March 15, 2008
East Lansing, Mich. - Northern Michigan goaltender Brian Stewart made 42 saves and Ray Kaunisto got the game-winner eary in the third period as the Wildcats took game two of the best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal series, 2-1. The Spartans got a power play goal from Tim Crowder late in the second period to tie the game, but could not solve Stewart in four extra-man opportunities in the third period. Jeff Lerg made 28 saves, which includes 12 in the final frame.
Mark Olver put the visiting Wildcats on the board at 3:56 of the second period with a wicked shot from just inside the blueline that beat Jeff Lerg high, glove-side.
The team's netminders traded outstanding performances in the middle frame, both coming up with clutch saves when needed. Stewart made back-to-back point-blank saves on Tim Crowder and Andrew Rowe at the midpoint of the frame, and Jeff Lerg not only stopped Gregor Hanson on a two-on-one break, but then gloved a Billy Smith backhanded attempt on the rebound.
Michigan State got the tying goal with 1:07 remaining in the second. Skating on the power play, Bryan Lerg found Tim Crowder with a dot-to-dot pass in the offensive zone, and Crowder one-timed the pass past Stewart to send the teams into the final period deadlocked at one.
The visitors scored a go-ahead tally at 8:13 of the third. Derek May had the shot from the right point, and Matt Butcher was on the doorstep to the left side and put a shot on Jeff Lerg that he stopped point-blank. The rebound popped to the left side, where a crashing Ray Kaunisto put back the puck stick-side, his eighth goal of the season.
MSU had two power-play opportunities in the frame, and went on the man advantage for the third time at 10:15. The Wildcats took another penalty at 11:44, giving MSU the extended advantage and 5-on-3 for 30 seconds. With 12 seconds left in the power play, Jeff Dunne's blast from the high slot was saved by Stewart, but he lost control of the rebound. The puck trickled toward the line, but hit off the right post and harmlessly behind the goalcage.
The Spartans pulled Jeff Lerg in favor of an extra skater for the final 1:26, but could not mount any sustained pressure in the offensive end.
The teams will meet in the third and deciding game on Sunday night at Munn Arena. Gametime is 7 p.m.
NOTES: MSU is now 50-5 all-time in CCHA home playoff games ... The Spartans last lost a quarterfinal game at home in 2006 to Alaska, also by a 2-1 score. MSU went on to win the series, then capture the CCHA Tournament title in Detroit ... The Spartans lost their first one-goal game in regulation this season. The only other one-goal loss was to Nebraska-Omaha in overtime (5-4) ... This was the first time this season the Spartans lost when allowing two or fewer goals in a game (20-1-2) ... Justin Abdelkader and Tim Kennedy had their seven-game point-scoring streaks snapped ... Jeff Lerg is now alone in fourth place in career saves, moving past Mike Buzak,. With 2,854, he is now just 30 behind Ron Scott, who holds down third place ... Lerg's 111 games played is also one behind Scott's 112 career games played, which ranks fourth on the all-time list. Its anticipated that Lerg will pull even with a Sunday-night start ...