Oct. 19, 2006
East Lansing, Mich. - The US National Team Development Program scored three times on a five-minute major to take a 5-4 decision from Munn Ice Arena in an exhibition game on Tuesday evening. The USNTDP, which took both top-ranked Boston College and fifth-ranked Michigan to overtime in recent weeks, improved to 2-4 against collegiate competition and 8-4 overall. Michigan State has split its two exhibition games as well as its season-opening CCHA series.
"Obviously, the three power-play goals on the major was a huge factor," admitted head coach Rick Comley. "But we're obviously still in a period where we're trying to figure some things out. We are a work in progress - we aren't as deep as we were a year ago, and some guys are stepping into new roles. We have to really focus and work hard on getting better."
The Spartans had a chance to work on their struggling power play almost immediately, as Team USA took consecutive penalties early in the first period. Justin Abdelkader put back a rebound of a Tim Kennedy offering to put MSU on the board at 5:56 with a man advantage, and Brian Lerg followed with an even-strength tally nearly three minutes later. Lerg's goal was an outstanding individual effort, as he carried the puck into the offensive zone, eluded the defender, and put the puck five-hole on goaltender Josh Unice. The U-18's got one back before the end of the period - Teddy Ruth connected from Colin Wilson at 17:10 - as the Spartans brought a one-goal lead into the intermission.
A five-minute major for boarding called on Abdelkader three minutes into the period gave Team USA all the opening it needed to not only get back in the game, but pull ahead - the Red, White and Blue scored three times on the non-releaseable power play to take a 4-2 lead. Jimmy Hayes started the power-play onslaught at 6:06, beating MSU goaltender Jeff Lerg low, stick-side on a one-timer from the bottom of the circle. Team USA connected again at 7:16 when Mike Hoeffel poked it past the right leg pad of Lerg, then added to their lead with Matt Rust's score at 9:12, as Rust deflected an offering from the high slot from the stick of Brennan Vargas.
Michigan State cut into the lead with a power play goal - its second of the night - from Bryan Lerg at 17:31 of the frame. Jim McKenzie moved the puck low through the crease to Lerg on the right side, and the winger shot it high into the left corner for his second score of the night.
Team USA re-established its two-goal lead before the intermission, as Justin Vaive's shot beat Jeff Lerg over his left shoulder. That sent the game into the final frame with a 5-3 score in favor of the visitors.
The teams skated more than 17minutes in the third frame without a score, but the Spartans made it a one-goal game on a Tyler Howells goal. Unice made a save off a shot from Dan Sturges in the right circle, and the rebound caromed around the wall on the left side. Howells took two strong strides to meet the puck above the half-wall, and lifted a slapshot over the left, glove-side shoulder of the netminder.
With Jeff Lerg pulled for the final minute of play, Michigan State pushed for an equalizer, but could not come up with the tying goal. The sophomore made 22 saves, while Josh Unice made 22 in the winning effort for the U-18's.
The Spartans are now idle until next weekend, when they welcome St. Lawrence and Sacred Heart for a non-league set.