Spartans Knock Off Host Tigers, 3-1
MSU advances to NCAA Regional Final for third straight season
March 29, 2008
East Lansing, Mich. - Michigan State goaltender Jeff Lerg made 41 saves as the Spartans exploded for three second-period goals to give Michigan State a 3-1 victory over WCHA regular-season champion Colorado College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday evening. The Tigers finish their season at 28-12-1, while Michigan State advances to the NCAA Regional Final for the third straight year and improves to 25-11-5 on the season.
Jeff Lerg's 41 saves was his career NCAA Tournament high, bettering the 36 he made in the 2006 shutout (1-0) of New Hampshire, his first NCAA Tournament contest. Lerg has allowed one goal or less in five of his seven career NCAA games, making 209 of 217 stops (.954). He now boasts a 1.42 career NCAA Tournament GAA.
Each team had a pair of power plays in the first period, where the Tigers racked up much of their 12-2 shot advantage in the period. Michigan State's best scoring chance of the period came in their second man advantage, when Corey Tropp had a shot at the left post on which freshman goaltender Richard Bachman made a terrific save.
Spartan goalie Lerg seemed cool and collected throughout the period, making all 12 saves, controlling rebounds, and putting loose pucks safely into the corners.
The Spartans junior netminder came up big in the period's eighth minute while MSU was skating shorthanded, stopping Bill Sweatt on the doorstep and Andreasa Vlassopoulos at the left post seconds later to keep the host Tigers off the board and scoreless at the first intermission.
Tim Kennedy put the Spartans on the board at 9:27 of the second. Jeff Petry's blast from the right point went to Kennedy at the far post, and with Justin Abdelkader screening in front, Kennedy had space to deposit his 20th goal of the season, and ninth on the power play.
It looked like the Spartans would take the 1-0 lead into the locker room, but a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the period blew open a tight game for MSU. Jeff Dunne got on the board at 18:03 on the power play - Bryan Lerg fed his defenseman in the left circle, and Dunne put it past Bachman. Chris Mueller got the backbreaker with just seven ticks on the clock to send MSU into the locker room with a three-goal advantage. Off an Abdelkader faceoff win in the offensive zone, Mueller zoomed in front and shot high for his 13th goal of the season.
The host team broke up the shutout with under eight minutes remaining in the game, when Derek Patrosso took a feed from Andreas Vlassopoulos and beat Jeff Lerg glove-side. Despite pulling the goaltender for the final two minutes, Colorado College could not get any closer and the Spartans advanced to Saturday's regional final.
The Spartans face off against CCHA foe Notre Dame Saturday night at 8 p.m. mountain time (10 p.m. eastern) on ESPN U; the game will also air live on the radio on WJIM AM 1240.
NOTES: Michigan State will now advance to the regional final for the third straight season, and will take on CCHA foe Notre Dame. The Spartans and Irish will meet for the third time this season, and for the second straight season in an NCAA Regional final. The Spartans defeated Notre Dame, 2-1, in Grand Rapids last season to earn the trip to the Frozen Four ... The game was the 250th behind the MSU bench for head coach Rick Comley. He owns a 142-84-24 mark in six seasons ... MSU's two shots in the opening period was its fewest in a period all season. Three previous times this season, it had three shots in a frame, most recently against Michigan on Feb. 22, also in the opening period. The Spartans won that game, 5-2 ... Michigan State is now 22-1-2 when scoring the first goal of the game. Tim Kennedy scored the opening goal of the contest at 9:27 of the middle period, a power play strike from Justin Abdelkader and Jeff Petry. It was his ninth power-play goal of the season and 20th of the year ... The Spartans are now 23-0-2 when leading after two periods. Michigan State took a 3-0 lead into the third with two goals in the final 1:57 of the middle frame ... Michigan State's penalty kill kept the Tigers off the board in five chances, and has killed off 98 of its last 105 chances against since Dec. 29 (93.3%). The Spartans scored twice in six chances on the man advantage... Jeff Lerg's NCAA Tournament shutout streak was snapped at 87:15 with the goal by Derek Patrosso at 12:07 of the third period. Lerg had last allowed a goal to Boston College's Brian Boyle at 6:50 of the second period in last year's NCAA title game ... Jeff Lerg's 41 saves is the most he's made in an NCAA Tournament game. His previous high was 36 in a 1-0 shutout of New Hampshire - his first-ever NCAA game. It was also the first-ever NCAA Tournament shutout for the Spartans.