MSU unstoppable behind Ryan Miller, wins 2nd straight CCHA title

By Derek Berry
The University of Michigan’s Andy Hilbert raced down the left side from
the opening face-off of the CCHA championship game, grabbed a loose puck
and tried to drive a shot from the left circle past eventual tournament
MVP Ryan Miller, sophomore goaltender for the Michigan State Spartans.

Miller stopped it and 19 shots later stopped everything else as MSU
glided to its second straight CCHA playoff championship, defeating the
Wolverines 2-0 in the CCHA title match at Joe Louis Arena.

It was a muscular defensive effort by the Spartans and their Hobey
Baker-nominated netminder, who in most hockey worlds could be referred
to as a human wall.

But, the promising goalie and cousin of three of MSU’s greatest
contingent of Millers says the defense in front of him should not be

“The guys in front of me played outstanding,” said Miller, who became
the first-ever two-time tournament MVP. “They really limited the shots
and didn’t let them (U-M) stretch the ice out on us. They took away a
lot of the back-door plays.”

Miller was outstanding in getting his second straight tournament
championship shutout (last year the Spartans defeated Nebraska-Omaha in
the final 6-0) but those green and white defenders (Andrew Hutchinson,
Jon Insana, John-Michael Liles, Brad Fast, Joe Markusen and Kris Koski)
had a hand in it too, tying up potential maize and blue offenders at
every opportunity and forcing them into taking bad shots at times.

“That was Spartan hockey at its best tonight,” said head coach Ron
Mason, who claimed the very first Mason Cup-a trophy named after the
legendary coach.

You could sense it was the Spartans’ game to lose after they scored the
first goal-exactly what Michigan was trying to prevent.

Midway through an evenly played first period, momentum shifted when MSU
junior forward Joe Goodenow, streaking toward the net, knocked home an
Adam Hall shot to make it 1-0.

“I got a great breakout pass (from Joe Markusen) and tried to drive it
wide,” said Hall, a Kalamazoo native. “I cut the corner on the D, the
rebound came out, Joe came crashing toward the net and it went in. I
can’t say enough about Joe Goodenow. He moves the puck very well.”

Goal number two belonged to Hall and although it happened in the first
period and made the score only 2-0, it broke Michigan’s back.

Hall turned an innocent-looking play into a big goal, with two other
MSU forwards racing over the blue line with him, fired a shot that
sailed right through U-M goaltender Josh Blackburn late in the first.
You could almost sense it was over.

“They got the first goal, which was obviously what we were trying to
do,” said U-M head coach Red Berenson. “They play a great
defensive-style game. That (tonight) was a good MSU-style game.”

Berenson admitted his club was not 100 percent healthy and struggled on
each of its four power plays.

“That lack of power play goals really hurt us,” said Berenson. “We
couldn’t generate that goal and we got a little tired.”

U-M was not operating on all cylinders. Senior forward Mark Kosick was
a healthy scratch, according to Berenson and senior forward Josh
Langfeld reinjured his knee, which he hurt playing MSU at the Joe Louis
Arena just a month before.

“We’re not 100 percent right now, but I like our team,” said Berenson.
“I like the way we played. We hung in there.”

MSU meanwhile, buried the Wolverines, not necessarily by outscoring
them, but, as defenseman Hutchinson says, by not letting them make key

“It’s a shutout,” said Hutchinson. “It was nice to get this.”

Mason was pleased at the overall attack of his troops, who managed just
four goals in the two-game sweep.

“We played a very, very good Michigan team,” said Mason. “Ryan made
some nice saves and I think we played as well as we can defensively. We
scored by committee and we had great balance.”

Maybe and then again maybe not. Sean Patchell provided the spark in
the opener on Friday night against the Bowling Green Falcons in the
Spartans’ 2-1 victory.

Trailing 1-0 to BGSU late in the first period, Patchell tipped in a
power play goal to tie the game at one apiece and gave MSU some
much-needed momentum in that first game. Patchell later found an empty
net in a scramble in front of Bowling Green goaltender Tyler Masters in
the second period to make it 2-1. MSU sealed the game with superb
defense and tight checking.

“We played hard and let the offense come to us,” said Patchell.

Bowling Green challenged the Spartans, but came up a little short.

“We played our hearts out against the No. 1 team in the country,” said
Bowling Green head coach Buddy Powers. “We saw why Ryan Miller is the
best goalie in the country.”

In the second semifinal, Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha battled in a
rematch that the Wolverines surely remembered. How could they forget
the 7-4 drubbing at the hands of the Mavericks last year? That was
enough motivation for Michigan.

“The score from last year’s tournament was up on our board, so yeah,
there was definite motivation,” said U-M junior forward Craig Murray,
who scored a key goal for the Wolverines to get them going-the first

Following Murray’s goal, Michigan’s Mike Cammalleri scored a few
minutes later to put U-M up 2-0. Late in the first period, freshman Joe
Kautz, a virtual unknown until the CCHA playoffs, scored the eventual
game-winner, handing U-M a 3-0 lead in what looked like it would be a

Not so fast.

Nebraska-Omaha did not quit and forced Michigan against the wall,
dominating the second period in what would become a tale of two
games-Michigan dominating the first, UNO dominating the second and the
third period played very even.

UNO peppered U-M goalie Josh Blackburn with shots and finally landed
one behind him midway through the second period when freshman forward
Scott Turner scored to make it 3-1. Five minutes later, UNO’s star
defenseman Greg Zanon whistled a shot past Blackburn to make it 3-2 and
suddenly it was anybody’s game.

“We had our work cutout for us after the lead we gave them in the first
period,” said UNO head coach Mike Kemp. “They had the jump (in the
first period) and we were tentative and cautious.”

The third period may have been the most thrilling period of hockey of
the whole tournament as Michigan frantically tried to expand its lead,
while the Mavericks tried to tie the game and possibly go ahead. They
almost did.

Two big plays did not go UNO’s way. The first was a strange deflection
of a UNO shot that somehow got behind Blackburn and was headed for the
back of the U-M goal, but was knocked out by a Nebraska-Omaha player’s
stick before it crossed the plain of the goal line. The officials
reviewed it and made a very good, clear call. No goal.

The second was a complete mental lapse by the Wolverines. With less
than 2:00 to play in regulation and U-M on a power play, Dave
Noel-Bernier grabbed an absurdly loose puck, raced in on Blackburn, beat
him, only to see the puck hit the crossbar and watch Blackburn swat it
away. Noel-Bernier had Blackburn clearly beat, but it was not to be.

UNO’s players were clearly disappointed and frustrated over the game’s

“We were all over ’em,” said Zanon. “We just didn’t get the bounce we

The Spartans, however, did get the bounces they needed and won their
10th-ever CCHA tournament title.


High praise

MSU’s Mason on winning the regular season and playoff titles: “It’s
difficult to win both,” he said. “We won’t stop celebrating this. This
is one of the best Spartan hockey teams I’ve ever coached.”

Surprise, surprise

Miller and Mason on the early Andy Hilbert breakaway: “Were you
surprised to see Hilbert?” a reporter asked MSU’s goalie, Miller.
“Yeah, I was,” said Mason, cutting in. “I thought he was trying to go
low glove, but he was trying to catch me going high glove,” said Miller.

Miller time

Miller on being named MVP for the second straight year: “It’s amazing
to me. I always try to bring my best game to Joe Louis Arena.”

Been there, done that

MSU’s Adam Hall on the win over U-M: “We’ve been there before. We’ve
been on both sides of this.”

Bowling Green’s run

BGSU head coach Buddy Powers on his team’s late season surge: “I
couldn’t ask any more of the guys,” he said. “It was a tough stretch
the last couple of weeks. We had so many close games that we just
started getting breaks and getting goals.”


Powers on his star goalie, Tyler Masters: “He deserves a lot of the
credit,” said Powers. “(Ryan) Miller gets a lot of accolades, but
Masters is why we’ve played well.”

Not satisfied

Powers on how his team felt after the loss to MSU: “We’re not happy
just being at the Joe,” he said. “It’s a disappointing atmosphere in
that dressing room right now, because we felt we could win and we came
here to win.”

UNO doesn’t quit

Nebraska-Omaha head coach Mike Kemp on the disappointing end for his
team’s season: “It was a disappointing outcome,” he said. “I couldn’t
be more proud of this club. They battled back, showed character and

A goal for the goalie?

MSU goalie Miller when asked if he was trying to score on an empty
Bowling Green net with just seconds to go in the tournament opener:
“Yeah,” said Miller, to loud laughter from the gathered media and
relieved laughter from Mason and MSU players. “I should have just
gently dumped it out and instead I iced it, forcing a face-off in our
end and giving them a chance to tie it.”

The Mason Cup

Mason on being the first coach to win the trophy that carries his
name: “Hey, a good team was gonna win the Mason Cup, no matter what,”
he said. “Geez, I finally thought about it and I thought, we better win
it. It’s got my name on it and darn, we ought to try and win the first

CCHA records

The Spartans competed in their 13th CCHA title game (a record) and won
their 10th (also a record). The only teams close to Michigan State in
appearances in the final and number of wins are Lake Superior (12 CCHA
title appearances) and Bowling Green (five tournament titles). The
Lakers, however, hold the record for most consecutive tournament title
appearances, with nine straight (from 1988-96).

FORWARD-Adam Hall, Michigan State
FORWARD-Sean Patchell, Michigan State
FORWARD-Joe Kautz, Michigan
DEFENSE-Dave Huntzicker, Michigan
DEFENSE-Andrew Hutchinson, Michigan State
GOALTENDER-Ryan Miller, Michigan State
MVP-Ryan Miller, Michigan State