Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Spartans star in CCHA poll; U-M takes second

September 26, 2001
Junior defenseman John-Michael Liles practices Monday at Munn Ice Arena. The MSU hockey team began ractice this week and opens play at the Green and White exhibition game at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Munn Ice Arena. The preseason CCHA media poll picked the spartans to repeat as the league leaders. —

Detroit - The CCHA unveiled its preseason media poll at the league’s annual Media Day in Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday, and the Spartans were in familiar territory - atop the league.

The media overwhelmingly endorsed MSU to repeat as CCHA regular season champions, giving the Spartans 22 out of 26 possible first-place votes. The league didn’t administer the traditional coaches’ poll this year, making the media poll the only preseason barometer.

Second-place Michigan, third-place Nebraska-Omaha, fourth-place Ohio State and sixth-place Miami (Ohio) each received a single first-place vote.

MSU head coach Ron Mason said he’s grateful the voters think so highly of his program, but it doesn’t make a big difference where the Spartans are ranked.

“Obviously I’d rather be chosen No. 1 than No. 12,” Mason said. “But it really wasn’t much of a surprise. We’ve been there before and it’s not going to change anything we do.

“We’ve got a good defense, and we’ve got a Hobey Baker goaltender, and I think that’s the basis for a lot of votes. I think we’ve got some unknowns up front, yet we’ve got some good players returning.”

Other league coaches are well aware of the talented core of Spartans back this season.

“There won’t be anything different from a Ron Mason-coached team in the past 20 years,” Bowling Green head coach Buddy Powers said. “They’ll have great ‘D,’ great goaltending and that’s where it all starts.

“You look at his philosophy of play, combined with veteran defensemen and an outstanding goalie, and you have the ingredients for a team that can win a lot of hockey games.”

The Spartans were also picked first in last year’s media poll, but were ranked second in the coaches poll behind U-M. They went on to win the league handily and then captured the CCHA Tournament crown.

So these September predictions aren’t totally baseless, but Mason knows his players have to walk the walk when it counts.

“Whether you’re No. 1, No. 4 or No. 8, you still have to win it on the ice, you still have to play the game,” Mason said. “A lot of (the preseason poll) comes down to your overall tradition of winning. Until somebody proves that Michigan and Michigan State can’t be No. 1 and No. 2, that thought pattern is always there.

“The team that’s the most consistent is the team that’s going to be the most successful. That’s why we were last year. We were the most consistent team in the league and that’s why we won the title.”

CCHA News: League Commissioner Tom Anastos, who played for the Spartans from 1981 to 1985, signed a five-year contract extension, the CCHA announced Tuesday. The deal will keep Anastos, who has been in office since March 1998, through June 2007.

The league also announced all players will wear an American flag on the back left side of their helmets this season to commemorate the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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