Danton Cole is all about the “Red, White and Blue,” but don’t fault him too much for slipping some “green” in there, too.
The 50-year-old Cole, who coached the past seven seasons for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, returns Saturday to the Plymouth arena he left last spring when he became head coach of the Michigan State University Spartans.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. at USA Hockey Arena, located on Beck Road north of M-14 (734-453-8400).
Also back to visit their old stomping grounds will be MSU assistant coach Chris Luongo (on Cole’s NTDP staff in 2015-16 and 2016-17) and Spartans goalie coach Joe Exter.
On the Spartans’ roster are four former NTDP players. Those include forwards Patrick Khodorenko, Dylan Pavelek; defenseman Tommy Miller (West Bloomfield) and goaltender Ed Minney.
“It will be a lot of fun to see the guys again,” said Cole, in an e-mail to the Observer. “There is a lot asked of them and we as coaches become very attached to young men that sacrifice a great deal to be there. I look forward to seeing the progress they have made.”
Cole, a former National Hockey League player who guided Team USA to the gold medal at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 World Championship in Slovakia, obviously is looking forward to the game.
“Mostly just to be back and see the players, coaches and staff that were a huge part of (wife) Deb and my lives over seven great years,” Cole continued. “We had some very special moments, but the best part of being there was the people I got to work with and know.”
But Dec. 16 also will be a special night for Scott Monaghan, senior director of operations for the NTDP.
“It’s going to be emotional to see Danton and Chris over on that bench for MSU,” Monaghan said. “I remember them as players (for the Spartans) when I was a student. I was honored to give them an opportunity here with the National program. And I know coaching their alma mater was a dream for both of them.”
Because the NTDP is a pipeline of potential Division I players for colleges such as Michigan State, Monaghan also sees Cole’s return to East Lansing as a win-win situation in the development of young players.
“I always tell kids you go to a college for the school,” Monaghan stressed. “Make sure you pick a place, not a person. But if I had a son in that position, I would always be 100 percent behind them playing for Danton Cole.
“He’s a good human being and he’s about more than just the ‘hockey part.’ He cares about kids and their futures.”
In some ways, taking over the reins of a relatively inexperienced college team — which Cole has done with the Spartans — merely is an extension of what he did with USA Hockey.
“The season has gone well and the team has made a lot of progress,” Cole added. “We are very young, 19 freshmen and sophomores, so there is a lot to learn.
“I really have enjoyed the work ethic and commitment of the team and they represent MSU very well.”
NTDP U18s edge Central Illinois
On Dec. 9 in a contest at USA Hockey Arena, the U.S. NTDP Under-18 team defeated Central Illinois, 6-2.
Leading the way with a goal and two assists was Joel Farabee, while Birmingham’s Bode Wilde, Jonathan Gruden (Rochester) and K’Andre Miller also scored.
Making 25 saves in goal for the victory was Drew DeRidder (Fenton).
Schoolcraft splits pair
Schoolcraft College’s men’s club hockey team played two American Collegiate Hockey Association games over the weekend at Redford Ice Arena and came away with a lopsided win followed by a lopsided loss against Miami (of Ohio) University.
On Dec. 8, the Ocelots built an 8-2 lead after two periods and posted a 10-4 victory. Big guns in the win were Griffen Ahmet (two goals, assist), Richard Corso (two goals), Jacob St. Andre (goal, two assists) and Scott Pohl (goal, assist). Making 20 saves for Schoolcraft was netminder Connor O’Reilly.
The following afternoon, however, Miami came out looking for revenge and got it with a decisive 9-3 win. Schoolcraft goals were registered by Ahmet, Sage Becraft and Nolan Cioch.
Next up for coach Rob Lindsay’s team is a home-and-home against Western Michigan University. The Ocelots will visit WMU for a game 6 p.m. Friday, followed by a home game at Redford (6:30 p.m. Saturday).
SPARTANS VS. TEAM USA
What: Michigan State University’s men’s hockey team will face the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team. The game is part of the NTDP vs. NCAA College Series presented by Kroger.
When/where: Puck drop is 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16 at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
Welcome back: Former NTDP coaches Danton Cole, Chris Luongo (an ex-Detroit Red Wings player) and Joe Exter now are with the MSU coaching staff and will be back to face their former program.
Cole was head coach the past seven seasons, while Luongo was one of his assistant coaches in 2015-16 and 2016-17 (and previously on the same staff at Wayne State University). Exter, a goalie coach, founded and developed USA Hockey’s renowned Warren Strelow National Goaltending program while a coach with the NTDP.
Several former NTDP players also are on the Spartans, including defenseman Tommy Miller of West Bloomfield.
Tickets: Good seats (starting at $10) remain available, but the crowd should be similar to the near-capacity 3,715 on hand for the Dec. 2 game against Michigan. Go to usahockeyarena.com or call (734) 453-8400 for more information.