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:

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