So the Spartans finally went into South Bend and won a game. The only problem was they lost the night before which allowed Miami to pass them in the standings and take home ice with it. No problem though, since the Spartans were 6-7 on the road. Not great, but not terrible either.
Also, even though the Spartans were swept in early January by Miami (at Munn), the first game went into overtime, and the second game was 1-0 going into the 3rd period (before Miami won 4-0). The point being is MSU was in both games, but they just couldn't get over the hump. The Spartans went 8-4-2 after that series including 3-3 in road games (and 2-0 in road games in the state of Ohio).
The Spartans probably need to win this series to get them in a great NCAA position. The latest projection has Michigan State as a 3 seed in the Midwest region. Even if Michigan State loses the series in three games, they might have a shot, but they would probably need all the right teams to win. So the moral of the story here is simple: you control your own destiny - win and you are in.
Not to mention the Spartans haven't been to the Joe in March since 2007.
The good news is MSU is 28-11-2 all-time in Oxford, OH. Over the last six series at Miami, the Spartans actually hold a 7-5 edge in the series. The last time they played was back in October of 2009 where they split. So even in recent history, the Spartans have done alright in Miami - and the Red Hawks have had some great teams during that time period.
So even though this team might not be the best match-up for the Spartans, the one thing you can expect is the best effort from the green & white. Miami will earn the series win.
The Munn Minute All-Conference Teams
T.J. Tynan (So., Notre Dame) - Tynan finished the season tied for the conference lead in points (29), though his -4 rating could keep him from getting some recognition.
Reilly Smith (Jr., Miami) - Smith finished the year leading the league in goals (18), and a +13 rating isn't too shabby either. If you include non-conference games, he tallied 26 goals in 34 games.
Alex Guptill (Fr., Michigan) - Although he probably won't get it since he's a freshmen, I think he deserves a look. He finished the season leading all freshmen in scoring (25 points, 13 goals), and he has a nice +12 rating which some of the seniors above him in points don't quite have.
Torey Krug (Jr., Michigan State) - I'll be shocked if he isn't a unanimous first team all-conference selection. He shared the scoring title, a first for a d-man in the CCHA in 25 years. He posted a +19 rating in conference games too.
Chad Billings (Sr., Ferris State) - Ended the year with 25 points, second among d-men to Krug. A +10 conference rating also helps. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if another guy (on my second team) is here instead.
Shawn Hunwick (Sr., Michigan) - He is the only goalie in the conference in the top 3 in all the major goalie categories with at least 1,000 minutes played - goals against average (1.93), save percentage (.937), and winning percentage (.635)
Jordie Johnston (Jr., Ferris State) - Led the Bulldogs in scoring (24 pts)
Tyler Gron (Sr., Northern Michigan) - Finished the league in the top 5 in scoring with 27 points
Justin Florek (Sr., Northern Michigan) - Also finished in the league in the top 5 in scoring with 27 points.
Lee Moffie (Jr., Michigan) - A +13 rating with 21 conference points gets him in the discussion. He had to do a lot with Merrill out the first half of the year too.
Kyle Follmer (Jr., Northern Michigan) - Although a -1 rating might not be gaudy (Lidstrom did win a Norris Trophy with a minus rating last season), he was still a key part of the Wildcats offense and defense this season.
Connor Knapp (Sr., Miami) - Knapp actually has better numbers than Hunwick in each of the three categories, but he has played roughly 700 fewer minutes.
All Due Respect to:
Western Michigan. No one on this list is from Kalamazoo, but the stats seem to indicate otherwise. It wouldn't surprise me to see a couple of guys (Balisy, Walters) to get some recognition because of the team success.
Played Of The Year: This one honestly boils down to a two person race in my mind. Torey Krug & Shaun Hunwick. Without either of these guys, who knows where their respective teams end up. It's just so easy to give this award to a goalie though, because you can make that case with just about every goalie in the top half of the league. I don't know that you can say that about every d-man in the league though, so I'll give the nod to Torey Krug (call me biased if you'd like).
Coach Of The Year: It's so easy to give this award to a team predicted to finish in the middle to bottom half of the league that ends up surprising everyone. We have two teams that fit that criteria this year in Tom Anastos and Bob Daniels. Red Berenson should also get a look given where his team was at in right after Thanksgiving. Enrico Blasi could get a look given the same criteria. However, given that Ferris State has zero NHL draft picks right now, and that they just won the league title, currently hold a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, this award has to (and realistically should) go to Bob Daniels.
More playoff coverage to come this week.