By Matt Bishop
The State News
After just starting full practices Saturday, MSU hockey coach Rick Comley said he saw what he expected to see during the Spartans’ annual Green and White intrasquad scrimmage Sunday inside a sweltering Munn Ice Arena.
The players were expected to make a major impact, and the line of juniors Justin Abdelkader, Tim Crowder and Tim Kennedy did just that. Those looking to make a good first impression, like freshman forward Dustin Gazley, did so as well.
And after the Green team’s 5-4 win over the White team, it appears the Spartans could once again be a player on the national scene.
“There’s nothing like a game to take it to a real stage,” Comley said.
“While they were fresh and while the ice was still good, the quality of (the game) was pretty good.”
MSU’s bread-and-butter trio of Abdelkader, Crowder and Kennedy combined for two goals and several nice plays, including a goal late in the first period where Kennedy and Crowder broke from the neutral zone on a 2-on-1.
As the duo approached the blue line, both the defender in front and the trailing defender went to Kennedy, who slipped a pass over to Crowder, who went in all alone and buried it.
“The Abdelkader line is a really elite line,” Comley said. “They’re going to get chances, there’s no question about that.”
MSU’s other top line of senior Bryan Lerg, senior Chris Mueller and freshman Corey Tropp combined for two goals for the Green team. Tropp’s goal early in the second period seemed to swing the momentum to the Green side.
“They all want to play with Tropp,” Comley said. “He’s a Kennedy-like player. He passes really, really well. Great hands, maybe the best on the team.”
On defense, Comley liked what he saw from senior Daniel Vukovic and freshman Jeff Petry, who were paired together.
“Vuk will give Jeff some stability,” Comley said. “(Petry) is much more offensive than you saw today. As he relaxes and gets involved, he’s really joining the rush a lot.”
Gazley’s play impressed more than a few folks. Playing a hard-nosed game, the 5-foot-8, 158-pound forward wasn’t afraid to lay on the body.
“He just plays with tremendous speed and intensity. He has very good puck skills,” Comley said.
And Gazley didn’t just provide hustle for the Green squad. He scored the game-winning goal for the Green team as they battled back from a 4-2 deficit to win the game. He also dug a puck out of the corner to set up junior Nick Sucharski for a short-handed goal in the first period.
“I was a little nervous in the first period, had to get the butterflies out,” Gazley said. “You have to go out there and do what you can and the nervousness goes away.”
The Spartans return to play at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday when they host Windsor in the final tune-up before the beginning of the regular season.