EAST LANSING, Mich. — On a night of pomp and circumstance, Michigan State had a lot to celebrate on Saturday.
It was Senior Night, the last regular-season home game for forwards Adam Hall, Joe Goodenow, defensemen Andrew Hutchinson and Jon Insana and reserve goalie Nathan Shopbell, who were all honored before the game.
It was also the last regular-season home game for legendary head coach Ron Mason, who was honored with a video tribute after the game where players past and present and fellow coaches paid their respects to college hockey’s all-time winningest coach.
After a power-play goal by Goodenow and an insurance goal by freshman center Ash Goldie in the third period, the Spartans also celebrated a 2-0 victory over Ferris State.
The goose egg on the Ferris State side of the scoreboard was also a chance to toast Hobey Baker-winning goalie Ryan Miller’s eighth shutout of the season and 26th of his career.
The one thing MSU couldn’t celebrate, however, was another Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title.
With Michigan’s 6-2 at Western Michigan, the Spartans fell two points short of the champion Wolverines despite breaking open a scoreless game in the third period.
“I didn’t feel Michigan was going to lose,” Mason said. “They just had too many things going for them at that point. We had to go on the road for three and home for one, and that’s pretty hard to do this time of the year against teams that are fighting for playoff spots.”
FSU beat MSU 3-2 on Friday in Big Rapids to open the door for Michigan.
“We still have two more goals ahead of us,” Miller said. “Looking back, it’s not always the team that wins the (regular-season) championship, it comes down to who’s going to do it in the playoffs.”
The 6,983 fans at Munn Ice Arena could have gotten more entertainment watching paint dry than watching the first two periods, given there were no serious chances generated by either side despite 11 total penalties.
MSU finally opened the scoring 5:13 into the third with FSU defenseman Chad McIver in the box for roughing when Goodenow cut in on FSU goalie Mike Brown from behind the net, fought off the check of defenseman Simon Mangos, and slid the puck underneath Brown.
“It was a tough play — the guy was all over me and all I could do was get it on the net,” Goodenow said. “Luckily enough it worked for me and it bounced in.”
The Spartans’ power play, which has been ranked first in the league most of the year, had been a power outage up to that point against FSU, going just 1-for-15 combined in Friday’s loss at Big Rapids in Saturday’s game before Goodenow’s goal.
With 8:13 left in the game, MSU made it 2-0 when Goldie received a nice pass from freshman center Kevin Estrada and found himself wide-open between the circles, firing a wrist shot that beat Brown to the glove side.
With 36 seconds left, FSU defenseman Troy Milam was called for throwing his stick at the puck as it was clearing the Spartan zone, which resulted in a penalty shot for Hall.
Hall failed to make it 3-0 however, as Brown wasn’t fooled by a deke to the backhand.
Ferris State played most of the game without junior winger Chris Kunitz, the league’s leading goal-scorer, who left the game with 3:51 left in the first period after a knee-on-knee collision behind the MSU net.
Kunitz didn’t put any weight on his right leg as he was helped off the ice; his status is uncertain for the rest of the year.
Despite the loss and Kunitz’ injury, FSU head coach Bob Daniels was pleased with the weekend split as his team heads to Alaska-Fairbanks for the first round of the CCHA playoffs next week.
“I’m not unhappy at all with the way kids played,” he said. “We had things to play for — I just thought the kids really dug deep and played hard both nights.”
Mason and the rest of the MSU seniors will have at least two more home games next weekend when the Spartans face Bowling Green in a best-of-three series.
For Daniels, Saturday was the last time he’ll come into Munn with Mason behind the MSU bench, something he said he’ll miss next season.
“It won’t be nearly as much fun, I don’t think,” he said. “He’s an icon and he’s the best coach I know in college hockey.”