Feb. 29, 2008
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East Lansing, Mich. - Justin Abdelkader had MSU's first hat trick in two seasons and Jeff Lerg made 28 saves as Michigan State posted a 6-3 victory over Bowling Green on Friday night at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans exploded for three goals in the final 2:30 of regulation to break open a tie game and send the seniors out as winners in the final home game of the regular season.
Michigan State, now 22-9-5 (18-6-3 CCHA), will face off with the Falcons again on Saturday night in Bowling Green, Ohio. BG is 16-17-0, 13-14-0 CCHA.
Abdelkader got the game-winning tally at 17:41, when he streaked up the left side with the puck and placed a perfect shot into the upper right corner of the net. Tim Kennedy got a goal at 18:03 for some insurance, with assists going to senior Chris Mueller and Abdelkader. The junior completed his four-point night with an empty-net tally at 19:48 - the tally came shorthanded,as Mueller had been sent to the box or high-sticking.
Michigan State opened the scoring early in the game, which has been a portend of success for the Spartans. Jeff Petry got his second goal in three games and extended his point streak to four games when he put the MSU on the board at 1:02. Petry took a pass from classmate Corey Tropp and moved into the high slot, where he pulled up and lifted a wrister that beat goalie Nick Eno.
MSU took a 2-0 lead at 6:23, off a goal by Matt Schepke. Schepke and Tropp led the rush up the ice, and Schepke finished the play when he tucked the rebound of Tropp's shot past the leg pad of Eno at the right post for his 11th of the season.
Bowling Green roared back with two goals within three minutes to draw the game to two-all. The first goal came less than a minute after Schepke's tally on an impressive individual effort by freshman Jacob Cepis - he went in on a one-on-one break but lost the puck off his stick into the right corner. He hustled to corral it, circled back out into the slot, and put a wrister five-hole past Jeff Lerg. The Falcons tied the game at 9:44, when Tomas Petruska tipped a John Mazzei shot from the left circle glove-side past the goalie.
The Spartans reclaimed its advantage just as a power play expired at 16:16. It was the first penalty in the game, assessed to Russ Sinkewich for hooking at 14:15 - as the seconds ticked off the clock on the advantage, Jeff Petry had the puck at the blueline and moved it to Justin Abdelkader at the half-wall on the right side. He one-timed it past Eno's glove hand to give MSU the lead headed into the final frame.
MSU's Dustin Gazley looked like he had the Spartans' fourth goal at 5:44, but instead was whistled for goaltender interference and put the Falcons on the power play for the first time in the game. The Spartans had a two-on-one break less than a minute into the kill when Tim Kennedy and Abdelkader sprung out of the zone with the puck, but Eno covered for the defensive zone faceoff.
Things got chippy below the goallines as the period wore on, as the teams faced more frequent trips to the box than they had in the opening frames. The Falcons earned the tying tally at 12:50, right after the Spartans finished killing off a penalty. Petruska had the puck behind the net to the left side and he passed it out to Todd McIlrath in slot, and McIlrath roofed his shot over the glove hand of Lerg for the equalizer.
That set up the wild final 150 seconds, in which Abdelkader netted the game-winner and completed his hat trick.
NOTES: Justin Abdelkader's hat trick was the first for MSU since March 12, 2006 when Drew Miller recorded one in the quarterfinal of the CCHA playoffs against Alaska ... Abdelkader's empty-netter was the fifth shorthanded goal of the season for Michigan State ... MSU is now 4-1-1 under head coach Rick Comley on senior nights ... Comley utilized a starting lineup of all seniors: forwards Chris Mueller, Bryan Lerg and Zak McClellan, and defensemen Daniel Vukovic and Jeff Dunne along with junior goaltender Jeff Lerg. At Monday's press conference, Mueller joked that the fivesome would stay on the ice together until McClellan got his first goal of the season, "even if it takes all 20 minutes." Their first shift lasted 45 seconds, but Jeff Petry scored for the Spartans 17 seconds into the second shift ... MSU is 20-1-2 when scoring the game's first goal ...The teams skated through a penalty-free first period, MSU's first opening period without an infraction against either team this season. It was two straight penalty-free periods for the Spartans, as neither team was called for a penalty in the third period of the MSU-Michigan game last week at Joe Louis Arena ... The Spartans were not assessed a penalty in either of the first two frames, and had a penalty-free streak of 59:36 snapped at 5:44 of the final period ... MSU was held without a power-play goal for just the third time in 2008, but held BG off the board in three tries against ... Since Jan. 1, the Spartans have killed 71 of 77 power play chances against (96.2%) ... MSU's "Shoot for a Cure" silent auction, with items primarily donated by former Spartans in the NHL, raised more than $2000, pushing the initiative's total to nearly $5,000.