DETROIT — Michigan State’s Ryan Miller became the first player ever to earn two consecutive Tournament MVP awards as the Spartans captured their second league post-season crown in as many years, beating the Michigan Wolverines 2-0 to claim the inaugural Mason Cup.
The shutout is the 18th of the sophomore’s career, his third in CCHA championship tournament play, and his second consecutive shutout in league title games. In the 2000 Championship game, Miller was the goaltender of record in Michigan State’s 6-0 victory over Nebraska-Omaha.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Miller of the MVP honors. “You always try to bring your best game when you come down to Joe Louis for the CCHA playoffs. I’ve been fortunate the last two years to come out on top.
“I think it means more to my teammates. I can’t say enough about them. They limit scoring chances unbelievably.”
This is the 10th tournament championship for the Spartans, a league record. Michigan State also captured the regular-season title, and now post a 32-4-4 mark on the season.
“Before the game I was talking to a couple of people and they said how difficult it is to win both regular-season and the tournament championship … but I knew we had a good chance to do it tonight because of the way these players have played all year,” said Ron Mason, Michigan State head coach.
“We played a very, very good Michigan team. It was the fifth time we’ve played them, so everybody knows each other pretty well.”
Eight seconds into the contest, just after the initial faceoff, Andy Hilbert broke into the Spartan zone uncontested on the left wing for Michigan’s first shot on goal, and in the opening minutes both Mike Cammalleri and Josh Langfeld challenged Miller, but the rest of the game was all Michigan State.
“In the first period, they had more jump right off the bat,” said Mason. “I think it’s the fact that they played Nebraska, and it was really an up-tempo game, and we came off Bowling Green which was a little slower. We tried to give it away a couple of times early, but once we got our feet on the ground I thought we played as well as we could play.”
Both Spartan goals came in the first period. Midway through the stanza, Adam Hall flew in on the right wing when the Spartans broke in three-on-two after the Wolverines turned it over in Michigan State’s end. Jeff Jillson blocked Hall’s initial shot, but Joe Goodenow, literally crashing into the net, got a stick on the rebound and forced it home.
With 21.7 seconds left in the first period, Hall again skated in on the right wing and fired from the top of the circle, beating Josh Blackburn five-hole for Michigan State’s second goal.
Josh Blackburn had 24 saves in the Michigan net as the Spartans outshot the Wolverines 26-19. As he always does, Miller credited his teammates for Saturday night’s shutout win.
“It’s something special to win the championship,” said Miller, “but the guys in front of me really played outstanding tonight. They really limited the shots. Michigan’s such a dangerous team, and our defense was just excellent tonight. They picked up guys, they took away the backdoor plays, and they really didn’t let them stretch the ice out on us.”
Mason said that he was relieved to win the title the first year the Mason Cup was awarded. “I know you’re going to ask me about the Mason Cup. A good team was going to win the Mason Cup no matter what. Certainly it’s nice to win the first one.
“I never thought about it last spring when the guys talked about it and asked me if it would be okay … and that’s all everybody’s been saying, that we’d better win the first one.
“Thank goodness we did, and get that out of the way. I’m proud of the fact that the tournament championship has been named in my name, and I hope it’s always a very good team that wins it.”
In addition to Miller, the CCHA All-tournament team also included forwards Adam Hall (MSU), Sean Patchell (MSU), and Joe Kautz (Michigan), and defensemen Dave Huntzicker (Michigan) and Andrew Hutchinson (MSU).