March 13, 1998
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Two third-period goals from Sean Berens -- one into an empty net -- lifted Michigan State to a 3-1 victory over Ferris State in Game 1 of the teams' best-of-three first-round CCHA playoff series.
The Spartans and Bulldogs traded goals within 29 seconds in the first period. Mike York struck first for Michigan State, finishing on assists from Bryan Adams and Andrew Bogle at 17:01 of the first period. Just 29 seconds later, the Bulldogs recovered with Todd Steinmetz' third goal of the season.
The game remained a 1-1 deadlock through the second period, although Michigan State held a decided edge in shots on goal. The Spartans fired 13 second-period shots on net to Ferris State's four.
Included in MSU's assault was a wraparound chance by Berens which Ferris State's Vince Owen somehow came across the net to stop. The red light actually went on, but the puck did not cross the goal line.
Owen was brilliant after struggling against Michigan State all season long. The Spartans had scored six, seven and six goals in their three-game sweep of Ferris in the regular season but were held to two tonight before the empty-netter.
Owen's play, however, was overshadowed by MSU senior goaltender Chad Alban. The Hobey Baker candidate made several brilliant saves in his 17 overall, but none more important than at 11:38 of the third period.
With the score still tied 1-1, Ferris State fed the puck from the corner into the slot, where Brian McCullough was waiting alone. He shot the puck high but it was snagged by Alban with his glove hand.
A television timeout allowed the Munn Arena faithful to enjoy the stop and gave the Spartans a chance to regroup. MSU changed lines, sending Berens' unit onto the ice, and 22 seconds after the ensuing faceoff Berens had the game-winning goal.
"Things like that can turn games around and change momentum," Berens said. "It probably wasn't that big of a deal to (Chad), but that's the kind of thing that make him so special. That's why he deserves the Hobey Baker Award. He's just a phenomenal athlete."
"Those kind of plays turn games around," head coach Ron Mason said. "That's what we've come to expect from Chad Alban -- he's been doing it all season."
On Berens' game-winning goal, sophomore Mike Weaver dumped the puck towards the net. Freshman Damon Whitten defleected it behind the net, where Berens picked it up to Owen's left. While Owen had denied Berens on a similar play from behind the net in the second, Berens put this one away under his pads.
Berens put the icing on the cake with his 34th goal of the season, an empty-netter with 0:01 on the clock. Berens' 34 goals lead the nation. The Spartans improve to 30-5-5 overall, their eighth 30-win season in history and the first since 1989-90. Ferris State is 15-20-3.
Michigan State is still one step from the Joe, needing one more victory against Ferris to finish off the best-of-three series. The two teams meet Saturday night at Munn Ice Arena at 7 p.m. All seats have been sold out for Saturday night, although as of Friday night, standing room tickets remained.
OTHER CCHA SCORES:
#7 Notre Dame 4
#2 Michigan 2
#4 Northern Michigan 3
#5 Miami (Ohio) 1
#3 Ohio State 2
#6 Lake Superior 1