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This is why Miller should win the Hobey Baker ...

March 29, 2001

What’s it going to take for Ryan Miller to win the Hobey Baker Award?

If the award truly recognizes college hockey’s most dominant player, Miller would run away with it on April 6 in Albany, N.Y.

Yet it appears that he’s in for a tight race with North Dakota forward Jeff Panzer and Boston College forward Brian Gionta.

Why?

Because the 24-member Hobey Baker Selection Committee are goalie-phobes.

I know that’s a pretty poignant accusation, but it’s really the only reason I can come up with for why Miller isn’t a shoe-in for the award.

The committee’s ballots are due today and you can bet that some of the voters will exclude Miller’s name because they don’t believe a goaltender should win.

Linemen have the same stigma with the Heisman Trophy.

Goalies are puzzling people. They willingly stand in front of 100 mph slap shots and paint funny things on their masks.

They’re the first players to be singled out and blamed when the team loses. But when they win, it’s because the skaters in front of them did a good job protecting the hapless goalie.

Maybe the committee just doesn’t understand goalies and that’s why only one netminder - Robb Stauber of Minnesota- has ever won the award, doing so in 1988.

But if Miller doesn’t win the Hobey this year, no goaltender will ever win it again. He has had a stranglehold on college hockey like nobody else.

Consider:

  • His saves percentage (.950) is on pace to break the NCAA single-season record of .947.

  • His goals against average (1.31) is a full half-goal better than anyone else in the nation and is just behind the NCAA record of 1.27.

  • Speaking of records, Miller broke the 70-year-old NCAA career shutout record with his 17th in February. Then he shut out archrival Michigan 2-0 in the CCHA Tournament championship game a few weeks ago for his 18th.

  • And he backstops the team that has been ranked No. 1 in the nation since Nov. 13.

    Panzer and Gionta are fine players, but they are not even close to being the best forwards in college hockey history and Miller is fast-nearing that distinction between the pipes.

    Gionta leads the nation with 33 goals, but MSU’s own Mike Donnelly scored an amazing 59 in 1986.

    So what have you got, Panzer?

    You lead the nation with 81 points? Who cares? MSU’s own Tom Ross scored 105 in back in 1976.

    Advantage: Miller

    Maybe Panzer and Gionta think they have an advantage in that they are both seniors while Miller is only a sophomore.

    Popular wisdom surrounding individual college awards like this is that players should be rewarded for an entire career of brilliance, rather than just one season.

    Look at Ron Dayne and Ricky Williams. Think it’s a coincidence that each won a Heisman in the year they broke the NCAA career rushing record? Nope.

    Which is why Miller should have another leg up his competitors. Sure Panzer and Gionta have been around for four years (Gionta is actually a third-time finalist for the Hobey), but how many career NCAA records do they have?

    You guessed it.

    Meanwhile, young Ryan has etched his name all over the record book in less than two seasons. So what if he’s not a senior? Maybe he could win three Hobeys by the time he’s done at MSU.

    If the committee will get over its goalie-phobia.

    Even though it will be too late to influence the vote, Miller will have the opportunity to prove his superiority at the Frozen Four next week.

    MSU squares off against Panzer’s Fighting Sioux in the semifinal game Thursday and could play Gionta and the rest of the BC Eagles in the national championship game on Saturday.

    If somebody on MSU coughs up the puck and triggers a breakaway for Panzer or Gionta, my money’s still on Miller to gobble up the shot and the national title trophy.

    And that shouldn’t be the only hardware he brings home from New York.

    James Jahnke, State News hockey reporter, secretly thinks his name should’ve been on the Hobey Baker ballot. Vote for him at jahnkeja@msu.edu.

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