Friday, March 30, 2012

Recruiting Update

The stats for incoming recruits has been updated. The link is over on the left under the Michigan State links or you can click here.

A couple of future Spartans were named to the Michigan High School all-state list. Detroit Catholic Central Sophomore Carson Gatt was named to the 2nd team all-state team

Carson Gatt (CC So. D)

Holding down the Detroit Catholic Central defense along with Gluchowski was sophomore Carson Gatt, who tallied two goals, seven assists and second-team All-State honors while cutting off offensive passing lanes.

“He is a shutdown style defenseman,” CC coach Todd Johnson said. “He's very strong on his skates, very intelligent and makes consistently strong breakout passes.”
Gatt is a 2014 verbal commitment.

2013/2014 commitment Mackenzie MacEachern was named Mr. Hockey in the state of Michigan -  the top individual honor for a MHSAA hockey player, as he helped lead Birmingham Brother Rice to a Division 2 state championship. In 29 games he tallied an eye-popping 90 points and a +/- rating of +50. The last Mr. Hockey to play for Michigan State? Justin Abdelkader. Abdelkader won the honor in 2004. And I think we'd all agree that his career turned out well at Michigan State.

2012 - 2013 Schedule

The schedule on the right will be updated throughout the summer as the upcoming season schedule is released. As well as the links on the left hand side have been slightly organized.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Upon arriving in Boston, it didn't take long for Torey Krug to become a target as 'the new guy in town'.

Torey had his head shaved for charity - Cuts for a Cure..... In this video he talks about his experience:

In case you were looking for a before photo:

Nice to see the Bruins giving back, and to see Torey be a part of it.

2012 - 2013 schedule

Although it might take some time for the full 2012 - 2013 schedule to be released, there are some dates that you can already bank on. Michigan State will be travelling to Minnesota over Thanksgiving for the return trip as the two Big 10 schools continue their annual rivalry. MSU will be hosting Michigan just once this year at Munn, with two games at Yost, and the fourth game at the Joe. Also, it looks like Michigan State will be playing Penn State at some point in the season, though the exact times and locations haven't been decided yet.

The 2012 - 2013 season will mark the final season for the CCHA, and the first season for Penn State, who will be playing as an independent until the Big 10 conference officially starts with the 2013 - 2014 season.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Playing around with the format

Thanks for the feedback for those of you who had comments and suggestions. One of the biggest one was with the color scheme, so I'll be tweaking it. We plan on covering Spartans in the NHL more, obviously recruiting this summer, as well as a look ahead at the upcoming season. We'll keep ya busy during the off season.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Friends, Spartans, countrymen, lend me your thoughts....

We're looking for some feedback as Michigan State's 2011 - 2012 season comes to a close. Don't worry though, we'll still have coverage this off season, including the Frozen Four, the NHL playoffs (specifically taking a look at Michigan State players in the NHL), recruiting, and a look ahead to the final season of the CCHA - the 2012-2013 year.

Right now, we'd like some feedback on the blog itself:

1. What have you liked so far?

2. What don't you like?

3. What would you like us to focus on in the future?

4. What do you think can (should) be improved on?

5. Any other comments or suggests are welcome

Don't worry, we can take it......

Either post them in the comments section, on Twitter (@TheMunnMinute), or e-mail

Thank you for your support and go green!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Thank You Torey

Torey Krug made it official this afternoon announcing that he'd forgo his senior season at Michigan State to sign with the Boston Bruins.

Video of the press conference (click here)

Krug had a great career at Michigan State. He wasn't drafted coming into Michigan State back in 2009, so this contract certainly completes a big step in the dream of playing in the NHL. Torey will report to Boston on Monday. From the press conference, he understands that he'll have to earn a spot.

In three seasons at Michigan State, Torey has played in 114 games, tallied 26 goals, 57 assists, a +7 rating, and 175 penalty minutes. He won the CCHA player of the year award for the 2011-2012 season.

Torey was much more than a defenseman for Michigan State. He came to MSU the year after Abdelkader, Kennedy, and Crowder left. He was named a captain as a sophomore on a team that was in a rebuilding mode. He proved to be a great leader helping Michigan State climb back up the CCHA standings this season, earning their first NCAA tournament bid since 2008. He was a big part of putting the program back on the right track.

He has also vowed to comeback and complete his degree.

Thank you for your hard work, effort, leadership, and dedication to the program Torey. Spartan nation is behind you as you move on to the professional ranks.

Some Highlights From This Season:

Krug's Skills Competition Shoot-Out Goal

Krug Leads MSU past Michigan 3-2

And if you haven't had a chance to do it yet - check out the promotional page MSU set up for Torey. Including the two videos on the page.

Ferris State, Union Adavance To Tampa, Cornell Trolls UM, Krug to NHL

Ferris State and Union became the first two teams to advance to the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa Bay, Florida. Union defeated UMass-Lowell 4-2 in the East Regional Final. Ferris State defeated Cornell 2-1 in the Midwest Regional Final. For both programs, it is the first ever trip to the Frozen Four.

Ferris State is lead by former Spartan Bob Daniels behind the bench.

Props to Cornell

Cornell is often credited for inventing all those cheers you hear at college hockey rinks today, especially at Yost Ice Arena. I don't know if Cornell was trying to punish UofM for this, but the pep band decided to play the MSU Fight Song during the game - perhaps to get in the minds of the Wolverines. It sure looks like Hunwick noticed.

One has to wonder if it worked though, because Michigan tied the game just minutes later, though Cornell won in overtime.

Krug to the NHL

There is a noon press conference at Munn Ice Arena today where it is expected that Torey Krug will officially announce that he has signed with the Boston Bruins and will forego his senior season at MSU. Torey was a great player and leader on the blue line for Michigan State, and we wish him the best in his professional career.

What this does do is leave a big hole on the team that someone will need to step in and help replace. Michigan State does have a pair of transfers R.J. Boyd and Nick Gatt who should help settle down what would otherwise be a very young blue line. Jake Chelios may have to take the biggest jump next year.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Union Edges Michigan State 3-1

Sometimes if you didn't have bad luck, you'd have no luck at all.

The Spartans battled hard for 60 minutes against the #1 seed Union Dutchmen, but Union had just a little too much in the end defeating Michigan State 3-1. The Spartans came out with a spirited effort early on, and Union seemed to struggle with the aggressive forecheck in the first part of the first period. However, an untimely 5 minute major penalty assessed to Dean Chelios shifted the momentum early on. Union found their legs on the power play, but Will Yanakeff stood tall in goal for the Spartans keeping Union off the board. Eventually, Union took a penalty during the power play that negated the power play, and MSU survived their first true test.

That good feeling didn't last long though as Max Novak broke a scoreless tie on the 4 on 4 blasting a shot past Yanakeff. The Spartans didn't back down though, as they came back and tied it, or so they thought. Off of a scramble in front of the net, the Spartans looked like they knocked the puck out of mid-air and into the corner of the net. WCHA official Derek Shepherd, who has been at the center of a handful of controversies during games in the WCHA conference, immediately waived the goal off. Live, during the game, it looked like the puck never went in.

Upon further review, the puck did clearly cross the goal line, but that wasn't the issue at hand. Shepherd ruled the net had become dislodged prior to the puck crossing the line. After a lengthy review, the call on the ice stood, and Michigan State was denied a very big, late first period goal.

Shots on goal in the first period favored Union 9-6.

The second period didn't open much better for the Spartans. Michigan State nearly tied the game again as the puck rolled in front of the goal line, but Union picked up the loose puck, skated down, and Jeremy Welsh picked up a rebound and skated around Yanakeff to put Union up 2-0. At that point, it looked like Michigan State had a huge uphill climb, but they didn't back down. The Spartans regained their legs and finally got a power play chance late in the period that nearly became a disaster. With the puck coming out of the zone, Torey Krug made a split decision to skate up and try to poke the puck up the ice to prevent a 3 on 1. The only problem was he wasn't successful, and Union had a shorthanded 3 on 0, but didn't execute it. With new life, the Spartans skated back down in the offensive zone, and Matt Berry blasted a shot past Troy Grosenick to pull Michigan State to within 1, with just 38.7 seconds remaining in the period. Shots in the middle period were 13-7 Union.

In the final period, MSU came out with a lot of jump but failed to net the equalizer. Lee Reimer probably had the best chance just inside of 8 minutes to go as he one-timed a shot in the slot that was fought off by Grosenick. Union's Wayne Simpson iced the game away with a late power play marker. Shots for the game were 32-21 Union.

Union ended the game 1 for 4 on the power play. Michigan State was 1 for 3.

The Question is - Should The Goal Have Counted? It Did In Alaska.

In the NHL, there would be no doubt, the goal would count. However, this is college hockey, and the rule that has been quoted is Rule 16, Section 18-12 that "the net has to be in place when the puck crosses the goal line". Replays showed that Union player had dislodged the net, and the NCAA even admitted after the game that the player intentionally dislodged it. The issue there is you cannot call penalties on replays, but had Shepherd made the call on the ice - a penalty (or even a penalty shot) may have been awarded.

The rule quoted:

“If the goal cage has been moved or dislodged. The goal frame is considered to be displaced if any portion of the goal frame is not in its proper position (e.g., frame must be completely flat on the ice surface, goal posts must be in proper place and affixed securely in place with its pegs).”

The NCAA also admitted the puck went in the net. So the question became what happened first, the puck crossing the line, or the net being dislodged. Now it should be made clear that the net seemed to come back into place, so it never was fully off its moorings. However, that doesn't matter. The net was lifted up - which is the action that Shepherd decided to waive the goal off on the ice. Replays proved to be inconclusive, so the on-ice call stood.

Coach Anastos said after the game that he trusts the process, but he would look at it.  He also added that he was in a one-shot game, and they had a goal disallowed.

It appears, by the letter of the law, the officials made the correct call. However, the spirit of the game has lost today.

What might be even more ironic is the NCAA rules committee actually reviewed this rule last summer, but they decided not to change it - yet.

 Awarding goals – net dislodged by defensive team. In many cases, the goal cage is knocked off – often unintentionally – by the defending team right before a goal is scored. Current rules do not allow an official to award a goal unless it is obvious and imminent and an egregious act occurs by the defensive team. The committee believes there are some goals that should count in these situations and plans to adjust these rules accordingly.

Was a goal obvious and imminent with the egregious act occurring? Well, the egregious act was there (the NCAA admitted it, even though no penalty was called). But I don't know if you can say the goal was "obvious", although it certainly was possible - and by the action of the puck going it - that shows you it was.

The rules committee needs to do the right there here and tweak this rule. Michigan State actually has been hurt by this before, just last season, in the playoffs - only in reverse. Alaska scored the game winning goal in the first game of the first round in the CCHA play-offs in a similar manner. The net was bumped, very similar to today, by the defense (in that game it was MSU), then the puck went in, but the goal was counted on the ice, and after review.

Inconsistent application of the rule to say the least. I said then that goal shouldn't have counted, so I suppose it would be hypocritical of me to ask for a different ruling here. Other than if that goal did count, why didn't this one?

The Spartans will be thinking of that for awhile now, and who knows how the rest of the game would play out then, but a 1-1 first intermission score certainly is different than 1-0. Then maybe Union doesn't come out and take a 2-0 lead. We saw MSU use the momentum of a late period goal to generate chances early on in the 3rd.

In The End - The Missed Chances Should Be The Focus

The Spartans had numerous chances in this game to score, but they just couldn't finish. Matt Berry maybe played his best game in a Spartan Uniform. Kevin Walrod  had the early opportunity in the second. Lee Reimer in the final period could have tied it up. MSU was right there in the end, and they fought through all of this to give themselves a chance.

In the end, this season is about the rebirth of the MSU program. Most people thought Michigan State would have finished in the middle of the pack in the CCHA, losing in the first round of the playoffs, maybe getting home ice in the first round would be the highlight of the season.

This team did more. While a 5th place finish might still be "middle-of-the-pack", they earned a first round bye. They earned a NCAA tournament bid. And they helped Coach Anastos get this program back on track to where Michigan State fans are used to seeing it.

That won't be a bad legacy to leave behind - especially if Michigan State continues next season and beyond to build on this one. The biggest off season question will be if Captain Torey Krug decides to go pro or stay for his senior season in East Lansing. In the meantime, the coaching staff will continue to look to put together a strong recruiting class and continue what they have started.

It's a dawn of a new era, and the future is looking very bright.

Instant Report: Union Wins 3-1

Union defeated Michigan State 3-1 in the first round of the NCAA tournament this afternoon. Matt Berry tallied the goal for the Spartans. Union built a 2-0 lead, and they tallied a late power play marker to ice the game away.

More to come later tonight.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

NCAA Preview: Union

The Michigan State Spartans might have just squeaked into the tournament as the final at-large team, but come puck-drop on Friday afternoon, everyone is on even terms. The Spartans take on #1 seeded Union (3rd seed overall) in Bridgeport, CT.

Friday's game will mark the first ever meeting between Michigan State and Union. The Spartans are 4-2-1 all-time against the ECAC in the NCAA tournament.  This includes two national championship victories (1986 - Harvard, 1966 - Clarkson), so maybe that's a sign.

Union finished the year strong going 15-2-2 since the calendar flipped to 2012. Union is 24-7-7 on the season. They tied Western twice this year, and won a game at Yost. Union hasn't lost since a February 24th defeat at Cornell.

Union Leading Scorers:

Kelly Zajac    8 goals, 41 points
Jeremy Welsh  25 goals, 40 points
Daniel Carr     19 goals, 38 points
Wayne Simpson   17 goals, 30 points
Mat Bodie     8 goals, 28 points
Kyle Bodie    5 goals, 28 points

The Goaltender:

Troy Grosenick    20-5-3,  1.65 GAA, .936 save %

Union Special Teams:

PP:  44 for 183, 24.0 %
PK:  122 for 144, 84.7 %

At quick glance:

Union, this season, has gotten off to some terrific starts. Union has outscored teams 59-20 in the first period. They've also finished strongly outscoring teams 43-23 in the final period. The middle frame they've only held a 33-25 edge in goals. Union averages 3.55 goals per a game this year, and they've only allowed 1.82 goals per a game. Union gets 35.1 shots on goal, and they only allow 26.2 per a game. Finally, they aren't penalized too often either only giving up 10 penalty minutes a game.

Union's defense is ranked #1 in the country, and they are tied for 3rd in offense. Michigan State is ranked in a tie for 19th on defense (2.63 goals per a game), and 24th on offense (2.89 goals scored per a game).

Union is a very balanced & strong team all around. They have the 4th best power play in the country as well. The good news is MSU's penalty kill is 4th in the country killing off 87.3% of the power plays they face.

Scoring Drought:

Michigan State has had some scoring issues. In the Miami series, MSU only managed one goal the entire series. This was after splitting in South Bend - the loss was a shutout. Miami outscored the Spartans 10-1.


It's pretty clear that Michigan State will need to get off to a strong start. Union isn't the biggest team in this region, so that could help MSU who tend to struggle against much bigger squads. Union looks to be the type of team that if they build an early lead, it will be very hard to comeback.  In fact, Union is 19-2-4 when leading after the first period and 12-0-3 when leading after 2. If you include tied games, Union is 24-4-6 when leading or tied after one. Likewise, thy are 22-2-4 when leading or tied after two.

On the flip side, MSU is 11-1-3 when leading after one, and 12-3 when leading ofter two.

The first goal is going to be huge.

It'd be great if the power play got going too, but Union won't give MSU many chances, so State will need to take advantage of what they can.

This could come down to Torey Krug simply making plays, as he has all season long. The Spartans certainly are going to be well rested, but that could lead to some rust and an iffy opening period. Yanakeff (or Palmisano) will need to be sharp early on to help keep the game scoreless. If they play strong, Michigan State will be in this game till the end. The Spartans have battled hard all season long, and if they play hard for the full 60 minutes, they will have a chance to pull off the victory.

All you need is a chance, and Michigan State has that chance to really put a footprint in the sand this weekend.


This game will be on TV on ESPNU at 3 pm. The game can be heard on 1240 AM and the Spartan Sports Network (use links to the left). The winner of this game will face the winner of Miami & Mass.-Lowell on Saturday at 6:30 pm.

You can also follow us on twitter @The MunnMinute for game updates or follow @MSU_Hockey on Twitter for game updates.


Thursday Media Links

A few media links to enjoy:

The State News talks about the underdog role MSU is facing this weekend

USCHO takes a look at the impact the first year coaches are having in the east region

Neil's Notebook takes a look back at the season

TV notes on the weekend - the regional games are on ESPN U. Friday's game is at 3 pm, and should the team win, they will play Saturday at 6:30 pm. The games can be heard on 1240 am and the Spartan Sports Network.

More to come later tonight.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Ramblings - NCAA Tournament Style

The streak is over. Michigan State is headed back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. For the current senior class, I'm sure that feels like a lifetime ago. However, their hard work this season has been rewarded with their first ever NCAA tournament bid.

I know - I've used this too much already - but who can blame me? The Spartans are in the NCAA Tournament!

Michigan State came in as the last at-large team, and they were promptly sent to Bridgeport, CT to face #3 Union. This same Union team is one of the reasons why MSU is in the tournament to begin with. Thanks to their ECAC Tournament Championship, Michigan State survived the weekend. Union went 24-7-7 this season, and they won the ECAC regular season championship too going 14-4-4 in conference.

This is only their second ever NCAA tournament bid, but the current group has the experience, since their first bid was last season. The college itself is located in Schenectady, N.Y. (northwest of Albany), so expect somewhat of a road game since the school is just under a 3 hour drive to Bridgeport - compared to MSU's 734 mile trip.

While most MSU fans who are only somewhat familiar with college hockey will look at this as a break, because they avoid North Dakota and Boston College, as well as Boston University, Maine, or New Hampshire (the schools most MSU fans would associate with 'traditional' eastern powers). Don't be fooled. Union has a great team. provides a nice regional capsule to chew on...

Union is very familiar with the CCHA. They tied Western twice this year back in October, and they went into Yost Ice Arena during Thanksgiving and won 6-3. They are also on a great roll right now. Since a 3-3 tie on January 6th in Harvard (which extended a winless streak to three games), they are 15-2-1. You don't luck your way into a run like that. They had two players tally at least 40 points this season in Kelly Zajac and Jeremy Welsh. Welsh led the team in goals with 25. Daniel Carr has 38 points on the season (19 goals). By comparison, Krug led the Spartans with 33 points.

Union is smaller on the blue line, though they do have Nolan Julseth-White who stands 6-2, 210. Outside of that most of the team hovers from 5-11 to 6-1 and from 170-190 lbs. That could be helpful since MSU doesn't have a lot of size either. In fact, this is probably going to cause a lot of 'experts' to pick Miami to come out of the regional.

If the team plays loose, with nothing to lose, and they get a good goaltending performance (I would guess Yanakeff - if healthy - would start), MSU should be in this game. And in a one & done format - you never know what could happen:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spartans Clinch First NCAA Bid Since 2008

By the smallest of margins, Michigan State looks to be the final at-large team in the NCAA field. MSU ends the 2011-2012 season in a tie for 15th place in the Pairwise with Northern Michigan and Merrimack.

The first tiebreaker is actually the head to head comparisons (not RPI). MSU wins the comparison over Northern. Northern wins it over Merrimack, and Merrimack wins it over MSU. This means everyone is 1-1, so that is why we fall back to the RPI.

MSU   .5354
NMU  .5307
Merrimack  .5300

Merrimack thus is eliminated since they have the lowest RPI, and we fall back to the comparisons which MSU beats Northern, so MSU is the last team in. Even if you just use the straight RPI as the tiebreaker, MSU is in with the highest RPI.

All of this is possible due to Air Force winning the Atlantic Conference over RIT tonight and Union holding serve in the ECAC.

So TMM would like to salute the Air Force Academy - not only for their hard work in defending our country and protecting our freedom, but for (obviously) more selfishly, helping MSU out tonight.

Sorry Union - didn't find your fight song on You Tube...... But thank you anyways!!!

So, the Spartans will be heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. It looks like MSU will be headed to Worcester (vs. #1 overall seed Boston College) or Bridgeport (vs. #3 overall seed Union). We will be breaking down the tournament field and selection process this week - since it should be interesting to see how the bracket falls. The selection show is on ESPNU & ESPN3 at Noon Eastern.

It's been a heck of a season so far for the Spartans, coming off such a disappointing 2010 - 2011 campaign. And it looks like there is still one more weekend left - with the possibility of more. And at least one more weekend where Torey Krug will put on the green & white sweater.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bubble Talk: The final stand

We haven't played with every scenario possible, but it is becoming clear that the easiest path for MSU to claim an at-large bid is for Air Force to win the Atlantic over RIT, and Union to hold serve in the ECAC against Harvard. It seems that no combination in the other games (1st & 3rd place) across the country would harm MSU if Union and Air Force win.

If RIT & Harvard both win, Michigan State will be out.

If some combination of the above happens, it will depend on what else happens across the country. Keep in mind that the 3rd place games do count. There are many different combinations that have MSU in, and many that have MSU out if RIT or Harvard win (but not both).

Sit back, relax, and check the pairwise tomorrow night to see where things stand.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Krug Named CCHA Player of the Year & Your Weekend Guide

With the down time from earlier in the week, we've really been able to enjoy the wonderful weather here in East Lansing. We've also been able to take our mind off of scoreboard watching for a couple days.

First off,  congratulations are in order to Michigan State junior Torey Krug for being named the CCHA Player of the Year. He led all d-men in scoring this season, and he really was a major reason for Michigan State earning a first round bye, and being in position to earn their first tournament bid since 2008. He was also named the best offensive d-man (no surprise). Finally, he was named one of the ten Hobey Finalists for 2012. The Hobey award goes to the best college hockey player of the year (think equivalent to the Heisman Trophy for football)

However, the weekend is here now, and come Saturday night, Michigan State's bubble will either solidify into an at-large bid or pop depending on what happens across the country. Here is your guide for the weekend.

The teams to really focus on: Colgate & RIT.

The teams to keep one eye on: Bowling Green, Harvard, Providence, Michigan Tech, St. Cloud State.

The good news?

You can take Michigan Tech off of this list. They were defeated by Denver today in the WCHA Final Five Quarterfinal game - so they no longer can win the WCHA and push MSU on the brink of popped bubble status.

You can also take St. Cloud State off the list, since they lost to North Dakota tonight as well. So that takes care of the WCHA worries.

The long shots:

Bowling Green will have to beat Michigan and then the Miami/Western winner. Yes, they have gotten this far, but that is going to be a very tall task. Michigan is playing better than they were in the season finale in Bowling Green (when BGSU beat Michigan once), and Miami might be the best team in the CCHA right now, and Western is on a bit of a roll as well.

Providence faces a similar path going up against the best the Hockey East has to offer - which will include BC and either BU or Maine.

Harvard plays Cornell and then would have to beat the winner of Colgate/Union. If it comes down to Harvard & Colgate in the ECAC, Michigan State stands to lose less if Harvard would win that game. Still, it would move the at-large line to 14 instead of 15.

The concerns:

RIT on its own doesn't threaten MSU. What does threaten MSU is if RIT wins the Atlantic Conference and Western Michigan or RIT and another bubble team like Colgate, Providence, and Harvard.

The biggest concern: Colgate. It's simple. If Colgate wins the ECAC, Michigan State will be out. This will move MSU down into a tie for 15th, which will be a moot point when Colgate takes another at-large bid away and moves the cut-off line from 15th to 14th.

Colgate plays Union on Friday in the ECAC semi-finals..... If Union wins, Michigan State's at-large hopes go up quite a bit, just based on the fact that none of the other teams, on their own, can knock Michigan State out. It would take two of the other teams to win to knock MSU out (or an RIT/WMU combo).

Selection Sunday takes place on ESPNU & ESPN3 at Noon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bubblicious: Maine Helps Reignite Michigan State's NCAA Hopes

The Michigan State Spartans might be disappointed with their weekend in the CCHA Quarterfinals, but thanks to Maine's defeat of Merrimack tonight, the Spartans NCAA at-large hopes increased - significantly.

Now, let me be perfectly clear, Michigan State still does need help. As of right now, MSU is 14th in the PWR, tied with Western Michigan. MSU still holds a slim .0012 edge in the RPI over Western Michigan. The Broncos, if they beat Miami next Friday at Joe Louis Arena, will more than likely pass MSU which would put MSU down to 16 comparisons and tied with Northern Michigan for 15th place. MSU holds the comparison over Northern, which means Michigan State will be in the NCAA tournament provided nothing crazy happen this upcoming weekend. And, Western may actually fall back behind MSU should they lose in the CCHA title game.

Given that the Atlantic Hockey Champion will be outside the top 16 of the Pairwise, Michigan State will need to hold the 14th or 15th spot in the Pairwise to have a shot at an at-large bid.

So, who can still spoil Michigan State's fun? Updated!!

Atlantic: RIT. Although it will take a combination of other teams to win their conference tournament (such as RIT & WMU), but RIT winning the Atlantic potentially could burst MSU's bubble as well. MSU should be ok if RIT wins though and the other favorites win out. (WARNING: The pairwise predictor is very addicting)

CCHA: Bowling Green. The Falcons stunned Ferris State tonight in game 3, after falling behind 3-0. They'll face Michigan next weekend. If they spring the upset in that game, MSU fans better hope Miami or Western beats Bowling Green in the CCHA title game. Though, if BGSU did beat Western, the Broncos may end up falling back behind MSU and making all of this a moot point. But, not getting sidetracked, it'd be better if BGSU didn't win the CCHA tournament. Unlikely, but they've gotten this far - and now they don't have to beat the same team twice. And we will add Western Michigan to this list, since it seems that any combination of Western winning and one of the other teams on the list could be very bad for MSU. Western does have to face Miami though - and it stands to note that Western doesn't pass MSU in the pairwise if they beat Miami and then lose to Michigan. However, they would if they lost to Miami then beat Michigan in a 3rd place game.

ECAC: Harvard is currently ranked in a tie for 20th in the PWR. Colgate is currently ranked 25th. If either team wins the conference tournament that will move the at-large line up from 15 to 14. MSU just became huge Cornell & Union fans. This will be the conference tournament to watch. Colgate actually looks like it'd be worse than Harvard. If Colgate wins, MSU will be out (NMU will jump MSU in the comparisons). If Harvard wins, MSU could be in (and actually move up to 13th in the pairwise) depending on what else happens. MSU could still be out though if WMU manages to split and Harvard wins the ECAC.

Hockey East: Providence. The 7th seed in the Hockey East tournament shocked Mass.-Lowell this weekend. They'll have to get by #1 Boston College in the semi finals and then either Maine or BU in the title game to move that at-large line up a spot. Unlikely, but they've gotten this far (see BGSU).

WCHA: A couple here (Thanks to Denver). Michigan Tech and St. Cloud State are the two to watch - but it'll take three wins in three days for either team to do it. St. Cloud State and Tech cannot pass MSU if they advance to the finals and lose - so only them winning the automatic bid looks bad for MSU.

To recap: Bowling Green, Providence, Harvard, Colgate, RIT, St. Cloud State, and Michigan Tech are all potentially Michigan State bubble bursting teams. A couple of websites - College Hockey News & will have a 'be the committee' feature as early as tomorrow - so you can play with the results and see where MSU would finish.

In the meantime, MSU fans can enjoy tonight - and celebrate with our friends from Maine.

Thank you Maine, no hard feelings for 2007 - ok? Thanks to you, we can exhale a little bit, for now, and dream of what an improbable NCAA might bring.....Let the scoreboard watching continue next weekend!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spartans CCHA Season Ends

The Spartans hung tough tonight, but once again the second period doomed Michigan State as Miami exploded for three more goals in the middle period to break open a 1-1 tie and earn the two game sweep over Michigan State. The defeat was Michigan State's 10th straight in the CCHA playoffs.

The loss also puts Michigan State's NCAA hopes on life support. Michigan State currently sits in a tie for 14th in the Pairwise with Western Michigan (who beat LSSU tonight to advance to Joe Louis Arena). The Spartans hold a slim .0011 edge in the RPI, and it's that edge that might help get MSU into the NCAA tournament.

Michigan State needs to remain no worse than 15th in the Pairwise to have a shot. Only the Atlantic Hockey Champion will be guaranteed to be outside the top 16 in the PWR, so that will eliminate the team that sits in 16th for an at-large bid (currently Northern Michigan). Should another upset happen, and someone outside the top 16 of the PWR win their conference tournament, that will move the elimination line up to 15th - which right now is Western Michigan. Western, with one win next week, probably will pass Michigan State. If Ferris State beats Bowling Green tomorrow, Western will face Michigan next Friday in the semi-final. If BGSU pulls off the upset, Western will face Miami.

Torey Krug ended the scoring drought tonight against Knapp with a power play goal in the first period. That stopped the streak at 175:28 which dated back to the first period of the first game between the two teams this season.

In the end, Miami was just too much for Michigan State. The RedHawks are very talented, well coached, and they are playing their best hockey of the season right now. This all means they will be a tough out next weekend at the Joe and in the NCAA tournament (they might be a #1 seed).

If Michigan State doesn't make the NCAA tournament, all eyes will turn to Krug to see if he will remain in East Lansing for another season. No one could blame him for testing the NHL waters right now, as his stock has grown quite a bit over the last two years. If he adds the POY award this week, then it might never be higher. While it would be great to see him back in East Lansing for his final season, it's tough to say 'no' to what could be coming his way.

In the end, I think most MSU fans will be satisfied with the positive step forward the program took this season. Most people thought MSU would be fighting to get home ice in the first round of the CCHA tournament, yet they managed to get a first round bye. With Coach Anastos, Miller, and Newton behind the bench, the program has regained focus, and things appear to be looking up here in East Lansing.

In the meantime, we'll be looking up at the scoreboards for the remainder of this weekend and next. We'll break down what needs to happen from here on out for MSU to potentially get one of the last at-largeg NCAA bids. And that would be a great reward for a team that has worked so hard to get things right this season.

Miami Dominates Spartans 6-0

For a team looking to end an eight game losing streak in the CCHA tournament, it was key to get off to a quick start, especially on the road against a very talented team. It didn't happen. The Spartans will have to try again tonight, as it took all of 12 seconds into the game to score. That was all Miami needed.

Michigan State did settle down and put together a decent period on the road getting a few chances, but nothing that ended up behind Miami goalie Connor Knapp. The shots in the opening period were 13-11 in favor of Miami.

Then came the second period - what might have been the longest period of the season for MSU. Miami tallied four goals on 13 shots to blow the game wide open. Miami added a power play goal in the final period. Jimmy Mullin had a huge game scoring twice and adding two assists. Reilly Smith & Austin Czarnik added two assists of their own.

Miami out-shot MSU 39-27 for the game. Miami was 1-4 on the power play, and Michigan State was 0-6. Yanakeff stopped 21 of 26 shots, and Drew Palmisano came out in the final period stopping 12 of 13 shots.

Game Two is tonight at 7:05 pm.

Scary Stat Number One:

This game marked the 9th straight CCHA play-off defeat for Michigan State. The last time Michigan State won a CCHA play-off game was all the way back on March 14, 2008. That was the first game of the CCHA quarterfinals against Northern Michigan. Northern went on to win the series in three games.

Scary Stat Number Two:

 There is a monster in goal, and it's not just because he stands 6-6. Last night's shutout marked the second straight shutout for Miami against Michigan State and for Connor Knapp. Michigan State now has not scored on Connor Knapp since the 18:00 mark of the first period in the first game of the weekend series in January. That means MSU now has a 162 minute (exactly) scoreless streak against Miami and Connor Knapp.


Is now the time to panic for Spartan fans?

Not yet. The good news is today is a new day. If Michigan State wins tonight, they will force the decisive third game tomorrow night. They also will help keep their NCAA hopes off of life support (MSU currently is ranked 14th in the PairWise). The question now will become who starts in goal tonight, and where Yanakeff's confidence level is. Also, it will absolutely be huge for Michigan State to score the first goal and end that long scoreless streak.

Around the CCHA:

There were some exciting games around the CCHA last night.  Bowling Green stunned Ferris State in overtime 3-2. The Falcons tied the game at two with inside 3 minutes to go in regulation. The game winner was tallied 17:18 in the first overtime. Ferris State out-shot BGSU 56-34. 

In Ann Arbor, Michigan needed double overtime to defeat Notre Dame 2-1. The Irish tied the game up with 8:37 to go in regulation. Michigan's Chris Brown scored 3:11 into the second overtime period. 

Western Michigan survived a tough scare against LSSU 4-2. The Lakers pulled within one with 4:24 to go in regulation, but they could not get the equalizer. and Western added an empty netter with just seconds to go in the game. 

The PairWise & CCHA

T-3. Michigan
T-3. Ferris State
T-6. Miami
14. Michigan State
15. Western Michigan
16. Northern Michigan
18. Notre Dame
20. LSSU

The Spartans may not be able to survive a sweep - so tonight's game is critical to extend the season not only for the obvious CCHA tournament but for the NCAA tournament as well.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Game Day Play-off Edition: Part One (of Two or possibly Three)

From the world of the interwebs:

The Lansing State Journal takes a quick look at the weekend series.

The Oxford Press offers its insight on the series

The two student papers were a little light on coverage, possibly because both schools are on spring break this week.

Paula Weston's Insight on the CCHA weekend (she picks Miami in 2). Finally, TMM offers up a pair of press conferences for your viewing pleasure (from earlier in the week).

Coach Anastos Press Conference

Krug & Yanakeff Press Conference

Game updates will be provided this weekend on twitter @TheMunnMinute

Thursday, March 8, 2012

With NCAA Hopes In The Balance - The Spartans Battle Miami

For those that missed it, earlier in the week we took a brief look at Michigan State's at large hopes.

 The Munn Minute: Spartan Bubble Watch

It has become clear that if Michigan State wins this series, the ticket to the NCAA tournament will be punched for the first time since 2008. That's not bad for a team that finished second to last in the CCHA two of the last three seasons, under went a new coaching change, and those coaches put in an entirely different system.

The only thing standing in the way of Michigan State and that NCAA tournament birth is Miami. This is the same Miami team that swept Michigan State at Munn Ice Arena with a 2-1 overtime victory and a 4-0 victory in the second game of the series. The irony of the 2-1 overtime loss is if MSU managed to get to the shoot-out this series would be in East Lansing.

What gets lost in the 4-0 game was that it was only 1-0 going into the final period, but Miami dominated the final 20 minutes that started with an early goal in the 3rd period. The Spartans may not need to win the series, but the series victory (which hasn't happened since 2007) would all but clinch it. Michigan State may already have enough comparisons in their favor to survive a three game defeat. On the other hand, Miami looks to be sitting in a better position and could also survive a series defeat - certainly better than Michigan State.

What this means is both teams will be desperate for the victory this weekend, but Michigan State might have more reason to throw the kitchen sink around in Oxford.

Know Thy Opponent:

 Miami comes into the weekend with a 21-13-2 record which includes a 15-11-2 CCHA mark. This includes an 11-5-2 mark in Oxford. Miami has won six straight games, and they have won eight of their last nine games at home. The lone setback was a 2-1 defeat on January 27th against Northern Michigan.

Miami's Top Scorers:

Reilly Smith   26 goals, 38 points
Austin Czarnik 9 goals, 29 points
Jimmy Mullin  9 goals, 21 points
Alden Hirschfeld 9 goals, 21 points
Blake Coleman  11 goals, 19 points

Reilly Smith, a Dallas Stars draft pick, is competing with Torey Krug for CCHA Player of the Year Honors. Austin Czarnik, at one point, was a verbal commitment to Michigan State. Miami clearly has the "talent" edge in this series, and they have quite the size advantage, so the match-up does not seem to favor the Spartans.

In goal, Connor Knapp stands 6-6 as he went 13-6-0 on the year with a 1.53 GAA and a .939 save percentage. Knapp has caused Michigan State troubles during his career at Miami, and he was in goal for both games earlier this year at Munn. Cody Reichard is the other senior goaltender, but his numbers aren't quite as good posting a 8-7-2 record with a 2.51 GAA, and a .898 save percentage. It would surprise me a little bit if MSU saw Reichard at all this weekend given Knapp's success against MSU.

The Team Comparisons:

Michigan State Offense    3.03 Goals/Game (2nd CCHA)
Miami Offense     2.86 Goals/Game (T-4th CCHA)

Michigan State Defense   2.50 Goals/Game (5th CCHA)
Miami Defense   2.06 Goals/Game (1st CCHA)

Michigan State Power Play  16.9 %  (23 for 136, 7th CCHA)
Miami Power Play     14.4%   (21 for 146, 10th CCHA)

Michigan State Penalty Kill   88.5%   (123 for 139, 1st CCHA)
Miami Penalty Kill    85.6%  (155 for 181, 3rd CCHA)

Miami has outscored opponents in each period this season, but the final period (36-21) holds the biggest margin - which indicates Miami will get stronger as the game progresses. The Spartans biggest margin is in the second period (36-28). The one thing these numbers seem to point to is the special teams seem to be fairly even. Neither power play has looked overpowering this year, and both teams have done a good job on the penalty kill. That will make this a 5 on 5 series which means Michigan State needs to go to the net and muck it up to really have a chance at winning the series.

They cannot have a repeat performance of the first game in South Bend. Most people seem to think this is just a terrible match-up for Michigan State in just about every aspect. Miami is bigger, stronger, faster, more talented, on a roll, and at home. The one thing that Miami cannot underestimate though will be the heart and grit of the Spartans. It is those two factors alone that have made Michigan State a dangerous team. Health is also a concern, will Merrifield be able to be effective (or play) coming off of his injury? Can other guys step up the offensive end? Will this weekend come down to which POY candidate plays better?

So many different story lines this weekend in this series, and in the end, the most important thing - a NCAA & Joe Louis Arena bid will be the center focus. Two wins separates these two teams from both of those objectives. Two simple wins against another team that will make you work for everything you earn. It should be a lot of fun.

Anastos Honored (Sort of):

Head Coach Tom Anastos was one of three finalists named for the CCHA coach of the year award. Red Berenson and former Spartan Bob Daniels were the other two nominated for the award. Krug, as indicated above, is up for the CCHA Player of the Year award, as well as the best offensive defenseman (which you would assume he'd be a lock to win).  

TV & Radio This Weekend:

This series is not on TV this weekend, but you can access Miami's all-access feed (for a fee), or you can access the Spartan Sports Network in the links on the left. Friday's game is scheduled to start at 7:35 pm. Saturday's game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 pm along with Sunday's game (if needed).

Torey Krug Unanimous All-CCHA Selection

Torey Krug was named as a unanimous selection to the all-CCHA first team yesterday. Here are the teams (Krug was the only Spartan on the First, Second, or Honorable Mention teams)

First Team

Position        Name, Year, School      First   Totals

F - Reilly Smith (JR, Miami)               10      50

F -  Tyler Gron (SR, No. Michigan)         7       42

F -  T.J. Tynan (SO, Notre Dame)           5       40

D - Torey Krug (JR, Michigan State)        10      50

D - Chad Billins (SR,, Ferris State)       9       48

G - Taylor Nelson (SR, Ferris State)       6       34

Second Team
F- Justin Florek  (SR, No. Michigan)       4       34

F- Cody Kunyk (SO, Alaska)                 2       23

F- Jordie Johnston (SR, Ferris State)      3       22

D- Dan DeKeyser (SO, W. Michigan)          2       20

D- Matt Tennyson (JR, W.  Michigan)        --      20

G- Shawn Hunwick (SR, Michigan)            2       24

Vote Values: 1st place = 5, 2nd place = 3, 3rd place = 1

Honorable Mention (next six point totals, regardless of position with first team-votes in parentheses): Connor Knapp, SR, G, Miami, (1) 23; Lee Moffie, JR, D, Michigan, (1) 17; Chris Brown, JR, F, Michigan, (1) 15; Kevin Kapalka, SO, G, Lake Superior, (2) 13; Anders Lee, SO, F, Notre Dame, (1) 10; Kyle Follmer, JR, D, Northern Michigan, 10.

Others receiving votes:  Forwards — Alex Guptill, FR, Michigan, 9; David Wohlberg, SR, Michigan, 9; Chase Balisy, SO, WMU, 8; Chris Wideman, SR, Miami, 8; Kyle Haines, SR, LSSU, 6; Zach Trotman, JR, LSSU, 6; Matt Kirzinger, JR, FSU, 5; Domenic Monardo, JR, LSSU, 5; Greg Pateryn, SR, Michigan, 5; Kyle Bonis, JR, FSU, 4; Shane Berschbach, SO, WMU, 4; Lee Reimer, SO, MSU, 4; Riley Sheahan, JR, ND, 4; Aaron Gens, SR, Alaska, 4; Austin Czarnik, FR, Miami, 3; Dane Walters, JR, WMU, 3; Brock Shelgren, SR, MSU, 3; Jared Coreau, SO, NMU

It stands to reason from this that he should be getting some serious POY consideration since only one other player was a unanimous selection.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Updates & Corrections

First a quick update - the blog that was linked over on the left known as "A Beautiful Day For Football" has upped their game and rolled into a new blog Shaw Lane Spartans. They did reach out to me asking if I would guest blog once in awhile in regards to hockey - I never did give them an official yes, but I will probably chime in from time to time. Don't worry though, I will continue to use this as my main blogging source.

A blogger's correction:

In one of my many Monday posts, I mentioned that Jeff Lerg gave up 13 goals in his final two games wearing the Spartan uniform - suggesting that it was a bit odd considering the wonderful career he had at Michigan State that included the 2007 national championship. One thing that I neglected to mention, because I had completely forgotten about it, was that Jeff Lerg played the entire series with a torn ACL. And if my memory serves me right - he actually played the last part of that season (or the last few weeks) with that same injury.

This certainly meant that Lerg was not 100% at the end of the season and possibly part of the reason Northern was so successful against him.

It still doesn't take away anything from his career at Michigan State which ranks right up there with some of the best goalies that MSU has ever had.

Thanks to MunnScuba on the Munn Message Board at for reminding me.

Monday, March 5, 2012

CCHA All-Rookie Team Announced Today

The 2011-2012 CCHA all-rookie team was announced today

Matt Berry made the honorable mention list

2012 All-Rookie Team
Austin Czarnik Forward Miami University Washington, Mich.
Alex Guptill Forward University of Michigan Newmarket, Ont.
Max McCormick Forward The Ohio State University De Pere, Wis.
Garrett Haar Defenseman Western Michigan University Huntington Beach, Calif.
Robbie Russo Defenseman University of Notre Dame Westmont, Ill.
Frank Slubowski Goaltender Western Michigan University Prince Rupert, B.C.

The one thing that stands out is Austin Czarnik at one point was a verbal commitment to Michigan State under Rick Comley. He reopened his commitment at one point and Miami took advantage. I don't think anyone on this list is a huge shock. article on Berry (click here)

NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch - Michigan State's At-Large Chances

Michigan State will be coming into this weekend's play ranked 12th in the Pairwise. The Pairwise mimics the selection process for the NCAA hockey tournament. The key, with 5 automatic bids, is to earn an at-large spot you will need to be at least  ranked 15th in the Pairwise. 15th will only work if there are no surprise champions. If you are ranked 11th or better, you are a lock for the tournament since only 5 auto bids are handed out (12th - 16th in the PWR would be eliminated if all five were from teams that aren't ranked in the top 16 of the PWR).

MSU has 19 comparison wins: Miami, North Dakota, Cornell, Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, Notre Dame, CC, LSSU, Ohio State, Harvard, Quinnipiac, Wisconsin, St. Cloud State, Colgate, Bemidji State, Northeastern, Air Force, UMass, and New Hampshire.

Right now 17 comparison wins gets you in the top 15 of the PWR. The comparison wins refer to your overall comparison with each team that is considered a TUC (i.e. .500 or better in the RPI). MSU is considered better than 19 of the 30 other teams in this ranking.

If MSU were to lose just 4 comparisons they currently are winning, MSU would be knocked out of the tournament. Let's examine the 19 and which ones MSU fans should be concerned about.

The Locks:

The record indicated refers to the comparisons won vs. lost with each team.

New Hampshire (2-0) - Barring an epic RPI collapse from MSU and a huge gain by UNH (MSU leads by .0467), MSU wins this comparison no matter what.

UMass (2-1) - Even though it's only 2-1, UMass cannot improve on any of the factors barring a huge collapse by MSU in the RPI (and I don't think getting swept by Miami will change it that much). The only way this comparison flips is if UMass wins the Hockey East Tournament - as the #8 seed - and they would get the auto bid which would move our at-large line up from 15 to 14.

Air Force (3-0) - MSU leads in all categories and none of them can flip.

Northeastern (2-1) - Even if MSU gets swept by Miami, MSU holds this comparison since Northeastern didn't qualify for the Hockey East playoffs.

Bemidji State  (3-0) - Unless the RPI swings widly enough, this won't flip even if Bemidji sweeps North Dakota (or wins the series). The only way this completely flips is if Bemidji wins the WCHA tournament and MSU is swept this weekend by Miami. If Bemidji were to take an auto bid, that would move our at-large line up in the Pairwise.

St. Cloud State (2-1). This one looks like it is a lock no matter what, but strange things could happen should St. Cloud State run into Minnesota & North Dakota (beat them both) in the WCHA Final Five, and MSU loses to Western Michigan. I still don't think that'll be enough to flip the common opp's comparison, and if MSU gets that far, the RPI will stay in MSU's corner (not to mention MSU probably will pass some other teams in the Pairwise).

Wisconsin (3-0). This one looks similar to the St. Cloud State one, only Wisconsin would need to flip 2 comparisons instead of one. The TUC comparison looks like it could flip easily with a long WCHA run for Wiscy and if Miami wins the series against MSU. But even then, Common Opps and RPI would still probably stay in MSU's corner.

Quinnipiac (3-0). This is where MSU fans become HUGE Quinnipiac fans this weekend. They face Colgate (see below). If Quinnipiac were able to upset Colgate, it would keep that comparison in MSU's corner and this one would stay no worse than 2-1.

Ohio State (5-2). No chance for this to flip even if MSU were swpet by Miami. At worst it'd be 4-2 if that were to happen.

Northern Michigan (4-2). This can't change even if MSU is swept this weekend. At worst it'd be 3-3 with MSU having the RPI tiebreaker.

The Almost Locks:

Harvard (2-0). This one makes me nervous simply because if Harvard makes a long enough run in the ECAC tournament, they could swing the RPI factor (though MSU holds a .0321 edge), which would be the tiebreaker should Harvard earn enough wins against TUC's in their conference tournament (looks like only 1 will be needed) and MSU were swept this weekend.

LSSU (4-2). This one might be able to get flipped should LSSU beat MSU at Joe Louis Arena in the CCHA tournament, but at that point, I think the TUC's would remain strongly in MSU's corner, as well as the common opp's. The only thing that would make me nervous is if the RPI (.221 edge in favor of MSU) were to flip in that case.... That would cause the comparison to go to 4-3 LSSU.

Colorado College (3-0). If CC sweeps Tech, then beats Minnesota and North Dakota at some point in the WCHA tournament, and MSU were swept by Miami, I think I'd be nervous with this comparison. The TUC in that situation would flip to CC causing MSU to hold a slim 2-1 edge. The Common Opps and RPI would come into play at that point - though MSU looks like they'd still hold an edge in the common opp's category.

The Swing Comparisons:

Colgate (2-1) - If Colgate were to sweep Quinnipiac, and Quinnipiac remains above .500 in the RPI (currently .5128), and MSU were to get swept by Miami, this comparison would flip and Colgate would win it - knocking MSU one step closer to being out of the tournament. If MSU were to be eliminated in 3 games, the Spartans would still win the overall comparison. A semi-final (or 3rd place game victory) by Colgate would swing it back into their corner.

Notre Dame (3-2) - If the Irish advance further than MSU then start pulling hard for anyone who plays Notre Dame. The TUC would flip into ND's corner if the Irish advance further than MSU plus they win that next game. A head to head match-up that the Irish win would finish this comparison off for the Irish. Though again at that point, MSU might be a lock given they are at the Joe (the only way a head to head meeting would be possible).

Western Michigan (3-2) - Western already holds the TUC & Common Opps category, so MSU can't lose those. At that point this would come down to a head to head meeting at the Joe - if Western wins, they might pass MSU - depending on how the RPI falls. At best MSU would be 3-3 with the RPI tiebreaker in that situation. I almost have this one in the lock column - if MSU wins once against Miami, I think it will become a lock. That October (?) sweep is HUGE.

Cornell (1-1). - RPI holds the key, as long as MSU holds the edge, MSU wins the comparison. Right now the Spartans hold a slim .0099 edge. Cornelll plays Dartmouth this weekend. In theory, if MSU were swept and Cornell sweeps Dartmouth, MSU could lose this comparison.

North Dakota (2-1) - The slim .0034 RPI edge keeps MSU ahead in this comparison. MSU can't lose TUC this weekend, but they certainly can lose the RPI comparison. A Bemidji State upset would help seal the deal for MSU.

Miami (3-2) - This one is simple. Miami wins the series - they win the comparison. MSU holds the edge in RPI, TUC, and Common Opps. if Miami wins twice, they swing the RPI comparison and get 2 points in the head to head comparison giving them a huge 5-2 edge in the overall comparison. Even if MSU wins once, that still will give Miami a 5-3 edge. A Spartan series win will keep the comparison in MSU's corner.

Final Thoughts:

It is looking like Michigan State has 13 total comparisons pretty much locked up. This means MSU would need 3-4 more locked up (of the 6 toss-ups) to put them in the 14-15 position in the PairWise and likely in the NCAA tournament. This is why MSU is not a lock at this point, and this is why a trip to Joe Louis would pretty much seal the deal up. Though as I mentioned above, a couple of those "swing comparisons' could already be in MSU's corner regardless of what happens. That would put MSU in the 15-16 comparison range which would be good enough to get in provided the favorites win the conference tournaments. Should MSU lose in three games, it might be enough to get them in regardless of what happens elsewhere.

The Merrimack comparison that MSU is losing (Merrimack is ranked T-14th) won't swing in MSU's favor unless MSU beats Miami & Merrimack doesn't have a good Hockey East Tournament.

So it's simple for MSU at this point: Win and you are in.

Monday Musings.....

Don't pay any attention to the elephant in the room.

Even though the power rankings bring it up

How long has it been since the Spartans have won a CCHA playoff series? Long enough that the team they beat in the league quarterfinals back in 2007 (Nebraska-Omaha) is no longer part of the conference.

Think about that statement. MSU hasn't won a CCHA playoff series since 2007. I guess that means if MSU wins this weekend, we can start planning a parade in April! No? Oh, ok....

That factoid has made an apperance on this blog before, because I just can't get enough of it. I didn't believe it at first, but I got to thinking, and it really is true.

In 2008, Michigan State hosted Northern Michigan but lost in three games. I don't remember much from this game, but the late goal by Sucharski to send it into OT does ring a bell. The fact that Northern won on a power play in overtime in the third game of the series makes me chuckle. Gotta love the CCHA stripes. Michigan State still made the NCAA tournament this year, the last time they did. In fact, MSU was tied 1-1 with Notre Dame in the West Regional Final with 6 minutes to go in regulation, before the Irish tallied two goals 74 seconds apart.

In 2009, Northern Michigan swept MSU out of the CCHA First Round in Marquette. The most amazing thing about this series is that Jeff Lerg gave up 13 goals in two games to end his Spartan career, including 8 in the final game. That wasn't the way anyone expected the Lerg era to end at MSU. Though, I still remember Ryan Miller giving up a goal from center ice once during his career at MSU.

In 2010, the Spartans improved to a second place finish in the CCHA, but faced a red-hot rival from Ann Arbor that swept MSU at Munn. The losses knocked MSU far enough down in the PairWise to keep MSU out of the tournament.

In 2011, MSU was faced with the tough task of travelling out to Fairbanks. The Spartans battled hard but lost a pair of heart breaking overtime games to the Nanooks. The second one came in double overtime at what was about 2:30 am in East Lansing.

And now in 2012, MSU is faced with another tough task heading down to Oxford, a team that was 11-5-2 at home this season. They are 12-4 in 2012, and they swept MSU back in January. Miami finished 1 point ahead of MSU for home ice. In fact, had MSU survived the overtime in the first meeting this year, MSU would have earned home ice over Miami even if Miami won the shoot-out. Had that happened, MSU would have had 48 points to Miami's 47.

The second game Miami won 4-0 in large part to out-shooting MSU 35-12 over the final two periods, including a 20-5 margin in the final period. Despite all that, the game was only 1-0, and that one goal was on a two man advantage.

The good news is Miami is on its spring break this weekend, so there are still quite a few tickets available for the weekend series - should any Spartan fans fancy a trip down to Oxford. It is a nice place to watch a game, and who knows what any green & white crowd support could do to lift MSU. The Spartans aren't afraid to play on the road though, and as long as they battle hard, this should be a tight series.

I haven't seen any TV listed yet for this series. My guess is Comcast & FSD will be focused on Ann Arbor since it is closer to Detroit with Notre Dame travelling to Ann Arbor. In the meantime the games will be on the radio this weekend, and I don't think there will be any conflicts with the Big 10 basketball tournament since MSU should be playing during the day there.

In the meantime, we'll continue to bring you coverage as Michigan State looks to address that elephant in the room.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

CCHA Quarters are set, MSU now 12th in Pairwise

LSSU and Notre Dame swept their respective series this weekend, and Bowling Green repeated history knocking off 6th seeded Northern Michigan for the second straight year in two games. As a result, we will have the following for the CCHA quarterfinals best of 3 series:

#11 Bowling Green at #1 Ferris State
#8 Notre Dame at #2 Michigan
#7 LSSU at #3 Western
#5 Michigan State at #4 Miami

These four series all could be something to see, but the two that could be more interesting than any other will be Notre Dame-Michigan and Michigan State-Miami. The Irish have been playing better over the last few weeks, and Michigan has had some consistency problems this year (just like anyone else). It'll be tough for Notre Dame to win two games, but they should make Michigan work for it.

And of course we have our own series. Health could be an issue for the Spartans if Merrifield isn't 100%. But one thing MSU fans have been able to count on is this team will make the other team work for it. Miami may have swept the season series, but Michigan State was in both games. MSU lost the first game in overtime, and the second game was 1-0 going into the 3rd period before Miami blew it open.

Northern fell to 16th in the Pairwise which will suggest they are out of the NCAA tournament now. Michigan State remained in 12th after this weekend - so it still looks like MSU may need to beat Miami to assure themselves a NCAA tournament bid.

Here is the latest projection through this weekend - MSU a 3 seed out east

If you are a Spartan fan - it is simple.... Win and you are in. It won't be easy this weekend down in Oxford, but if the "hard hat wearing" Spartans show up, it should be a battle, and it is one that MSU can win.

We'll have more throughout the week as we approach the weekend series.

Friday, March 2, 2012

CCHA First Round Game 1 Recaps

#10 Alaska at #7 LSSU

 Two of the more defensive teams in the CCHA tallied 7 goals on 69 shots as the Lakers edged the Nanooks 4-3 in the first game of their best of 3 series. Alaska jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal from former Spartan Adam Henderson just 4:55 into the game. LSSU tallied the next three goals in the game, including two in the final three minutes of the first period, and one in the first five minutes of the second period.

Alaska did manage to make it a 3-2 game just 14 seconds into the 3rd period, but Kellan Lain responded just 46 seconds later to put LSSU up for 4-2. Alaska would add a late power play marker to get us to a 4-3 final. The Nanooks out-shot LSSU 39-30 for the game, and both teams went 1 for 4 on the power play.

Game 2 is tomorrow night in the Soo.

#11 Bowling Green at #6 Northern Michigan

It took Bowling Green just 53 seconds to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the Wildcats, but Northern fought hard scoring a pair of third period goals to break a 2-2 tie and pull out the 4-2 victory. Bowling Green beat Northern last season in the best of three series. Northern won game one last year as well.

Bowling Green was trailing 2-1 in the second period before Adam Berkle tied it up. Andrew Cherniwchan broke the 2-2 tie just 1:27 into the 3rd period with a power play goal. Tyler Gron added the insurance marker with just over 8 minutes to go. BGSU out-shot Northern 33-26 for the game. Bowling Green was 0 for 3 with the extra man, and Northern was 1 for 2.

Game 2 is in Marquette tomorrow night.

#9 Ohio State at #8 Notre Dame

 Steven Summerhays made 33 saves to earn the shutout as Notre Dame beat Ohio State 2-0. Billy Maday scored both goals for the Irish, the first 9:08 into the game, and the second one just 2:50 into the second period. Ohio State out-shot Notre Dame 33-30 for the game. OSU was 0 for 5 on the power play and ND finished one for four.

Game 2 is in South Bend tomorrow night.

So what did we learn?

Well, getting out-shot seems to be the best recipe for winning. Though it usually stands the team with more shots means more opportunities, unless the quality shots just aren't there. The only margin that was somewhat shocking was Alaska with 39. The Nanooks aren't known for their offense, but they looked like they were throwing a lot of rubber on net.

Michigan State also moved up the PairWise into a tie for 10th place (up from a tie for 11th). Go byes!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughts on the CCHA Weekend Ahead

After our short mid-week hiatus, we are here to talk about playoffs.

Yes coach, we are here to talk about playoffs. Though the Colts won't be in it. Specifically, we are talking about the Mason Cup.

 The Chase For The Mason Cup Begins March 2nd

The CCHA playoffs get started this weekend with three first round series, and although Michigan State is off this weekend (and we already know who the Spartans will play), three more quarterfinal spots are up for grabs in the best of three series this weekend.

This could be one of the most interesting CCHA tournaments ever since any one of these teams could make a run given how close the league standings have been all season long. 

Here is a look at each of the series this weekend:

#11 Bowling Green (10-21-5) at #6 Northern Michigan (16-12-6)

Bowling Green travels up to Marquette for a first round series for the second straight year. Last season, no one really gave Bowling Green a chance. Things went worse from there as Northern dominated the opening game of the series 6-3. However, they fought back to tie the series and ending up shocking the Wildcats in game three in a double OT thriller.

The two teams played just three weekends ago, and Northern swept the series 4-2, 2-0 in Bowling Green.

Northern Offense:   2.88 Goals/Game  (4th CCHA)
Bowling Green Offense:   1.67 Goals/Game  (11th CCHA)

Northern Defense:   2.68 Goals/Game (9th CCHA)
Bowling Green Defense:  2.83 Goals/Game (11th CCHA)

Northern Power Play:  19.5%  (24 for 123, 2nd CCHA)
Bowling Green Power Play  9.4 %   (15 for 159, 11th CCHA)

Northern Penalty Kill:  85.3 %  (133 for 156, 3rd CCHA)
Bowling Green Penalty Kill:  83.3 %  (145 for 174, 9th CCHA)

Thoughts:  Even though the Falcons have been playing better hockey, it is tough to see them winning two out of three again this year. I have to believe the playoff series last year will be in the back of the minds of all the Wildcats. With that said, the Falcons are going to be able to have some measure of confidence knowing they have done this once before.

My Pick:  Northern Michigan in Two.

#10 Alaska (12-18-4) at #7 LSSU  (16-15-5)

Alaska faces the task of coming back down to the lower 48 where they have only won three games this season (two of which were in Bowling Green). The teams split the season series (1-1) in Fairbanks. Alaska took the opening game 4-2, but they lost the second game 3-2. This series also took place just three weekends ago.

LSSU Offense:    2.56 Goals/Game  (9th CCHA)
Alaska Offense:  2.38 Goals/Game  (10th CCHA)

LSSU Defense:   2.67 Goals/Game (8th CCHA)
Alaska Defense:  2.59 Goals/Game (6th CCHA)

LSSU Power Play:   20.1 %  (27 for 134, 1st CCHA)
Alaska Power Play:  16.0 %  (25 for 156, 9th CCHA)

LSSU Penalty Kill:  83.8 %  (109 for 130, 7th CCHA)
Alaska Penalty Kill:  81.0 %  (119 for 147, 11th CCHA)

Thoughts:  On paper, this is probably the most even first round series. This series is very important for LSSU as they sit in 20th in the Pairwise (which means the Lakers will need a long CCHA tournament run to get them into the NCAA tournament). The numbers are fairly even until we start to talk about special teams. Obviously matching up the worst PK with the best power play will figure to favor the Lakers. With the lower scoring offenses this figures to be first to two wins (either that or one game will probably be 9-8).

My Pick:  LSSU in Three

#9 Ohio State (15-13-5) at #8 Notre Dame (17-16-3)

To be honest, I didn't think this would be a first round series for a couple of reasons. Notre Dame came in with very high expectations, but they struggled to find consistency.  With that said, the Irish have beaten just about everyone they faced which simply led to a lot of splits. On the flip side, Ohio State was in first place in the CCHA when 2012 started. But they finished 1-9-4 in their last 14 games after that impressive 14-4-1 start. That lone win though was at Western Michigan. Ohio State and Notre Dame split this season in South Bend. That series occured all the way back in October with Notre Dame winning the opening game 5-2 and dropping the second one 4-3.

Notre Dame Offense:  2.64 Goals/Game (8th CCHA)
Ohio State Offense:  2.70 Goals/Game (6th CCHA)

Notre Dame Defense:  2.78 Goals/Game (10th CCHA)
Ohio State Defense:  2.61 Goals/Game  (7th CCHA)

Notre Dame Power Play:    19.0% (33 for 174, 4th CCHA)
Ohio State Power Play:      18.1%  (30 for 166, 6th CCHA)

Notre Dame Penalty Kill:   81.5%  (110 for 135, 10th CCHA)
Ohio State Penalty Kill:    83.4 %  (126 for 151, 8th CCHA)

Thoughts: With the tail spin that the Buckeyes have been in, you can pretty much count on everyone picking Notre Dame in this series. Despite that 1-9-4 streak, Ohio State still finds themselves in the NCAA picture coming in 18th (tied) in the current Pairwise rankings. Notre Dame is the team that they are tied with, so the winner of this series could find themselves back in the hunt for a NCAA at-large bid (though the winner of this series probably will need to win next week as well). Everyone is waiting for Notre Dame to turn the light switch on with the amount of talent they have on their roster, and a short series could be the jump start they need. This time I'm going to agree with the majority, but I think Ohio State will make the Irish work for it....

My Pick: Notre Dame in Three.

This figures to be a great CCHA playoff season as the conference was tight from start to finish. So it wouldn't be too shocking to see a few series this weekend and next go the distance. Though, now that I've said that, here come the sweeps......

Krug Honored Yet Again

Torey Krug was named the RBC Financial Group CCHA Player of the Month for February. A nice feather in his cap, as he makes his claim for the CCHA player of the year.