday while Osburn had three assists on Sunday and was clearly the best player on the ice.

This weekend these two dictated the pace and injected energy into the offense which allowed players not named Khedernko, Hirose and Lewandowski to produce. Freshmen Adam Goodsir and Cole Krygier also both scored their first goals in Spartan uniforms.

  1. Christmas break has seemed to change this team

Even after finishing tied for third in the GLI, Cole insists the Spartans have had a different energy in the the dressing room.

Ever since the Spartans got back to East Lansing they’ve jumped from seventh place in the Big Ten to fourth place as they split with two top 15 teams (Ohio State and Penn State) and swept a traditional power in the Minnesota Golden Gophers. This team has the feeling of program that’s turned the corner in Danton Cole’s second year.

“Belief is a huge thing, guys start to see that we can play with some pretty good teams and we’ve been with Penn State and Ohio State,” Cole said. “I think there’s a little belief in there and that will carry a long way.”

For the first time the Spartans are actually getting contributions from their depth guys in Lamdin, Saliba and Milan. They are finally getting consistent goalie play from John Lethemon and Drew Deridder. This is the most momentum this program has had in five years and I don’t see this program not continuing to build on it.