Jan. 20, 2007
East Lansing - Sophomore netminder Jeff Lerg recorded a 27-save shutout while cousin Bryan Lerg potted the eventual game-winner in the final minute of the first period as Michigan State recorded its season-best fifth straight win, a 4-0 whitewash of Lake Superior. Mike Ratchuk had a pair of assists for the Spartans, who improved to 16-8-1, 12-6-1 in conference games. The Lakers drop their fourth straight to fall to 13-10-3, 7-8-3 in CCHA contests.
There were early chances for both teams, as a 45-second 5-on-3 for the Lakers forced Jeff Lerg to come up with some good saves, and Spartan defenseman Jeff Dunne broke up a four-on-one by poking the puck away from Nathan Perkovich as he carried it through the left circle. The only scoring of the period came in the final minute, as Michigan State skated on the power play. Ethan Graham threw the puck deep into the right corner, and Nick Sucharski fought off a defender at the half-wall to push the puck to Mike Ratchuk. The freshman blueliner moved the puck out to the blueline and looked for Bryan Lerg low in the right circle, and Lerg wristed the puck top-shelf over Jakaitis' shoulder.
"Early, we got in penalty trouble, and Jeff was really good, that one paddle save he made when he dove over was tremendous," noted head coach Rick Comley. "When we had penalty problems he held us around, and they had 5-on-3 for a while and didn't score. We got the lead and got better as the night went on."
The Spartans struck again at the 6:14 mark of the middle frame. It was Graham again initiating the play, passing the puck from the left wall low into the slot. Jay Sprague made a nice move to stick-check the Laker defender, allowing the puck to slide onto the stick of Chris Mueller, who was falling through the crease as he swept the puck past Jakaitis glove-side.
The Lakers had a great chance to cut the lead in half when skating on the power play with just under four minutes remaining in the period. With plenty of traffic on the left side, the Lakers moved the puck to Trent Campbell in the right circle - Campbell's offering rang off the right post as the MSU penalty to Jim McKenzie expired.
The late-period magic for the Spartans put another tally on the board with 22 seconds on the clock, sending MSU into the locker room with a 3-0 advantage. Skating four-on-four, an extended tie-up along the walls in the Spartan zone finally squirted free, and Tim Kennedy picked it up to streak the other way. It resulted in a 3-on-1 for the Spartans, and Kennedy's pass was perfectly timed for a crashing Dan Vukovic, who redirected the puck for his second goal of the season.
Michigan State pushed its lead to 4-0 with a Jim McKenzie tally at the 1:21 mark of the final frame. Chris Snavely controlled the puck at the right point, and found Jim McKenzie below the dot in the right circle. McKenzie's offering rattled off Jakaitis' pads and trickled through the netminder's five-hole.
Jeff Lerg was outstanding throughout, picking up his third shutout of the season. Jakaitis, who only played the Saturday game of the set, made 26 saves in suffering his eighth loss of the season.
Michigan State has a rare midseason off-weekend, and will next compete on Feb. 2-3 when it travels to Omaha to tangle with the UNO Mavericks.
NOTES: The win was MSU's fifth straight and ninth in its last ten games. The Spartans have lost just twice since Dec. 1 ... Michigan State is now 10-1-1 at home this season, tied for the most home victories in the league with Michigan ... The Spartans are unbeaten in the last nine games against LSSU and have not lost to the Lakers in the last 16 games played at Munn Arena in the series ... MSU scored goals in the final minute of play in both the first and second periods - the 10th and 11th time the Spartans have scored in the final minute of a period this season ... With its 5-for-5 performance tonight, the penalty kill has extinguished 29 of its last 30 opportunities. MSU was a perfect 11-for-11 in the LSSU series, and has held its opponent without a power play tally in nine of 25 games this season ... Bryan Lerg's first-period goal was his nation's best sixth game-winning tally. His goal was his 15th of the year and tied his single-season best, set last year as a sophomore ... The shutout was the third of the season for Jeff Lerg, and the sixth of his career ... Jay Sprague recorded a point - an assist on Chris Mueller's second-period goal - for the first time since Nov. 3 against Michigan. He had played in 14 games without finding his name on the scoresheet ... Dan Vukovic, who had one career goal in his first two varsity seasons, scored his second of the season in the final minute of the second period ... Defenseman Mike Ratchuk had his first career multiple-assist outing ... Justin Abdelkader has five points (2g, 3a) in four games since returning to the lineup after the World Junior Championships ... Both head coach Rick Comley and junior Bryan Lerg celebrated their birthday on Saturday - Comley his 60th, Lerg his 21st.