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Toronto's MSU Spartan

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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Catch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Michigan State Spartans LIVE on Leafs TV February 4th 7:30 pm.

Catch the annual Beanpot tournament on Leafs TV starting February 6th at 5:00 p.m. when Boston College takes on Northeastern University. Then at 8:00 p.m. catch Boston University against Harvard University. Don't miss the Beanpot final on February 13th at 8:00 p.m.

Brian Bileski
February 1, 2006

(TORONTO) -- For years Michigan State  has recruited some of the most talented Ontario-born players to skate for their nationally recognized hockey program. 

Pros like Rob Brind'Amour and Anson Carter roamed the Munn Arena ice before making the NHL their permanent stomping grounds.  Since then Toronto has sent numerous puck-slapping hosers south of the border adding a distinct northern touch to their locker room. 

This year there are two Torontonians sporting the green and white Spartans' jersey, freshman forward and former Wexford Raider Nick Sucharski and sophomore defenceman and former St. Michael's Buzzers Daniel Vukovic.  The latter is getting plenty of ice time while riding the blue line for coach Rick Comley.  Standing at an intimidating  6'3 and weighing in around 210 pounds Vukovic is making his presence felt in his second season in the CCHA.

Daniel Vukovic hopes to make it to the NHL

Brian Bileski caught up with the former GTA superstar only days after Michigan State tied Michigan 5-5 in front of a sold-out Joe Louis Arena crowd.

Brian: How was your freshman season last year?

Daniel: My Freshman season was an adjustment for me.  I wasn't up to speed with the college game play.  I was there mentally but not physically.  This summer I worked out.  Last year I ddn't play much but this year I'm on the PP, PK and getting minutes.  The more ice time you get the more confidence you gain. 

Brian:  The Spartans started the season off slowly but have been one of the hottest teams in the NCAA of late.  What's the feeling around the locker room about what might happen the rest of the year?

Daniel:  The whole team is special. We're really close like a family.  We all know how to play our system.  We can play 60 minutes of good hockey. I think we can go far this season. Right now our league is really competitive and five teams will probably go to the NCAA's. We want to finish in the top four CCHA standings and at the CCHA championships. Once you get into the NCAA tournament anything is possible.

Brian:  You're a big guy and huge presence on the blue line yet nobody has drafted you. Is heading to the NHL a big goal of yours?

Daniel:  It's definitely been a goal of mine ever since I was little. Getting drafted isn't such a big deal now that I am getting older.  I'm staying positive and working on my defence while trying to improve my offence. I hope that somebody might give me a tryout and work my way from there.

Brian:  You played with Michigan forward and World Junior Gold medalist Andrew Cogliano while you two were with the St. Michael's Buzzers, what do you think about his game?

Daniel: We're really good friends and I see him back home.  He scored two goals against us at the Joe (Louis Arena) on Saturday night.  I hope the best for him.

Brian: How about your former teammate Jimmy Slater tearing it up for the Atlanta Thrashers?

Daniel: I am really excited for him. He's playing right out of college and he's playing really well. I learned so much from him last year and it's cool seeing somebody you played with doing it in the NHL.  I talked to him and he said he's having an amazing time.  It's just so amazing to our whole team how well he's doing.

Brian: I heard that Michigan State has a ton of really good looking women on campus. Is there any truth to this?

Daniel: The girls are great down here.  This is a huge campus and there are so many of them.  There are a lot of pretty girls. 

Brian:  A little birdy told me that you dated the entire women's field lacrosse team last year.  Is this true?

Daniel: The whole team? (Laughs)  No it's not true.  I didn't date the whole team.  I knew alot of them but I dated only one.  We were just good friends.

Brian: What's the deal with the Leafs this year?

Daniel: It's been bugging me.  I haven't been able to watch many games but I listen on-line as often as I can.  I'm getting aggravated.  We're losing to Ottawa by like a combined score of 20 to one and it's driving me crazy.  Nothing matters as long as we make the playoffs.  I love Ed Belfour.

Brian:  What if Toronto plays Ottawa in the first round?

Daniel: Leafs will win four games to two.  All the guys in the locker room laugh because they say the Leafs have to play Ottawa in the first round because that's the only way they'll win.  (Laughs)  If I was John Ferguson I'd get another marguee defenceman like Brian Leetch.  Adam Foote is good.

Brian: Were you surprised Brad Pitt dumped Jennifer Anniston for Angelina Jolie?

Daniel: Ya, but after I found out they were doing a movie together it kind of made sense.  Only Brad Pitt could do that.  Angelina Jolie is hot but she's not my number one.

Brian: Who is your number one?

Daniel: Hmm that's a tough one. Jennifer Anniston is pretty good but Jessica Alba is definitely my number one.

Brian: How much Leafs hockey do you really get to watch in East Lansing?

Daniel: Terrible NHL broadcasts here.  We only have OLN.  We get Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday but we also play every Saturday so I miss all the games.  They show lots of Detroit but man I miss the Leafs.  I have only seen a couple of Leafs games and I really miss them badly.

Brian:  What about Toronto? Do you miss it?

Daniel:  I miss the big city atmosphere.  I miss the theatres, the Leafs, the Jays, everything!  We don't have as much in East Lansing, it's a college town.  I love being around the city when the Leafs are in the playoffs, it's insane!  I love Swiss Chalet, it's my favourite. 

Brian: If you weren't at Michigan State or in the U.S. on a hockey scholarship, where would you have gone?

Daniel:  I think I would have gone to Western.  If you're a college student wanting to live the college life Western is the place to go.  My friends are having a blast there.  I'd also go to York because my brother went there and it's close to home. I love my family and I love being close to them.

Brian:  Who is the best player in the CCHA?

Daniel:  Bill Thomas from Nebraska is really talented.  I play with Cory Potter and he's the best defencemen I've ever played with. Jack Johnson is really talented and plays a physical game, maybe too physical. 

Brian:  Best of luck to you and your Spartan teammates the rest of the way. 

Daniel:  Thanks.

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