Michigan State’s Walsh looks forward to Maine return
Michigan State senior defenseman Travis Walsh assuredly will be flooded with memories as he takes the ice Friday night in Portland, Maine, when the Spartans go up against a Maine program made so famous by his father in the 1990s.
Travis was born in Maine during that time period, the son of Tracey — daughter of legendary former Michigan State coach Ron Mason — and the late Shawn Walsh, who guided the Black Bears to national championship games three times in a seven-year stretch, winning titles in 1993 and 1999 and falling to Boston University in 1995.
“It will be really special for me and my family,” Walsh said of playing against the Black Bears in Maine for the Ice Breaker Tournament to start the season. “I have a lot of ties there obviously with my dad and my family. I still have a lot of family out there and I spend my summers out there.
“It’s going to be special seeing that (Black Bears) jersey and playing against it, so it’s going to be awesome. I know Coach (Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos) knew my history with Maine and maybe that was part of his decision to choose that tournament and I really respect that. It will be a great tournament, great place for hockey and a great way to start the season.”
Walsh scored the winning goal Sunday in a 2-1 exhibition win over Western Ontario at Munn Arena, earning the No. 1 star of the game. He received second-team All-Big Ten honors last season after showing his ability as a defensive defenseman before missing the final six games due a fractured jaw suffered while blocking a shot against league champ Minnesota.
So, will Mason, his grandfather, be in attendance?
“Yes, he’s coming up to Maine and my whole family will be there for the weekend,” Walsh said. “He likes to come out for games so I see him quite a bit. When I played at Muskegon (USHL) I know one of the years there he was actually helping the coach with some things.”
How much does Walsh remember about Maine’s program while growing up?
“I moved to Michigan with my mom when I was 6, but I’d spend my summers out there and I’d go when Maine played in the NCAA Tournament,” Walsh said. “I remember back then how the fans and their following was pretty crazy. Everyone was so excited.”
Maine’s program was one of the nation’s elite during Shawn Walsh’s leadership from 1984-2001, advancing to the Frozen Four seven times, winning the national title in 1993 with a 42-1-2 record and earning the national championship again in 1999.
Maine has fallen on hard times in recent years, missing the NCAA Tournament seven of the last eight years, including the last three seasons.
MSU has also failed to make an NCAA Tournament appearance the last three years and Walsh will do his best to help the Spartans end that streak. They finished last season strong, winning 10 of their final 15 games.
“Anytime you have a goalie like Hildie (Big Ten Player of the Year Jake Hildebrand) you know you’ll be in every game,” Walsh said. “He gives us a chance to win, so it’s up to the rest of the team to score more goals and to give him some more help back there, and I think we can do that with our veterans, the older guys, and even the young guys coming in have shown promise.”
Ice Breaker Tournament
When: Friday-Saturday, Cross Insurance Arena, Portland Maine
■ Lake Superior State vs. North Dakota, 4:30 p.m.
■ Michigan State vs. Maine, 8 p.m.
■ Lake Superior State vs. Michigan State, 4:30 p.m.
■ North Dakota vs. Maine, 8 p.m.