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Congratulations Michigan State

Michigan State won their third national title this past weekend. Probably the best attribute this team had was their sense of timing. Looking over the course of their season, it's not particularly impressive. They had a fourth place finish in the CCHA, and sputtered to a third place finish in the CCHA tournament. But they definitely picked the right four games to play their best hockey of the season. The NCAA tournament is such a small portion of the season; less than 10% in Michigan State's case. It is the culmination of a season, but not necessarily a reflection of the season. The team that had the best season doesn't always come out as the champion.

Nobody is more familiar with that than Michigan State. Michigan State came into the tournament as one of the top teams in the country a couple times towards the end of Ron Mason's tenure at Michigan State and weren't able to come away with the title. It's probably only right that eventually they would be the ones to win a title over higher-ranked teams. It's amazing how four games can change everything. This MSU team will go down in history as one of Michigan State's greatest, even though there are probably a handful of teams since MSU's last title that were better than this one.

The Spartans are the first champions in what I consider to be a new, post-NHL Lockout, era of college hockey. It seems kind of fitting that the WCHA's dominance in the NCAA tournament came to an end this year. Though it should be noted that this Michigan State team had their share of defections as well. Drew Miller, A.J. Thelen, and Peder Skinner all could have been playing for Michigan State this season, but chose to leave school early.

This year's team looks to be the blueprint for teams in the future of college hockey. They did not have a lot of high-end talent, though Tim Kennedy and Justin Abdelkader played world-class hockey in the tournament, but were an exceptionally deep team. They had a lot of very good players, as opposed to say, their rivals, Michigan, who had great top-end talent, but very little to come back with on their lower lines. It may not have been the best strategy for the regular season. When the team wasn't playing well, they looked pretty awful, but when the team was focused and playing well, they were a very good hockey team.

They also showed what I think is the new blueprint for how to play in college hockey. MSU played the style of hockey that made Notre Dame so successful all season, though in the tournament, they did it even better than Notre Dame. They played solid defense, protected their goalie from having to make too many tough saves, and basically sat back and waited for the other team to make a mistake. And the other team always seems to make a mistake. Whether it comes from a younger player being forced to play a bigger role than he is ready for, or a player double-shifting and making a mistake because he is tired, or just plain human error.

So credit Michigan State for being able to adapt, adjust, and turn things on at just the right time. They've certainly earned their title.