Spartans Rally for 7-4 Victory over Michigan

Nov. 3, 2006

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East Lansing, Mich. - Justin Abdelkader scored twice and added an assist, while Jim McKenzie, Nick Sucharski, and Tim Kennedy each scored and added a helper as the Michigan State hockey team rallied from an early deficit and convincingly defeated archrival Michigan, 7-4, on Friday evening at Munn Ice Arena. Trailing 2-0 less than seven minutes into the game and 3-1 after a period of play, the Spartans reeled off five straight goals over a 26-minute span to put the game decisively out of reach for the visitors.

The teams engaged in a shootout in the opening frame, combining for 21 shots on net and four goals. Michigan jumped out to a 2-0 lead with just under seven minutes elapsed. Kevin Porter potted his fifth goal of the year at 4:04 on a breakaway tally where he beat Jeff Lerg high, glove-side, and Brandon Naurato followed just under two and a half minutes later on a three-on-one break which left Lerg exposed.

The Spartans rallied to cut the deficit in half while skating on the power play. Abdelkader was tied up with a defender along the back wall, but managed to get the puck loose and onto the stick of Kennedy. Kennedy took two strides out from behind the net to the stick-side of goaltender Billy Sauer, and backhanded his second goal of the year past the defender to beat the netminder between his leg pad and the pipe.

Michigan would find the back of the net at 17:02 to regaining a two-goal lead on the power play. It was Naurato again, connecting on a feed from Brian Lebler, to send the visitors into the locker room with a 3-1 lead.

A wild middle frame swung the 3-1 deficit to a 5-3 lead for the Spartans. Michigan State came out strong, and had two good chances: on a McKenzie offering which rang off the pipe and a Kennedy shot that missed the mark by inches. It cut into the deficit again at 5:52 when skating on the man advantage. After taking a pass from McKenzie, Tyler Howells rifled a shot from the near point, which was deflected on the left post by Chris Mueller for his second goal of the season.



An impressive individual effort by Matt Schepke tied the game at the 11:31 mark of the middle frame. He held the puck and beat Andrew Cogliano off the far wall, and wrested a shot that eluded Sauer. It was his first goal in a Spartan uniform.

The Spartans took their first lead of the night at 14:54 on a two-on-one break. Bryan Lerg sprung the puck to Kurt Kivisto in the neutral zone, and entered the zone with McKenzie. Kivisto held the puck until defender Chris Summers went down to try to block the pass, then slid it past Summers' prone body to McKenzie on the right side, who popped his third goal of the season.

Less than two minutes later, Kennedy managed to split a pair of defenders to find Justin Abdelkader on the doorstep, but with a defender on his hip. Abdelkader fought off the draped defender to backhand the puck over the legpad of Sauer and send the Spartans into the locker room with a two-goal advantage.

The Spartans potted their fifth unanswered goal at 5:58 of the final frame, as winger Jay Sprague fed Nick Sucharski on the right faceoff dot, and the sophomore sniped it over the shoulder of Sauer into the upper left corner of the net for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.

The Wolverines got one back at 14:38, when David Rohlfs corralled a rebound in the high slot and fired it over the glove-side shoulder of Jeff Lerg, off assists from Porter and Tim Cook.

Jeff Lerg made 17 saves in the winning effort, including eight in the final frame as the Wolverines pressed to get back in the ballgame. Billy Sauer made 26 stops in the losing effort.

The two teams face off again on Saturday evening in Ann Arbor.

NOTES: The crowd of 7,092 was the largest at Munn Arena since a February 15, 2003 contest against the Wolverines. It was the fourth-largest crowd in Munn Arena history ... Recently retired Detroit Red Wing Steve Yzerman took in tonight's contest, watching from Athletic Director Ron Mason's box ... The win extended Michigan State's unbeaten streak against its archrival to nine games (4-0-5), and the Spartans won their second straight in the series ... Matt Schepke scored his first collegiate goal ... Jay Sprague extended his season-best point-scoring streak to five games. Bryan Lerg had his goal-scoring streak snapped at three games, but recorded an assist to have a point in each game (four) in which he played this season ... The Spartan power play connected on two of its five power play attempts ... Brandon Naurato, who had two Michigan goals on the evening, was a teammate of Spartan goaltender Jeff Lerg in Omaha (USHL) ... The last time Michigan State scored four goals in a period against Michigan was in Ann Arbor on Nov. 20, 2004 in the first stanza - the Spartans dropped the contest, 5-4.