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Men’s College Hockey Notable Performers: Week 4

Empty Net Matt Christians/SBN College Hockey

Here’s a look at some notable teams and players that caught my attention last weekend in men’s college hockey:

  1. Michigan State

Michigan State went on the road last week and swept Cornell in a pair of games. It’s still early for the Spartans, and even earlier for Cornell, who was playing in their first games of the season after the late Ivy League start, so it’s probably too soon to declare a major turnaround. But it’s a promising first step in Danton Cole’s second season at the helm, for a Michigan State program that has spent the past decade mired in futility.

Leading the way for the Spartans is junior forward Taro Hirose. The smaller forward has nine points in his first four games this season, and based on his past track record, those numbers don’t seem like a fluke. Hirose very quietly led the Spartans with 42 points in 36 games last year, and was invited to the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect camp over the summer. He’ll likely be very high on the list of NHL free agents this summer.

2. Johnny Walker, Arizona State

Walker scored four goals on Saturday to help Arizona State sweep Omaha. The two wins were significant in a lot of ways. Arizona State had never beaten an NCHC team prior to last weekend. After earning their first ever home sweep three weeks ago against Alaska, it took Arizona State just one try to get their second ever home sweep.

The four goals also gave Walker a 8-5-13 scoring line in eight games this season. He’s tied for the national lead in goals, points, power play goals, and shots on goal. Aside from the fact that it’s funny that a guy named Johnny Walker leads the country in shots, it’s particularly noteworthy just how prodigious he has been in putting the puck on the net this year.

He was credited with 15 shots on goal in Saturday’s game. That alone would put him just outside the top-100 nationally for shots on goal for the season. In total, he has 50 shots on goal for the year, putting 17 ahead of teammate Brinson Paschinuk, who is second with 33 shots on goal. The highest teammate is Miami’s Karch Bachman at third with 31.

If you factor in that Walker has played in eight games and want to sort it by shots on goal per game played, he’s still a mile ahead of anyone. Technically, two players that have played one and two games respectively, top his average 6.25 shots on goal per game, but if you look at players that have played at least four games, the next highest total is BC’s Oliver Wahlstrom with 4.75 per game. Past national leaders in shots on goal per game include: Ryan Donato(6.03), John Hayden(5.27), Ahti Oksanen(4.87), Casey Bailey(5.70), Kenny Agostino(4.91), and Adam Pleskach(4.54).

3. Bowling Green

The Falcons made a statement on Friday night by walloping Ohio State 8-2, then weathering the Buckeyes’ pushback on Saturday night to earn a 2-2 tie.

Leading the way for the Falcons is sophomore Max Johnson, who has developed a niche as a goal-scorer on the power play, being set up by teammate by teammate and Vegas Golden Knights pick Brandon Kruse. I wrote a little bit about that duo’s success on the power play last week. They’re currently ranked 1 and 2 in the nation in power play points.

Johnson is one of the handful of players from the Lakeville North High School program in Minnesota, coached by Trent Eigner, that have made their way to Bowling Green, where Trent’s brother Ty is an assistant coach. That pipeline has served the Falcons very well, and has them in great position to compete for a WCHA title this year, and possibly an NCAA Tournament berth.