Ryan Miller to the rest of the Spartans much like Michael Jackson to the Jackson Five, Larry Bird to the Sycamores and Bugs Bunny to the rest of the Looney Tunes.
Get the picture? Michigan State”s bull run through the CCHA and into the NCAA tournament this season was due in large part to Miller a gangly goalie whose dislike of the color red lifted the Spartans to the No. 1 spot in the nation.
By the amount of attention lavished upon Miller by the East Lansing media, you”d think the rest of the Spartans were there to carry his luggage.
Michigan State”s success against Michigan and the rest of the country this season boils down to two keys one obvious, one forgotten in all of the hoopla. The first reason for Michigan State”s success Miller and his NCAA-record 1.36 career goals against average and 17 shutouts. The second reason a laughably underrated offensive unit.
“There”s not too many glory-seekers on this team everybody is happy when somebody receives an individual accomplishment and that”s something to be proud of,” said forward Rustyn Dolyny, the Michigan State captain whose country-western-sounding name befits his easygoing temperament.
Unlike Michigan”s steam-powered offense, Michigan State relies on capturing the moment after a defensive stop, the puck is relayed with snapshot speed up to streaking forwards, usually on an odd-man rush. Michigan State”s first goal Saturday was a result of perfect execution by Adam Hall on just such a situation the senior snuck around Dave Huntzicker on the far-side to set up Joe Goodenow, who promptly crashed the net for the game-winner.
“We create our offense off of transition and very good forechecking,” coach Ron Mason said.
Contrary to prevailing theory in hockey, the Spartans” offense is not a collection of glamour boys. They are grinders who, in the spirit of a true ensemble, let everybody get in on the gig.
“We”ve got some guys who are coming through at different times,” Mason said. “We”ve gotten powerplay goals at certain times, shorthanded goals at certain times we”ve been scoring by committee all year, never knowing who”s going to get the job done for us.”
But rest assured, somebody does the job. Against Michigan this season, Michigan State”s top scorers Dolyny, Hall, Brian Maloney and Troy Ferguson each played on either the second or third lines in Saturday”s game.
Between Michigan State”s leading and 10th-leading scorer, there is a 15-point differential, as opposed to 40 points between Michigan”s. The work is hard and the load is shared a necessary philosophy for a defensive club.
“That”s the key, we have so much depth this year,” Maloney said. “That”s why we can win so many games those are the teams that win championships.
“Mason can put anybody out there on the ice.”