Michigan State freshman defenseman and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Mike Ratchuk enjoyed an outstanding rookie campaign that included garnering the team’s Outstanding Rookie Award and being named a CCHA All-Rookie Team honorable mention. The Buffalo, NY native is the youngest member of the newly-crowned National Champion Spartans team.
Ratchuk spoke with Hockey’s Future after Michigan State’s National Championship win on Saturday night at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
HF: How does it feel being a member of the National Championship team?
MR: It’s unreal. It’s kind of like that monkey off your back. This is one of the closest teams that I’ve ever played on. It’s just an unreal feeling. Once the first goal came, everyone just kind of knew that the second one would come eventually. We got it and took care of it.
HF: You’re also the youngest guy on the team. Your first year at Michigan State winning your first national championship; that has got to be pretty awesome for you.
MR: Yeah! In fact, one of my closest friends on the team Chris Mueller was saying to me “I can’t believe that you’re a freshman and you’re already here.” I said “yeah, I don’t really know what it’s like to go through a couple of years at State and not be here (at the Frozen Four).” The fact that I got here in my freshman year is just an unbelievable feeling.
HF: Tell me about how it was for you guys having Jeff Lerg back there playing as great as he did.
MR: Well, that’s just Jeff. The kid works hard. He wants to win and he wins, that’s just what he does. He’s just a true competitor. From the first day when the season starts to the very last game of the season, he never stops working and never loses his focus. He’s just done an unbelievable job for us all season.
HF: Aside from Justin Abdelkader’s goal, what do you personally feel was perhaps the turning point of the game for you guys?
MR: For us, I think we’ve always known that when we hit, we play well. Everyone knows that we’re a tough team. Once we play our bodies we’re a tough team to play against. Every time one guy took the body on one of their players, everyone on the bench just got up and cheered and I think that helped us a lot.
HF: When Abdelkader scored that goal, do you feel that perhaps it was destiny or fate stepping in or maybe luck that made it happen?
MR: For me personally, I think once it got into (Tim) Kennedy’s hands, I knew that something was going to happen. He’s just one of those players and he’s been doing that all year. As soon as we think nothing is coming, he gets that puck on his stick and makes something happen. He’s got skill that I’ve never seen before. As soon as I saw that he got the puck, I knew that he was going to make something happen.
HF: How did you personally feel that you did in this tournament?
MR: I think I did alright. I didn’t get as much ice time as some of the other guys because I’m a freshman and they’re older, more experienced guys that have been through the ringer two, three or four years. I understand that. It was a great experience and I’ll never forget it as long as I live.
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