The MSU hockey team has had a great history in college hockey. With their fair share of conference, regular season and tournament titles, three NCAA National Championships, and two Hobey Baker award winners, the Spartans have some great accomplishments under their belt. None of those accomplishments would have been possible if it were not for the hard work and dedication put in by countless MSU hockey players over the years.
Over the next five weeks, Behind the Mask will be releasing each of our top five greatest spartan hockey players of all time. Starting with No. 5 and working all the way up to No. 1. Each of us giving our own reasons on why each player deserves to be there.
Who will claim the top spot on the countdown?
* * *No. 5 Ryan Miller (1999-2002) Brian Bobal
Ryan Miller might be the most famous Michigan State Spartan in the NHL today and for good reason. His collegiate resume is astounding. Miller is one of only four players in Spartan history to be nominated for the Hobey Baker Award twice, and became the second Spartan to ever win the award in 2001.
While Miller never won a national championship, he did set a school record in shutouts with 26. He also set a school record with a 229:29-minute shutout streak, which spanned a total of five games. Miller ranks in the top five in virtually every goaltending category. His goals against average while wearing the green and white was an astounding 1.54 in 106 career games.
With a career record of 73-19-12, he is definitely one of the best players to graduate from Michigan State and is very deserving of my No. 5 selection.
No. 5 Mike Donnelly (1982-1986) Max Benoit
When I think of great players in Spartan hockey history, one of the first players that comes to mind is forward Mike Donnelly. The Livonia, Mich. native played under legendary coach Ron Mason at Michigan State for four years from 1982-1986.
His senior season was something that was just purely remarkable. His efforts in that season was enough to put him at No. 5 on my list of greatest spartan hockey players of all time.
During his tenure at MSU, Donnelly amassed 196 points in 156 total games. Nearly half of those points came in his senior year in the 1985-86 season. Donnelly scored 59 goals and had 38 assists that season for a total of 97 points in 44 games. Donnelly was undoubtedly the offensive force behind the entire Spartan team that season. His offensive production resulted in him being named one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which is given out annually to college hockey’s best player.
Donnelly was one of the key components behind the Spartan’s National Championship run in 1986. His final goal of the 1985-86 season just happened to be one to clinch the Spartan’s second National Championship. Donnelly was also a member of three CCHA Championship teams. Helping the Spartans win the CCHA Tournament from 1983-85.
During his career, Donnelly made his way into not only the Spartan record books, but the NCAA record books as well. Donnelly was able to put the puck in the net a total of 59 times in 1985-86, a NCAA record that still stands today. He also sits in the top 15 in NCAA history for points in a season with 97. As well as top five in NCAA history with 27 power play goals.
Mike Donnelly proved that he was a dominant force in college hockey. He had a strong four-year career that culminated in a National Championship for the Spartans. He is definitely an easy pick as one of the greatest Spartans of all time.
No. 5 Mike York (1995-1999) Jason Ruff
While not very many have heard the name Mike York in the circles of Spartan hockey royalty, his name should nevertheless be included. York was one of the key components as captain of the 1998-1999 Spartan team that went to the Frozen Four, but lost to New Hampshire.
By his senior year, York had already garnered two Hobey Baker Nominations, two NCAA Player of the Year awards, as well as CCHA Player of the Year in 1999. After his four years at Michigan State, York went on to play in the NHL for the New York Rangers. York was a leader who led by example and while he did not win any Hobby Bakers or NCAA championships, he was a vital cog in a very potent Spartan hockey team and for that Mike York is No. 5 of the best Spartan hockey players.
Brian Bobal, Max Benoit and Jason Ruff are multimedia reporters for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports