Yesterday, we answered some questions about BC hockey for The Only Colors, SB Nation's outstanding Michigan State Spartans blog. Today, Jeremy Dewar from ToC returned the favor, answering some of our questions about Sparty as we prepare for their visit to the Heights tomorrow night.
1. Michigan State has had an uneven start to the year, but did just thrash UNH for a pair of victories. What went right for the Spartans last weekend?
JD: Last weekend the Spartans were helped by finding scoring from their top two lines on the same night. The problem has been this year that scoring has typically only come from one line during a game, leading to really low offensive numbers. The Spartans still don't have a ton of offensive depth, but are developing a pretty powerful top two lines. JT Stenglein has 5 goals in 8 games after having just 3 in 38 games his first two seasons. Mackenzie MacEachern has been leaned on as well but the Spartans last weekend saw increased output from guys like Joe Cox, Michael Ferrantino and Villiam Haag which made a huge difference.
2. Who are some newcomers to the team who have had an impact this season?
JD: Mason Appleton is a freshman from the USHL who has seven points on the season, including his first two career goals last weekend, and has been playing on the top line with Ferrantino and MacEachern. He is a forward who is incredibly strong on the puck and has added size to the front line which has been lacking in recent years. On the blue line Zach Osburn has looked impressive as he has been thrust into big minutes as a freshman. MSU carries just 6 scholarship defenseman right now and Osburn has added some offensive game back on the blue line in the early going.
3. Style-wise, how do you expect to see Michigan State approach a game against a top team on the road? Will the Spartans trap or play defensively, or do you expect them to attack?
JD: I expect MSU to play the style of play they have against high powered teams such as the University of Michigan in Tom Anastos' tenure and that is to play extremely defensive. Anastos prides himself on having a team that is willing and able to block a ton of shots and I think BC will have offensive success if they are scoring off the rush. Michigan State when they can set up their in-zone defense can shut down high powered offenses.
4. It's been a trying couple of seasons by Michigan State standards... is there a sense that things are trending in the right direction or is the program stuck in the mud right now?
JD: I would say there is cautious optimism. Personally to me the recruiting has been getting better and better each season under Anastos and next year's class could be a program changer (at least compared to recent times). But, MSU has been in the last 1/3 of offensive rankings for three years running and last weekend aside they were hovering at 2.17 goals per game once again. Anastos is a great personality, a great representative of the program but there are legitimate questions if he can develop talent and find a coaching style that works. I think MSU has a chance to really shock some people this season but if Anastos misses the NCAA tournament for the 4th season in a row while football and basketball continue to be great, apathy could hit a new low.
5. Which conference do you think is better, the Big Ten or Atlantic Hockey? Cite specific evidence.
JD: Joe you are hitting me in the bias center. Obviously as a B1G fan I want to say that but my cousin just started his freshman season as a forward at Air Force so I am now an Atlantic Hockey guy also! I will say that with just 6 teams, and it once again looking like there may only be one tournament team from the B1G the inclination is to say Atlantic Hockey is better. While I believe Michigan and Minnesota are better than any team in AHC the rest of the league is probably equal if not lower than teams like Robert Morris and Mercyhurst, The bottom of the AHC is just so bad with American International, West Point and Niagara that I think I will give the slightest of edges to the B1G.
6. What would you consider success for the Spartans this season?
JD: Finishing in the top two in the league, making an appearance in the B1G Title game and an NCAA appearance would be a success. Also, splitting their season series with Michigan would definitely help locally. The pressure will mount considerably from the casual fan if the Spartans stretch their NCAA drought to 4 years.
7. Any predictions for this weekend?
JD: MSU had a flash of a great weekend against UNH and maybe with that whole week of practice during a bye week they have worked out some major kinks. But it is hard to forget this is a team that lost to Lake Superior State at home and a team that has struggled to score over 2 goals per game consistently. I'll say BC wins 3-0 but coach Anastos gets to see his daughter score a goal for the Eagles women's team Friday afternoon.
Thanks again to Jeremy Dewar of The Only Colors; Follow him on twitter at @jeremy_dewar. The puck drops between Michigan State and BC on Friday night at 7:00 PM, and as usual BCI will have you covered.