By Mike Repertorio - Contributing Correspondent
After falling just short in 2011-12, Michigan State would reign victorious as the 2012-13 D2 National Champions. Led by Central Regional and National Tournament MVP, Anthony Casali (graduated), Michigan State rode to a convincing 6-3 win over Grand Valley State. This win marks the third time that the Spartans have won the prestigious title of National Champions (previously in 2004-05 & 2006-07).
This is no time to rest on your laurels though. Despite winning the National Championship, Coach James Martin is focused on improving the team's defensive zone play.
“Last year was good, but we definitely have room for improvement," Martin said.
Last year, the Spartans only gave up 68 goals, among the fewest goals given up in the entire region.
Employing a possession style of play with an emphasis on D zone coverage, Coach Martin made it a point to express that, in addition to limiting the opposition's chances, they will look to develop some scoring this year as well.
While some may be concerned with fielding a very young roster, the Spartans seem poised to excel. Despite having 14 players returning, the majority of the roster will be comprised of freshman and sophomores. However, the incoming crop of forwards and defenseman are a skilled bunch.
“They are all very dedicated." Martin said. "However, and I am very confident they will be able to adjust to the ACHA very quickly."
Offensively, sophomore forward Shane Stockwell will be one player to keep an eye on. The Lake Orion, Michigan native put up a very strong freshman campaign. In 25 regular season games, Stockwell posted three goals but added 15 assists for 18 points. It will be interesting to see what kind of season the 5-foot-8 forward will put up this year.
In the crease, Michigan State will rely on returning goaltenders Brent Schwarz and Eric Matych along with newcomer Karl Langhans. Schwarz, the only returning Central Regional 1st Team All Star, and Matych both did a great job for the Spartans last season. Schwarz played in five games, winning four and posting a 2.20 goals against average and a save percentage of .930 while Matych started seven, winning three and compiling a 2.40 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.
But don't count out Langhans, considered “a new but very promising goaltender,” as an impact player this season.
Looking forward, the road to repeat begins on September 27, when the Spartans travel to the University of Illinois to take on their ACHA D1 team. On October 4 and 5, Michigan State will play a home and home against D1 Rochester College. They will then begin their league schedule on October 25 when they play the first game of a home and home against D2 Ferris State University. Led by Captains Robert Goldi (C), Hunter Forester (A), and Gregg Leonardo (A), this team is definitely looking forward to getting the season started.
As the Defending National Champions, Coach Martin recognizes that every game is a big game going forward. Teams will be stepping up their game and trying to make their mark and Coach Martin has plenty of confidence the Spartans will be up to the challenge.
“I’m definitely optimistic," Martin said. "We have an extremely difficult schedule and a very young team, but we should be ready to go.”