March 9, 1998
The Week - Fresh off its fifth CCHA regular-season championship and first since 1989-90, Michigan State embarks on its quest for a league playoff title this weekend. The Spartans (29-5-5 overall, 21-5-4 CCHA) were ranked No. 1 in the nation last week and clinched the CCHA title with a win at Lake Superior Friday before losing at Northern Michigan. Ferris State (15-19-3, 12-15-3) comes to East Lansing for a best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal series which kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday night on FOX Sports Net. The series continues Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday night (7 p.m., MediaOne and cable systems state-wide, WVFN-AM 730).
The Coaches - Head coach Ron Mason (St. Lawrence '64) is in his 19th year at Michigan State and his 32nd as a head coach in college hockey. He is the all-time winningest college hockey coach with 804 career victories, having celebrated his 800th career victory and his 500th victory at MSU this season. His records stand at 804-348-63 overall and 515-238-49 at Michigan State.
Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels (Michigan State '82) is in his sixth year as a college head coach, all with the Bulldogs. Daniels brings an 86-123-18 career mark into this weekend's series with his alma mater.
The Bulldogs - Ferris State finished eighth in the CCHA regular season, just one point behind sixth-place Lake Superior. The Bulldogs are led by Brett Colborne (7-28-35), one of the top two-way defensemen in the CCHA. Junior Joel Irwin (15-18-33) and freshman Kevin Swider (12-20-32) lead a balanced corps of forwards. Seven Ferris State players have at least 20 points, while 13 are in double digits. In goal, freshman Vince Owen (12-16-3, 3.31, .876) has played the majority of the minutes, while Jeff Blashill has seen action against MSU this year and Mike Szodzinski has filled in capably as well.
The Series vs. the Bulldogs - MSU leads, 43-21-10, and 25-11-4 in East Lansing. The Spartans swept the regular-season series this year, outscoring the Bulldogs by a total of 19-4, although the most recent meeting was a hard-fought 6-3 win Feb. 28. The Spartans are 12-1-2 in the last 15 meetings and have scored at least six goals in five of the last six meetings.
MSU is 7-3 against Ferris State in the CCHA playoffs. The two teams have met in four first-round series, with MSU winning each time.
Last weekend's recap - Michigan State clinched the 1997-98 CCHA championship and an NCAA tournament berth with a 4-1 victory over Lake Superior Friday night. The Spartans exploded for three goals within 1:26 in the second period, with Sean Berens, Bryan Adams and John Nail finding the back of the net. Stellar goaltending from Chad Alban and strong penalty killing preserved the Spartans' lead and gave MSU a season sweep of the Lakers.
With the title in hand, freshman goaltender Joe Blackburn got the start Saturday at Northern Michigan. The Wildcats, who needed a win and a Miami loss to claim home ice, came out flying and scored three times in the opening period. The Spartans recovered and played well in the last 40 minutes, outshooting NMU 23-10 in that time, but could not beat goalie Duane Hoey more than once (Rustyn Dolyny, his second power-play goal of the weekend).
If you use just one MSU note this week, perhaps this should be it
The whammy, MSU style - Michigan State has never lost a CCHA first-round playoff series at home. The Spartans are 15-0 in home playoff series at Munn and 28-4 in first-round games at Munn.
Did You Know?
Best of both worlds - Michigan State led the CCHA with 110 goals and just 54 goals against in league play. Michigan, with 109 and 69, respectively, was second in both categories.
Simply the best - Michigan State's 1.80 goals against in league play this season represents the best defensive effort in the history of the CCHA. Ron Mason also coached the second-best defensive team in league history, the 1978-79 Bowling Green Falcons (2.25).
Simply the best II - Senior goaltender and Hobey Baker candidate Chad Alban finished with a 1.63 goals-against average in CCHA league games, the best GAA in league history. His .922 league save percentage is the third-best in CCHA history.
Alban also finished in the top 10 in eight career CCHA categories: 10 shutouts (1st), 2.42 GAA (4th), 61 wins (4th), nine ties (5th), .900 save percentage (6th), 5,209:06 minutes (7th), .744 winning percentage (8th) and 90 games (9th).
Ripley's Note - The top two scorers in CCHA league play, Ohio State's Hugo Boisvert and Michigan's Bill Muckalt, combined to score one goal and one assist in six league games against Michigan State. They averaged 1.63 points per league game against the rest of the CCHA.
Crazy eights - Michigan State has enjoyed four eight-game unbeaten streaks this season. All four have ended with losses in the ninth game, including Saturday's loss at NMU.
Coming in like a lamb ... - Michigan State has lost one game - and only one game - in each of the last five months, including March. Each of those losses have come in the first week of the month.
Y ask y? - Freshman right wing Rustyn Dolyny led all CCHA rookies and was seventh overall with 34 points in league play. His 39 points overall are the most by a Spartan freshman since Steve Suk (52 points) and Rem Murray (51) were rookies in 1991-92.
Two for 50 - Junior center Mike York (51 points) and senior center Sean Berens (50) are leading MSU in scoring. The Spartans last had a 50-point scorer in 1994-95, when Rem Murray (56), Anson Carter (51) and Steve Guolla (51) all surpassed the half-century mark.
Powerful - Michigan State has three players with 10 or more power-play goals on the year (Sean Berens 13, Mike York 11, Rustyn Dolyny 10). No other team in the nation has more than one player with double digits in power-play goals.
Centers of attention - Centers Mike York and Sean Berens are second and fourth, respectively, in CCHA overall scoring. They have combined for 40.0% of the team's goals and 28.1% of the team's points.
INJURY REPORT - Jon Gaskins (Sr., LW, out for the season, sprained right knee).
All About Alban
MSU senior goaltender and Hobey Baker candidate Chad Alban scored an empty-net goal in his last game against Ferris State. Other Alban tidbits:
A special team - Michigan State ranks first in the CCHA in overall power play and penalty killing. The Spartan power play converts on 23.0% of its opportunities, while MSu has killed off 90.1% of opponents' power plays.
Builder of leads - Senior goaltender Chad Alban has a .947 save percentage in the first period, helping MSU outscore opponents, 46-16, in the opening stanza.
Protector of leads - In his three year's as MSU's primary starting goaltender, Alban has a 55-0-3 record when leading after two periods, including 21-0-2 this season.
Facing Ferris, playoff style - Michigan State is 7-3 against Ferris State in the CCHA playoffs, and the Spartans have won each of the four first-round series the two teams have played. Most recently, the Bulldogs played a best-of-three series at Munn in 1995-96. Jeff Kozakowski's overtime goal game the Spartans a win in game one, but the Bulldogs bounced back in game two, 5-1. The Spartans won the decisive game three, 3-1.
Facing Ferris, this year - The Spartans have outscored Ferris State, 19-4, in a three-game sweep which has included a Chad Alban shutout (7-0 Jan. 17) and a Chad Alban goal (Feb. 28). The Spartans have scored on 26.4% of their shots in the season series.
Offense from the blue line - Michigan State's top five defensemen all have double digits in points. Sophomore Mike Weaver (22 points) leads all defensemen in scoring and has the most points by a Spartan blueliner since Chris Smith had 30 in 1994-95.
Big guns have big games - Michigan State's top five scorers have accounted for each of the Spartans' last 12 game-winning goals.
Winning all they can - So far this season, Michigan State has won each championship it has competed for. The Spartans took the Team Cheerios Ice Breaker Invitational in October, the Great Lakes Invitational in December and the CCHA regular-season title. Prior to this year, Michigan State had not won any type of championship since a tournament win in 1990-91.
Follow the leader - Senior defenseman Tyler Harlton, one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, leads the CCHA with a +34 plus/minus rating.
Shooting stars - Michigan State is outshooting opponents by an average of 30.9-21.0 shots per game.
FOXy team - Friday's game will be shown nationally on FOX Sports Net. The Spartans are 7-0-1 in games broadcast by FOX Sports Net and/or FOX Sports Detroit this year.
In the clutch, get the sensation - Nineteen of junior center Mike York's 24 goals have come when Michigan State is trailing, the game is tied, or MSU has a one-goal lead.
Comparing Chad - Senior goaltender Chad Alban is having one of the best seasons ever by a college goaltender. How Alban's 1997-98 numbers stack up against the only goaltender ever to win the Hobey Baker Award, Minnesota's Robb Stauber (1987-88):
GP W-L-T WIN % MIN GA GAA SV SV% SO CHAD ALBAN (1997-98) 34 26-3-5 .838 2046:59 54 1.58 653 .924 6 Robb Stauber, Minn. (1987-88) 44 34-10-0 .773 2621 119 2.72 1243 .913 5 SPARTANS IN THE CCHA 1997-98 Final Standings Team (Overall) League Pts 1. MICHIGAN STATE (29-5-5) 21-5-4 46 2. Michigan (28-9-1) 22-7-1 45 3. Ohio State (22-11-2) 19-10-1 39 4. Northern Michigan (17-14-4) 15-12-3 33 5. Miami (19-12-4) 14-12-4 32 6. Lake Superior (15-16-4) 12-14-4 28 7. Notre Dame (17-17-4) 12-14-4 28 8. Ferris State (15-19-3) 12-15-3 27 9. Western Michigan (10-25-3) 9-19-2 20 10. Alaska Fairbanks (10-21-4) 7-20-3 17 11. Bowling Green (8-27-3) 6-21-3 15 1997-98 Playoff Pairings #1 Michigan State hosts #8 Ferris State #2 Michigan hosts #7 Notre Dame #3 Ohio State hosts #6 Lake Superior #4 Northern Michigan hosts #5 Miami LAST WEEK'S POLL U.S. College Hockey Online (3/2) 1. MICHIGAN STATE (21) 290 2. North Dakota (9) 271 3. Boston University 247 4. Michigan 171 5. Boston College 156 6. New Hampshire 153 7. Yale 121 8. Clarkson 74 9. Wisconsin 43 10. Ohio State 42 COMPUTER RANKINGS Pairwise Rankings (3/8) 1. North Dakota 19 2. Boston University 18 3. MICHIGAN STATE 17 4. Michigan 16 5. New Hampshire 14 6. Clarkson 14 7. Yale 13 8. Boston College 12 9. Ohio State 12 10. Wisconsin 10 11. Colorado College 9 12. St. Cloud 8 POLLS: WEEK-BY-WEEK USCHO USA Today WMEB WMPL 10/6 3 - - - 10/13 2 - - - 10/20 2 2 2 - 10/27 2 - 2 - 11/3 4 6 4 4 11/10 3 3 4 3 11/17 1 1 1 1 11/24 1 1 1 1 12/1 1 1 1 1 12/8 2 2 2 2 12/15 2 2 2 - 12/30 2 2 - - 1/6 3 2 - 3 1/13 2 1 - 2 1/20 2 2 - 2 1/27 1 1 - 1 2/2 1 1 1 1 2/9 3 3 2 3 2/16 2 2 2 2 2/23 2 2 2 1 3/2 1 1 - 1