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Season Preview: Michigan State

We'll begin our CCHA previews with Michigan State, my choice to finish first in the CCHA this season.

Projected Depth Chart

LW Bryan Lerg C Chris Mueller RW Jim McKenzie
LW Tim Kennedy C Justin Abdelkader RW Tim Crowder
LW Chris Lawrence C Ryan Turek RW Nick Sucharski
LW Jay Sprague C Matt Schepke RW Zak McClellan
LD Tyler Howells RD Brandon Gentile G Jeff Lerg
LD Ethan Graham RD Michael Ratchuk G Steve Mnich
LD Daniel Vukovic RD Chris Snavely G Bobby Jarosz

Strengths:


The Spartans return a very solid goalie in sophomore Jeff Lerg. They also have pretty good depth at the forward position.

Weaknesses:


After losing Corey Potter to graduation, the Spartans lack a tough, physical defenseman. A good deal of their success last season was predicated on not giving up many scoring chances, and with a more offensive-minded defensive corps, they may give up a few more chances. The Spartans also have to replace the scoring of David Booth, Drew Miller, and Colton Fretter.

Overall:

With the early departure of Drew Miller, this will be the first Michigan State team filled entirely with Rick Comley recruits. The Spartans have the talent to be one of the best in the CCHA, but the question is whether or not they will have the talent to be one of the best in the country. The defense is experienced enough that they shouldn’t give up too many goals, and the forwards are deep enough that they should score enough. For the first time in a few years, this Spartan team will have serious expectations placed on them.

Question Marks

Can the Spartans score enough goals after the departures of Miller, Fretter, et al? I don’t know, probably. Will their defense be defensive enough? They’ve filled their blueline with smaller, faster offensive defenseman. That could mean they’ll give up more scoring chances, but Jeff Lerg should be able to back them up. Is Rick Comley still on the hot seat? Definitely. Comley depressed expectations enough in East Lansing that people were thrilled with last season’s result. But if the Spartans falter this season, all the heat will once again be back on Comley.

Key Player: Tim Kennedy. Or his other two sophomore linemates, Justin Abdelkader and Tim Crowder. As freshmen, they made up one of the best third lines in the country, and the ability to have three excellent lines made State a very good team. This year, they’ll likely be the second line, meaning they’ll be expected to score more, and will likely be matched up against a better defensive line. Last year, whatever offense they provided was a bonus. This year, it will be a necessity that they score for State.

Breakout Player:
Ryan Turek. Turek was once considered one of the best players for his age group, but a few years of junior hockey helped quiet some of the hype around him, to the point where he wasn’t considered one of the top recruits in this year’s class. But he’s a very versatile player, and could be dangerous on State’s third line.

Bellwether:
The ability to get out to an early lead in a game is critical for Michigan State. They both scored and gave up their most goals in the first period last season. Getting out to an early lead allowed them to slow the game down and focus on protecting their goalie.

Did You Know?

Michigan State picked Kermit the Frog to be the Grand Marshall of their Homecoming Parade this year.

Michigan State is home to the world’s largest sorghum field.

The first students at Michigan State, then known as Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, were required to perform three hours of manual labor per day as part of their curriculum. Outrage over this demand caused MSU students to riot 150 years later.

If You Go There


You Have to Eat At:
Crunchy’s. Though Crunchy himself died tragically in a car accident a few years back, Crunchy’s still serves great burgers and is a popular hockey hangout.

You Have to Stop At:
People are always singing about the banks of the Red Cedar River, so I guess you could see that. Also, the Michigan State Capitol is just a few miles west, and worth visiting.