Feb. 16, 2007
Kalamazoo, Mich. - Michigan State could not overcome a three-goal second-period deficit and Western Michigan withstood a final flurry that saw the Spartans hit the post twice to hold on for a final 4-3 victory on Friday evening in Kalamazoo. MSU got a pair of goals from Justin Abdelkader and three assists from Tim Kennedy in the hard-luck loss, while Jeff Lerg made 18 saves and recorded two assists. MSU is now winless in its last three games (0-2-1) and falls to 18-10-3 on the season, while Western moves to a perfect .500 (15-15-1).
Western came out aggressive in an attempt to set the tempo early, and the teams traded early power plays that failed to generate grade-A chances at either end.
The Spartans converted on their second attempt, when Justin Abdelkader redirected a Tim Kennedy attempt past goaltender Riley Gill glove-side. Kennedy had brought the puck up the left side, eluding a defender, and wheeled out in front of the net, and Gill made the pad save. Abdelkader, stationed on the bottom cusp of the right circle, lifted the rebound over Gill's glovehand for his 12th goal of the season.
A scrum in front of the MSU bench with just over five minutes remaining sent a combined seven players into the penalty box, and gave Western Michigan their second power play opportunity of the night after a long delay to sort out the infractions. The host Broncos wasted little time, gaining the equalizer at the 15:12 mark hen Brian Bicek received the puck at the right hash mark and sent a rising shot in on net that eluded Jeff Lerg high, glove-side. It snapped a streak of sixteen straight man-down advantages extinguished by the MSU penalty kill, and tied the ballgame at one headed into the first intermission.
The second period was a wild affair, with five goals going on the board between the two teams. The home team took a 2-1 lead at the 3:47 mark of the second period on a goal by Pat Galivan. The play initiated as a slapshot from the left poit by blueliner Chris Frank; the rebound was redirected at the right post by Galivan for his fifth goal of the season.
Brandon Warner and Brandon Gentile were whistled for minor penalties eight seconds apart five minutes into the middle frame, giving the Broncos a nearly full two-minute five-on-three. With just under a minute elapsed, Ryan Marhle slipped into the low slot unmarked by a defender and buried his second goal of the season on the Broncos first shot on the power play. MSU killed the remainder of the second penalty, but surrendered a shorthanded tally by captain Jeff LoVecchio at the 8:32 mark to fall behind 4-1. Jason Moul sprung the puck out of their defensive zone, and carried it the length of the ice on a two-on-one with the senior captain. He dished the puck to LoVecchio in the slot, and despite being nearly brought down by Abdelkader, LoVecchio's skate knocked the puck past Jeff Lerg. The play was reviewed, but the goal stood to give the home team a 4-1 lead.
Western Michigan was then whistled for infractions just over a minute apart just after the midway point of the frame, giving MSU a five-on-three. Freshman Mark Letestu, the second-leading freshman scorer in the nation (and tops in the CCHA) was sprung for another shorthanded breakaway, but Jeff Lerg was up to the task and made the glove save.
The breakaway save critical, as the Spartans popped a pair of power-play goals less than a minute apart seconds later to trim a 4-1 deficit to one. Daniel Vukovic got his fourth of the season at 13:36, taking a feed from Chris Snavely at the high point and wristing the puck through traffic from the left circle past Gill. Abdelkader followed suit at 14:29, getting his second of the night from the left side off an assist from Kennedy. Jeff Lerg initiated the play behind the net, feeding Kennedy with the puck; the crafty winger gained the zone and took it to the outside to the right half-wall, and threw a backhand pass through traffic in the slot; Abdelkader accepted the pass on his backhand and buried his second of the night.
A minute and 15 seconds of a five-on-three gave the Spartans an early chance in the third period, as the penalties continued to be called fast and furious in the contest. The Spartans did not convert, but cycled well and forced Gill to make quality saves. He got a little help from the goalpost, as a Vukovic offering clanged off the left stanchion.
Both teams kept pressing, and both had good chances. Spartan defenseman Jeff Dunne came up with a big stop on a two-on-one break, diving in front of a Galivan shot; Nick Sucharski's quick shot on a failed clearing attempt by a Bronco defenseman was gloved by Gill to maintain a one-goal lead with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
As time wore down, the Spartans pressed for the equalizer, pulling Jeff Lerg in favor of an extra skater with under a minute remaining in regulation. Ater a timeout, the Spartans sent their top scorers into the offensive zone for the final 38 seconds - their top faceoff man, Chris Mueller, won three critical draws, and Kennedy hit the post twice in the final pressing seconds, but the Spartans could not find the equalizer and dropped the one-goal decision.
The two teams will tangle again on Saturday at Munn Ice Arena in a game that will be televised by FSN Detroit. Gametime is 7:05 pm.
NOTES By the five-minute mark of the second period, the Spartans had been assessed as many penalty minutesn (28) as in their past three games combined (14, 8, 6) ... Michigan State surrendered three goals in a period for the first time since Nov. 17 against Notre Dame, a game the Spartans lost 4-1. The Irish also scored three in the middle frame on MSU ... Michigan State tallied three extra-man tallies in the game, the fifth time this season the Spartans had three power-play goals in a contest. The Spartans finished 3-for-9 ... Jeff Lerg was credited with assists on both the first and third Spartan tallies; the last time an MSU netminder had two assists in a season was in 2002-03 (Matt Migliaccio) ... Four of Justin Abdelkader's last five goals have been on special teams - two on the power play and one shorthanded ... Abdelkader had his second two-goal game in the last three contests. His previous two-goal games both came against Michigan ... Tim Kennedy has points in six of the last seven games. He set a new career high with three assists ...