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Michigan State hockey is fun again and Adam Nightingale is the reason

Adam Nightingale has made MSU hockey fun again.

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Michigan State hockey
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State hockey has seen a resurgence and the reason for the program’s turnaround is head coach Adam Nightingale.

The 2007 season was memorable for Michigan State hockey. It was the last time the program was on top of the college hockey world. A game-winning goal that year by future Detroit Red Wing Justin Abdelkader clinched the national championship for the Spartans over Boston College. That moment came 21 years after their second national title in 1986. That moment showed how good Michigan State hockey could be and what the future would hopefully hold, but that was not the case.

After that season, Michigan State hockey as a program fell off. It went from a top-two sport at Michigan State to a program that was not even competing in the Big Ten.

Following 2007, head coach Rick Comley stuck around until 2011 when he retired. After a successful coaching career by Comley, who replaced legendary head coach Ron Mason, Michigan State hired Tom Anastos. This is where the program began to take a turn for the worst.

The hiring of Anastos was an interesting one. While Tom had connections to Michigan State as an assistant coach, it had been a while since he was there. This hire led to Michigan State making the first round of the NCAA tournament where it lost to Union College. This was the last time the Spartans made the tournament with Anastos at the helm.

Each year, Michigan State got worse record-wise until his final season in 2016-17 when the Spartans had a 7-24-4 record. Anastos was then let go.

While hockey is a tough sport, Michigan State had crumbled as a program. The next hire that Michigan State had to make would determine if Michigan State could bounce back to its days of being one of the best teams in college hockey or if it would continue to fall further behind.

That next hire would be Danton Cole.

He was a very experienced coach who people thought would bring the program back but sadly, the program continued to fall further behind the level being played in the Big Ten.

In six years, Anastos went 78-121-24 as a head coach but this winning percentage would drop even lower under Cole. As head coach for five years, Cole went 58-101-12 equaling a .374 win percentage. Under Cole, Michigan State continued to regress which lead to losing records every year. Following the 2021-22 season, Cole was let go.

Fifteen years later and with two different head coaches since the 2007 National Championship, Michigan State was in a very bad position. The days of the Munn Arena being packed were over. The program had fallen so far that sometimes if you attended the football games, you could get into the hockey game afterward if you showed them your ticket. The hockey program was no longer a top program at Michigan State.

But those dark days might be ending.

The reason those days might be over is because of Adam Nightingale.

In just his first year, Nightingale has led Michigan State to a record of 13-11-1, a top-20 ranking in the country, and wins over top-ranked teams like a recent victory over Penn State.

While it’s hard to say Michigan State is completely back, the job Nightingale has done in a short time has been amazing. He has made Michigan State hockey fun once again and it should only get better as the type of players Nightingale has coming to Michigan State should keep the program’s trajectory trending upwards and fans can start to see that happening. 

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