Any self-respecting hockey fan in America, let alone at Michigan State, should be able to tell you who Ryan Miller is. Pair the NCAA’s most elite goal-tender to date with legendary (and 1986 national champion) Head Coach Ron Mason, and you have one of the most elite teams playing at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing for the 2000-2001 season.
The Michigan State Spartan hockey team won both the regular season CCHA conference title and the CCHA conference tournament title that season. The season saw MSU finish 21-4-3 in conference play with second place Miami all the way back at 17-10-1. Season highlights included a road sweep at Notre Dame in October, winning 5-1 and 3-2, winning a fourth straight Great Lakes Invitational tournament, and a 3-2 win at Minnesota who was ranked No. 1 in the country the week leading into the game by the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine poll while MSU was ranked No. 1 in the US College Hockey.com poll.
The tournament title including a sweep of Alaska-Fairbanks in the first round with an overtime win in game two, a 2-1 win over Bowling Green, and a 2-0 shutout win over Michigan in the title game.
In 2001, Michigan State goaltender Ryan Miller backstopped the Spartans into the Frozen Four as the number-one team in the nation. Miller shattered the NCAA record for career shutouts in just his second year of college hockey, with 18 total in his short career thus far. The sophomore won the Hobey Baker Award, the award being given to the top hockey player in college hockey each season. He became just the second goaltender ever to win the Hobey Baker Award. Minnesota goaltender Robb Stauber was the first, in 1988.
To win the award, Miller edged forwards Brian Gionta of Boston College and Jeff Panzer of North Dakota, who tied for second place in the balloting. The East Lansing hometown native posted 31 wins with a .950 save percentage and a 1.32 goals against average, leading the nation in all three categories. His 31-5-4 record in 2000-2001 included a nation’s best 10 shutouts. Miller was named the CCHA Defensive Player of the Week five times during the season, and was previously named a First-Team All-American and CCHA Player of the Year. Further raking in the accolades, he was a member of the all-conference first team. He holds four league and seven school goaltending records overall.
As for the NCAA tournament, MSU entered as the No. 1 seed in the West with a bye for the first round. They proceeded to pummel Wisconsin in the quarter-final 5-1 before heading to Albany, NY for the Frozen Four. Unfortunately the Spartans fell 2-0 to the defending national champions North Dakota Fighting Hawks. ND would go on to lose 3-2 in overtime to Boston College in the final. However, that MSU team had the talent and skill put together that it should have seen Ron Mason get his second national title.
So what do you think, was this the best MSU hockey team to never win a title or is there one you would have picked? Let us know in the comments!