The only true knowledge of things is the knowledge of their causes. — Archbishop Leighton
All those who think that Michigan State will emerge a top-tier CCHA team this season, say, “Aye!”
Come on. A little enthusiasm here.
“I feel good about our hockey team,” says head coach Rick Comley. That’s a big statement from a man whose team has undergone a crisis of faith in recent years. In the post-Ron Mason, post-Ryan Miller era of Spartan hockey, not only did MSU fans need to be convinced that the Earth would continue to spin and the center would hold, but Spartan players themselves seemed slow to buy into Comley’s tenure.
Between Mason and now, Comley has had to endure early departures, attitude issues, injuries, and kids who just weren’t getting what the man wanted his team to do. It took longer than expected for Comley to transition the team away from its Ryan Miller dependency toward a more offensive-minded style.
A strange side effect was a limping offense that didn’t begin to blossom until midseason last year and never fully reached its potential. When the Spartans found themselves awake again offensively, though, they couldn’t put together enough consistent back-to-back effort to make any real noise.
They did, however, realize what they could do if they played together as a team, and that’s the cause of Comley’s optimism. “The thing I like most about our team is our balance. Colton Fretter is a 20-goal scorer, Drew Miller has become a very valuable player. David Booth I expect to have a breakout season.
“Corey Potter, I think, we are lucky to get back. He could have signed with the New York Rangers but didn’t. Ethan Graham will play a ton of minutes for us. Obviously, you can see with Dominic Vicari’s selection as second team preseason that we are pretty good in that position.”
And that, Spartan fans, is your team’s biggest advantage. In a league that returns precious few time-tested goaltenders, Vicari gives MSU an edge; if he remains healthy and plays as he can, he has the potential to be among the best goalies in the country.
One big challenge for this year’s Spartans is the schedule, which always pits MSU against Michigan for four regular-season games – and who would have it any other way? – but which also includes first-half trips to Ithaca and Fairbanks – two at home against Northern Michigan, and the College Hockey Showcase at Thanksgiving.
“Our kids are going to get tested early, but I think they are up to it,” says Comley.
The Spartans put together a three-game win streak to end last year’s regular season before sweeping Miami at home in the first round of the CCHA playoffs, and MSU put up five or more goals in eight games last year, so the seeds of improvement have already been planted. Comley said all along last season that he never faulted his players’ efforts.
What remains to be seen is whether the team chemistry has improved to the point of trust — trust in each other, and trust in the coach. If those particular ducks get into those specific rows, the Spartans will return to form — no, scratch that. If all goes as it should, the Spartans will not repeat any history specific to MSU or Comley’s former school, Northern Michigan, but rather create something completely new and completely competitive.