Michigan State Sophomore Helps Fill Scoring Void
by Caleb Saunders/CHN Reporter
Across the nation this season, there's been a theme of outstanding play from younger players – names like Gillies, Goudreau, Czarnik and DeSmith.
In the same vein, one of the nation’s best-kept secrets – and not a household name yet – is Matt Berry, a sophomore for the Michigan State Spartans. Berry, the CCHA points-scoring leader, paces a team that has yet to find its stride in a season that has opened with a challenging schedule – already, a trip to Minnesota and series against Miami and Michigan.
Berry, a Canton, Mich., native played in 37 games in his rookie campaign, registering 19 points. He has seven goals and six assists for 13 points in just 12 games this season.
“Matt has really emerged as a good offensive player for us,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos. “He’s got great offensive instincts, and the puck has been going in the net for him. He’s off to a real good start.”
The Spartans will certainly hope for continued production from Berry after losing a huge portion of their scoring from last season with the early departure of defenseman Torey Krug, who led the team in points. Krug was also a Hobey Baker finalist a year ago.
But even Krug wasn’t able to accomplish what Berry did two weeks ago when the Spartans hosted archrival Michigan. In a 6-1 drubbing of the Wolverines, Berry registered a hat trick – and allowed the Spartans to enjoy their largest margin of victory against Michigan since an 11-4 win in December, 1989.
In the contest, Berry scored just 34 seconds into the game and added two more later – all in front of a Munn Ice Arena record crowd of 7,225.
“He’s a very good goal-scorer,” said Anastos. “He’s got a quick release, he’s good with the puck, he’s confident and has a good touch around the net.”
Having a productive offense is important for any team, but even more so now for the Spartans, with junior netminder Will Yanakeff struggling so far, posting a below average .879 save percentage and a 3.71 goals-against average. Those numbers may lead the Spartans to lean on freshman Jake Hildebrand, who boasts a .941 save percentage and 1.85 goals-against average through six games.
The Spartans have found a palpable scoring threat in Berry’s line, which also features sophomore Brent Darnell and freshman Matt DeBlouw. The three have combined for 34 points in 12 games.
And Berry knows that he owes a lot of his personal success thus far to Darnell and DeBlouw.
Said Berry, “They’ve definitely played a huge role. We’re all doing really well this season, and they’ve helped me out a lot. Our chemistry has been getting better and better every day.”
Added Anastos, “He fits in with his teammates real well. The guys really like him, and at times he’s a bit of a character.”
Before coming to East Lansing, Berry played for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. He scored 25 goals and notched 26 assists for 51 points in the 2010-11 season for the Lumberjacks. Berry believes playing in the USHL and for Muskegon helped prepare him for the grind of college hockey.
“When I went to Muskegon, I was a little bit smaller,” said Berry. “I hadn’t seen the weight room very much, and when I went there, [assistant coach] Dave Noel-Bernier really helped guide me and showed me the weight room.”
Now, as a sophomore in East Lansing, he’s throwing his weight around the CCHA – again, leading the league in conference scoring and hoping to lead the Spartans to another CCHA championship despite their slow start to the season.
And so although there have been, without question, plenty of young players across the nation who have played well thus far, it appears there’s another name to add to that list.