Tom Anastos, the commissioner of the CCHA for 13 seasons, is the first year head coach of Michigan State. He is a former player and assistant coach for the Spartans; he replaced Rick Comley who retired.

Why should Gophers hockey fans care? Well, the Gophers play his Spartans this weekend.

"He called me [Monday] on how the trophy works -- the Bessone-Mariucci Trophy," Gophers coach Don Lucia said on Monday on his weekly radio show. "And I was laughing. 'Well, did you ever think when you were coaching at Michigan-Dearborn and I was at [Alaska]-Fairbanks, we would be playing against each other at Minnesota and Michigan State?' "

Lucia was referring to a time in the late 1980s, early 1990s. ...  John Mariucci and Amo Bessone, of course, were legendary coaches at Minnesota and Michigan State, respectively.

"[Anastos] has been around the game all of his life," Lucia said. "He has got a couple good, experienced assistant coaches so. Coaching is coaching whether it is bantams or midgets or high school, college or juniors. He was a junior coach as well, so he  has got that background. But being around the game, and watching like he has, it won't be that much of a transition. And they are off to a pretty good start."

The Spartans are 7-5-0 and recently swept then-No. 5 Western Michigan.

"These are important games for the end of the year," Lucia said, referring to the PairWise ratings which ranks team based on how they compare with other top teams. The PairWise ratings mimic the criteria the NCAA uses to fill out its postseason tournament with at-large teams.

"The last six games, they have not given up more than two goals in a game," Lucia said. "So they are playing well defensively. They are playing a little bit more aggressively than what they have done in the past. So it should be a good, entertaining up- and-down weekend."

MSU's recent results:

Robert Morris, swept 5-2, 6-2

Western Michigan, swept 3-2, 4-2

Northern Michigan, split 4-2, 1-2

Michigan State beat the Gophers 5-2 on Nov. 26 last year, ending a nine-game unbeaten streak Minnesota had (4-0-5). "Kent was sick, he had the flu," Lucia said, referring to Gophers goalie Kent Patterson. "I think he let in three of the first five shots. And we could never mount a comeback." 

* The Spartans have 14 upper classmen, the Gophers have eight, but only five or six at most play most nights. Sixteen Spartans are from Michigan. The only Minnesota player they have is senior defenseman Matt Crandell from St. Cloud.


* The good thing about being at a hotel on Thanksgiving: "You can't eat as much. You can't go back to the fridge four hours later."

* The Gophers schedule: Skate on Thursday morning at home. Fly to Detroit Thursday afternoon. Bus 1-1/2 or 2 hours to East Lansing. Have Thanksgiving meal as a team. "The nice thing this weekend," Lucia said, "is we will be able to take everybody. By WCHA rules, you can only travel with 22 guys, so four, five games always have to stay at home when we travel."  

* On Nick Bjugstad, who has 13 goals after a four-goal weekend: "He can shoot the puck, there is no doubt. And the nice thing this year is he is hitting the net. Last year he had a tendency to bang a few off the plexiglass. His shooting percentage was really good on Saturday. He was three-for-three. The trick is to get him to get six or seven a night on target.

"He shoots the puck so hard. And the goal-scorers, they don't necessarily know where it is going. It is getting it off quickly with a release and getting it to the net." 


Before Michigan State won last November, here is how the Spartans fared against the Gophers:

Nov. 28, 2009 at East Lansing:  Gophers 2, Michigan State 1

Nov. 28, 2008 at Mariucci: Gophers 4, Michigan State 4. OT, tie

Nov. 23, 2007 at East Landing: Gophers 3, Michigan State 3, OT, tie

Nov. 24, 2006 at Mariucci: Gophers 5, Michigan State 4

Nov. 25, 2005 at East Lansing: Gophers 2, Michigan State 2, OT, tie

Nov. 27, 2004 at Mariucci: Gophers 5, Michigan State 0

Nov. 28, 2003 at East Lansing: Gophers 5, Michigan State 1

Nov. 30, 2002, Mariucci: Gophers 5, Michigan State 5, ot, tie

Nov. 25, 2001, East Lansing: Gophers 4, Michigan State 4, ot, tie