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Spartans fall to Michigan in CCHA Semifinals

March 17, 2007

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DETROIT - Michigan received two goals from junior Kevin Porter and 18 saves from Billy Sauer to top Michigan State 5-2 in the CCHA Championships semifinals Friday night at Joe Louis Arena, snapping a seven-game unbeaten streak for the Spartans at the venue. MSU will now face Lake Superior State in the CCHA consolation game Saturday afternoon.

"This is a disappointing loss, but our season isn't over yet," Head Coach Rick Comley said. "If we can win tomorrow then we'll be in the national tournament for sure. Needless to say, tomorrow's game is huge."

MSU came out strong in the first period, playing a high-energy, physical game that caught the Wolverines off guard.

As he has done all season, Jeff Lerg set the tone early for the Spartans with a big save. Just 31 seconds in, CCHA scoring champ T.J. Hensick released a point-blank shot from the left face-off circle that the sophomore netminder smothered. Less than a minute later, MSU used the early momentum to draw a penalty on Wolverine captain Matt Hunwick.

The Spartans thought they had taken a 1-0 lead just seconds after their first power play opportunity expired at 3:46 of the first. Freshman Jay Sprague slashed down the right side of the ice and released a snap shot that beat Sauer blocker side. The shot lit lamp, but upon review, the goal was disallowed.

Michigan State figured it was on the board on another disputed play at 12:20 of the opening frame, but were once again held off the scoreboard. With Michigan on the power play, Justin Abdelkader intercepted a pass to the point and came in on a breakaway. He was tripped, sending both he and the puck into the net, but it was determined the post came off its mooring prior to the puck crossing the goal line. Abdelkader was awarded a penalty shot, but his attempt was stymied by Sauer's right pad.



U-M captured the first goal of the game at the 3:07 mark of the second period on tally by freshman Chris Summers - his third in two games against State. Tim Miller sent Summers in on a partial breakaway, and he finished the play with a backhander that deflected off Lerg's blocker, and fluttered into the top corner of the net.

Just 1:04 later, Michigan stole all of the game's momentum, capitalizing on a three-on-one break. With only Brandon Gentile back for MSU, Hensick threw a cross-ice pass that Kevin Porter put past a sprawling Lerg, forcing Comley to use his timeout.

A superb individual effort by Porter put U-M up 3-0 at 15:47 of the second. After beating three Spartans, Porter snuck a backhand shot past the outstretched leg of Lerg for his second tally of the night.

The Spartans got on the board at 13:37 of the third thanks to a laser-guided wrist shot by Jim McKenzie. The Woodbury, Minn., native took a pass from Jeff Dunne and let loose a wrist shot that found its way through a screen and over the outstretched glove of Sauer for his 10th goal of the season.

Michigan answered McKenzie's goal just 50 seconds later when Chad Kolarik beat Lerg in virtually the same spot - high glove side.

But, the Spartans would not go quietly into the night as sophomore Tim Kennedy struck at 16:04 to make it a 4-2 game. Kennedy picked up a loose puck created off a blocked shot, and picked the top corner for his sixth career goal against U-M.

With Lerg pulled for an extra attacker, Michigan iced the game with an empty-net goal at 19:54.

The Spartans will try for a third-place finish tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 p.m., having swept the Lakers at home Jan. 19-20. LSSU fell to Notre Dame, 3-0, in the first semifinal game.

SPARTAN NOTEBOOK Justin Abdelkader's first-period penalty shot was the first attempted by a Spartan since Chris Mueller beat Bill Zaniboni in a 3-2 win at Northern Michigan. It was the first failed penalty shot since Jim Slater was stopped by Bowling Green's Jordan Sigalet on Dec. 3, 2004...The loss drops MSU to 78-22 all-time in the CCHA tournament, and 9-5 against Michigan in postseason action...The loss to Michigan broke a seven-game MSU unbeaten at Joe Louis Arena (4-0-3) dating back to last January... The loss also snapped a 4-0-3 stretch against Michigan in games at the Joe going back to January of 2003... Junior defenseman Daniel Vukovic skated in his 100th career game Saturday...Justin Abdelkader collected his 50th career point with an assist on Tim Kennedy's third period goal...The game was MSU's 100th contest in the school's 26-year history in the CCHA.

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