EAST LANSING, Mich. — It may only be the first month of the college hockey season, but Michigan State is already proving itself to be the place where history is made in 2001-02.
Two weeks after hosting the world’s largest attended hockey game — against Michigan at Spartan Stadium — MSU head coach Ron Mason made a little history of his own on Saturday, winning his 900th career game behind the bench as the top-ranked Spartans defeated Ferris State, 2-0, before a more “normal” crowd of 6,792 at Munn Ice Arena.
A first-period goal by senior captain Adam Hall and a second-period tally by freshman center Ash Goldie were all the Spartans needed to give Mason yet another milestone and improve its overall and league record on the year to 3-0-1. As time winded down in the game, the capacity crowd at Munn started chanting “Let’s Go State” and held up signs that read “900″ to commemorate the achievement.
Mason was obviously moved by the crowd and the ceremony held after the game, in which other MSU athletic coaches, including head football coach Bobby Williams, gathered to honor him.
“I think that longevity and consistency are the two things that are tough in coaching today,” he said. “I think for many years when I was coaching, you didn’t have to worry too much about wins and losses. Nowadays, it’s more of a business. The longevity and consistency I’ve had has been fortunate.”
Longevity certainly wasn’t a factor in MSU scoring the game’s first goal, as senior captain Adam Hall camped in front of Ferris State goalie Mike Brown and deflected home defenseman Brad Fast’s shot from the point to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead 3:29 into the first period. Brown, a freshman from Calgary, Alb., was impressive in his debut, making 17 saves in the first period and 36 for the game.
Goldie finally solved Brown again when he got open in the slot on a Spartan power play and fired a backhand above Brown’s glove to give MSU a 2-0 lead with under six minutes left in the second period. MSU goalie Ryan Miller wasn’t as busy as Brown, but he was brilliant nonetheless, stopping 23 shots to record his 20th career shutout.
“The nice number tonight was zero, that was Ryan Miller’s shutout,” Mason said. “I thought he earned it and it was a big part of our winning. I thought the kids really had to bear down and win this hockey game.”
Saturday’s game was Ferris State’s league opener after recording two non-conference wins. Bulldogs head coach Bob Daniels said the game plan from the outset was to attack the Spartans and the strategy worked, as Ferris State penetrated the vaunted Spartan defense for 23 shots on Miller.
Despite some missed opportunities and not being able to slip one by Miller, Daniels said giving the No. 1 ranked Spartans a solid game on its home ice sets a good tone for his team’s season.
“It’s a real good barometer,” he said. “We come out of here feeling we could be a pretty good team.”
Daniels also left Saturday’s game with glowing praise for Mason.
“I’d like to be here for 1,000, but I’d want to be in the stands and not the opposing bench,” he said. “Every year he wins because he caters to his team’s strengths. That’s what makes him the best.”
Miller said Mason’s milestone was not even on his mind until he first took the ice.
“I didn’t even know about it until warm-ups when I saw all those ’900′ signs,” he said. “It was good to get him the win at home in front of his friends and family.”
With 900 out of the way, talked has quickly turned to win number 1,000. Hall said given his coach shows no sign of slowing down, that number is very much within reach.
“He’s just as focused as he’s ever been,” he said. “Every single period, every shift he analyzes our team and figures out ways to make us better.”
During the after game ceremony, Mason fired up the sellout crowd at Munn with a bold proclamation.
“I’d like to say something to my team here,” he said. “You’re a lot of fun to work with and we’re going to take it all the way.”
The Frozen Four is still five months away, but even Miller admits that would be a real occasion to get excited about if all goes MSU’s way.
“If we can hoist that trophy over heads,” he said. “Then we’ll celebrate.”