Spartans hockey is hungry for a better showing

David Goricki
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Tom Anastos knows what it feels like to play in the NCAA Tournament and Frozen Four — he did it with Michigan State more than 30 years ago.

But he’d like to feel what it’s like to do it as a coach — of his Spartans.

He’ll have to do it, though, by overcoming some long odds. Michigan State is predicted to finish last in the Big Ten this season.

“We haven’t proven what we want, so there’s plenty to play for, plenty to be hungry over,” Anastos said. “Some of it has to be self-generated, a lot of it is just internal expectations and you get what you earn and we all recognize that.

“So, when you look at something like that (polls), do I put a lot of stock into it? No, but at the same time you’re out trying to influence the whole hockey community, that you want to be a champion so you have to work toward it and prove it.”

The Spartans won a national championship in 2007, and last reached the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Anastos’ first season.

Since 2011, Michigan State is 71-98-20 — its worst five-year stretch in 40 years (62-115-5, 1977-81).

Anastos has a large freshman class (10) — Patrick Khodorenko, a member of the U.S. National Development team, Taro Hirose and Sam Saliba are among those who could contribute right away.

He also believes the Spartans have more depth on defense — he’ll replace goaltender Jake Hildebrand, the 2014 Big Ten player of the year, with junior Ed Minney, who played for the U.S. Junior National Development team — and is optimistic they will do a better job moving the puck out of their zone.

“I am encouraged by what I see,” Anastos said. “I like the compete level, I like our ability to be able to skate back there, and I believe we’ll have improved ability to move the puck more efficiently, especially with our numbers.”

Anastos also will have defenseman Jerad Rosburg back after he missed last season with a knee injury.

The Spartans scored 93 goals last season with Joe Cox scoring 11.

“We’re going to need contributions from new people and we’re going to need returning guys to step up,” Anastos said

Michigan State opens Oct. 14-15 at Lake Superior State before hosting Denver on Oct. 21-22. It also plays nonconference series against Michigan Tech, Ferris State and North Dakota.