Michigan State hockey boasts a tradition of great goaltending. In the past rests names of some great net minders. Ryan Miller, Ron Scott, Jeff Lerg and Mike Gilmore are secure among the greats and now incoming freshman Jake Hildebrand hopes to be the next. He will have to compete with Will “The Magnificent” Yanakeff.
“It’s a lot to live up to,” the Butler, Pennsylvania, native says, “but I think it’ll be fun getting everything started and seeing those past guys on the wall. I think it’ll be motivation.”
He is sure to meet the likes of Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres) and Jeff Lerg (Ours de Villard-de-Lans, France) in person eventually and says he looks forward to that day. “I haven’t had the opportunity to meet any of them yet, but I think I’d introduce myself and talk to them and ask them some things. I think it’d be pretty cool.”
He says junior goaltender Will Yanakeff has already been helpful. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Will already,” Hildebrand says. “He’s a great guy. He and (sophomore goaltender) Nathan (Phillips) have been really friendly showing me the ropes.”
Their helpfulness is one example of the team-first mentality quality goaltenders should have off the ice. It is a different sort of competitiveness than what forwards or defensemen deal with, simply because only one player in the position can play at a time.
Hildebrand says it is not too difficult, though. “I think that’s a very big part of being a team guy – the goalies get pretty competitive in practice and stuff, because you’re only competing against 1 or 2 guys, so on the ice it’s all business. Off the ice, you’ve got to put that aside and just be a good teammate, good friend. “Everyone always says goalies are a little different, and I think that’s 100% true. But it’s just a different mindset.”
His new coach, assistant Mike Gilmore, should understand the mentality, as he is a former Spartan goaltender, and an elite one himself. “I think it’ll be great coming in here with him as a coach. I finally got to meet him in person and go out to dinner with him the other night, and he seems like a great guy who’ll be able to help me throughout my entire career.” And Gilmore is not the only coach Hildebrand looks forward to working with this season.
“I think it’s just the way he carries himself,” he says of head coach Tom Anastos, “like such a professional. You know he wants to win – you know that’s what he’s here to do. I
think that’s just what sold me to come to MSU.”
After a few weeks on campus, the detailed-oriented freshman is already confident he made the right decision. “It’s a beautiful campus, just unbelievable. I love it here.”
An additional, unexpected bonus to campus life? “Brody (cafeteria) has the best cookies around.”