Dolyny focused on winning collegiate title with Spartans

Even though Michigan State’s Rustyn Dolyny was edged out of the CCHA’s rookie-of-the-year honours by Notre Dame defenceman Mark Eaton at last week’s awards banquet in Detroit, the former Muskie has his sights set on a much bigger prize.
And that has national championship written all over it.
“I wasn’t disappointed because it really doesn’t bother me,” the Fort Frances native said before practice yesterday. “It was a nice banquet and I was real glad to be part of that.”
Dolyny, 21, an engineering major, has been sensational in his freshman season with the Spartans, scoring 19 goals and 24 assists for 43 points to sit third in team scoring.
He has been instrumental on the Spartans’ potent power play, currently ranked in the top five in the U.S. at 22.4 percent.
And as one of two unanimous selections to the CCHA all-rookie team this season, life couldn’t be going any better for the former Muskie.
“Things have been going great playing at a school with so much tradition with a great bunch of guys,” enthused Dolyny.
“We play our games in front of sold-out crowds of 6,500, and we played a game at Joe Louis Arena [in Detroit] in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,000.
“And we also have games televised on the [satellite] dish so my parents can watch back home,” he added.
That exposure is a far cry from playing at Memorial Arena, where Dolyny toiled for three seasons with the black-and-gold before moving on to Barrie and Newmarket in the Ontario Junior ‘A’ league.
Former Muskie head coach Terry Ogden said he isn’t surprised by the success Dolyny’s having at the collegiate level. In fact, Ogden thought a few teams would have taken a chance on the offensive-minded player a year sooner.
“He’s so good with the puck; he’s a player that creates a lot of chances and who produces a lot of points,” he enthused. “He works so hard and he’s such a good kid that you want good things to happen to him.”
But Dolyny admitted it was a big jump moving up to the collegiate level.
“Every player is that much bigger, faster, stronger on both offence and defence,” the right winger said. “Things on the ice happen so much quicker.”
Still, Dolyny said that transition was eased by the fact Michigan State, sporting a 33-5-5 record overall this season, boasts a powerhouse lineup.
Last weekend, Dolyny was an offensive force for the Spartans once again, picking up a pair of assists in a dramatic 3-2 double-overtime victory over Ohio State to win its eighth CCHA championship (MSU also won the regular-season crown).
He also scored a goal and added an assist in a 5-1 victory over Northern Michigan in the previous game.
The Spartans have won every championship they’ve competed in so far this season, including the Team Cheerios Ice Breaker Invitational and the Great Lakes Invitational Championship.
Michigan State has a first-round bye in the NCAA West regional tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich. They’ll play the winner of the Ohio State-Yale game this Saturday.
Spartan head coach Ron Mason, making his record 18th trip to the NCAA tournament, said Dolyny has exceeded all of the team’s expectations this season.
“To be very honest, he has done more than we could have expected,” said Mason, U.S. collegiate hockey’s all-time winningest coach with 808 wins in 32 seasons.
“After a few weeks, once we saw him handle the puck and saw his presence on the ice, we knew he was going to be good.
“We’ve been real happy with him both offensively and defensively,” he added. “He’s not real fast but he has a good reach and has the ability to make plays.”
But Mason also warned that Dolyny will have to get even better next season as word gets around about his abilities.
“He sifted through this year but next year he’ll have to contend with the other team’s checkers,” he said.