Michigan State Hockey has gotten some attention this year for their strong turn around after a rough season last year (and rough past few seasons following the 2007 national title). Going around the internet today, this article caught my eye, from the blog: A Beautiful Day For Football. Basically, he makes the comparison (towards the end of the article) that Tom Anastos is the Brady Hoke of College Hockey (minus the weight, of course). That got me thinking if that really was a good analogy.
Brady Hoke didn't have a lot of major head coaching experience when he was hired at UofM. He was, at one point, an assistant coach at Michigan though, and he claimed he would have walked from San Diego State to get the job (the walk probably wouldn't have hurt). Sorry, that's two weight jokes in a matter of a few sentences.....
Anyways, Tom Anastos didn't have a lot of head coaching experience when he was hired here last year. He was, at one point, an assistant coach at Michigan State. As far as I know, he didn't make a claim that he would walk all the way from Farmington Hills, though that wouldn't have been as bad as walking from San Diego. He did come in and supposedly told the players, in his first team meeting, that he was a Spartan. It was the first time the hockey program had actually been under the direction of a former Spartan.
He immediately hit a homerun with the players, and the players have responded. Very similar to Hoke and Michigan. The year before Hoke, Michigan finished in 7th place (tied) in the Big 10. This was preceeded by a 10th place finish (tied) and a 9th place finish (tied). Enter Hoke - and Michigan falls just 1 game shy of playing in the Big 10 championship game - pretty much in 3rd/4th place.
MSU hockey finished the 2010-2011 campaign in 10th place, losing to Alaska in the first round of the playoffs. In the 2009-2010 season, MSU did manage a second place finish, but they were swept by Michigan in the CCHA quarterfinals (and MSU was a distant 20 points behind Miami for the league title). The 2008-2009 campaign saw MSU finish in a tie for 9th place, and they once again lost in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. MSU missed the NCAA tournament each of those three seasons.
Come to think of it, MSU hasn't been to Joe Louis for the CCHA tournament since 2007 (2008, MSU was upset in the CCHA Quarterfinals - though they still made the tournament). I'm sad now.
But then we get to think about Coach Anastos and what he has done. MSU is in fourth place right now, with the same group of guys that nearly finished dead last just a season ago. It's a shame that Ferris State will win the league title, which will probably give the CCHA Coach of the Year award to Bob Daniels (former Spartan) instead of Tom Anastos.
Anastos has already pulled in some great verbal commitments - much like Hoke is on fire on the recruiting trail. The trick in hockey though is to get them on campus and away from the OHL.
And we all know one thing about this weekend - our guys will compete hard. Notre Dame, if they win, will have earned it.