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AJ Sturges' Long Journey Back

Michigan State traveled down to Columbus and picked up all six points against a flailing Ohio State team. There's no doubt the turning point in Friday's game came when MSU senior defenseman AJ Sturges scored midway through the second period to cut Ohio State's lead to 3-2. The Spartans scored four more unanswered goals to complete a 6-3 win.

Sturges' goal was his second career goal, and his first goal since November 10, 2007, when he scored against Mercyhurst. It's been a very long road back for Sturges, who, in October of 2008, was brutally beaten by MSU football player Glenn Winston in an off-campus fight, leaving Sturges with a fractured skull and concussion.

Winston received 180 days in jail for the incident, but was released early due to jail overcrowding, and was immediately reinstated to the Michigan State football team for the start of fall practice. Sturges was understandably upset by the decision to immediately reinstate Winston to the football team, and sent a strongly worded letter to Michigan State's football beat writers criticizing Michigan State's leadership for allowing Winston to play football for MSU, and saying that he had not received any sort of apology, and believe Winston had learned nothing from the incident.

Those comments seemed prescient when, less than a year later, Winston was one of 11 Michigan State football players involved in breaking into an on-campus fraternity and beating a number of students on the night of Michigan State's football banquet. Winston received another 180 days in jail for his part in the incident.

It was much harder for Sturges to get a second chance after the injuries he suffered. He missed the rest of his freshman and entire sophomore seasons as a result of the injury. He returned to the team as a junior, but redshirted the season as he worked to get back into playing shape. Last year, as a redshirt junior, he appeared in one game, against Alabama-Huntsville, and earned Academic All-Big Ten honors. He's also actively involved in community service projects. So far this season, he has appeared in ten games, and Friday night's goal was his first point of the season.

With Michigan State's hockey program back on the upswing after a few very down years, it's nice to not only see Sturges back on the ice, but also making key contributions to his team.