Jan. 6, 2007
Oxford, Ohio - A furious three-goal barrage in the first six minutes of the third period turned a 1-0 deficit into a Spartan lead, and Jeff Lerg put forth a fantastic 25-save effort as the Spartans salvaged the back end of a road series with a 4-1 victory over Miami on Saturday night. Spartan coach Rick Comley captured his 700th career win, just the fifth NCAA coach to reach the plateau and the third active coach to reach the milestone.
"While 700 wins is certainly a nice thing personally, the way it happened tonight makes it really satisfying," admitted Comley after the game. "Everyone chipped in - we put people where we had to in the lineup, and guys just stepped up. This was a big win for us."
The game was scoreless until the opening minutes of the second frame. Miami's Brian Kaufman had taken a penalty in the final minute of the opening stanza, and the Spartans opened the middle frame with good pressure in their offensive zone. As the penalty expired, Marty Guerin threw a backhanded pass right onto Kaufman's stick, and he broke into the zone on a one-on-one with goaltender Jeff Lerg. Kaufman beat the goaltender low stick-side to get the home team on the board with just 1:25 expired in the period.
The Spartans held a 19-17 edge in shots in the second intermission, yet still trailed by a goal thanks to the outstanding play of Charlie Effinger. However, Michigan State finally broke up the shutout just over a minute into the final frame - Nick Sucharski won a faceoff in the right circle out to blueliner Dan Vukovic, who's slapshot rung off the crossbar and past a stunned Effinger to knot the game at one.
Michigan State took its first lead of the series at the 3:45 mark, converting on its fourth power play opportunity of the night. Chris Mueller had the puck behind the goalline to Effinger's left, and pushed it to Tim Kennedy, who was almost behind the net. Kennedy strode to his left and threw the puck in front to Tim Crowder in the high slot, who one-timed his third extra-man tally in as many games.
An interference call against Tyler Howells at 5:10 put Miami on the power play for just the second time in the game, but Bryan Lerg was able to spring the puck from the defensive zone to go in on a break. He had Miami captain Ryan Jones on his hip, but he was strong on the puck, faked forehand, and slipped a backhander past the glove hand of Effinger for his team-leading 13th goal of the season and a 3-1 Spartan lead.
As good as Effinger was for the RedHawks over the first two periods, Jeff Lerg was as strong for the visitors, making several point-blank saves - none bigger than the huge stop he made just seconds before his cousin put the MSU lead at 3-1. The home team put on a furious final surge in an effort to crawl back in, but Lerg was both lucky (as a Ray Eichenlaub blast from the point was tipped in front by Jones, but it clanged off the post) and good, as he kept the potent Miami offense at bay. Crowder potted his second goal of the night with an empty net to seal the dramatic 4-1 victory.
The Spartans return to action next Friday with their first home game in nearly six weeks, hosting Alaska in a two-game set at Munn Ice Arena.
Notes: Comley joins Boston College's Jerry York (758 victories) and Jack Parker of Boston University (750) as the acive 700-game winners ... The three-goal Spartan barrage in the final frame happened over a span of 5:10 ... Bryan Lerg potted his second shorthanded goal in three games ... Crowder extended his point streak to three games with his second two-goal effort in as many contests ... The Spartan lineup was jumbled thanks to winger Jim McKenzie missing Saturday's game and the absence of centerman Justin Abdelkader, who returned to the US on Saturday after winning a bronze medal with Team USA at the World Junior Championships. Further compounding MSU's lineup problems was several players battling the flu. Several Spartans were gametime decisions, but most made it into the lineup ...
"Congratulations to Rick on a great accomplishment. Rick has been a great friend of mine for a number years and I am very excited for him to reach this milestone. He is a great person and a great coach and I wish him all the best."
- Boston College head coach Jerry York
"I've known and admired Rick for a long time as a coaching contemporary and he is a good guy and a good friend. The milestone is well deserved and I'm happy to count myself in any club that he is in."
-- Boston University head coach Jack Parker