Spartans Fall in Showcase, 5-4
Nov. 24, 2006
Michigan State got a three-point night from Justin Abdelkader and a pair of goals from Tim Kennedy, but fell to top-ranked Minnesota, 5-4, in the opening game of the 2006 College Hockey Showcase, held Friday night at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. The Spartans suffer their first back-to-back losses since January, and fall to 6-5-1 on the season. Four of the five losses by MSU this season have come at the hands of a team ranked No. 7 in the country or higher.
The homestanding Gophers got on the board at 13:40 to take a 1-0 lead. Junior centerman Evan Kaufman's shot was saved by Jeff Lerg, with the rebound coming out into the slot. Tyler Hirsh had a swipe at it, but it deflected off a skate in front and ricocheted out onto the right hash mark, where a crashing Derek Peltier pounced on the loose puck and buried it for his first goal of the season.
The Spartans countered with a tally from its all-sophomore line just under two minutes later. Tim Crowder was tied up with two defenders behind the net, and was joined in the tie-up by Abdelkader. Abdelkader was able to gain possession of the puck and pushed it out to the right hash marks onto the tape of Kennedy, who deposited his eighth tally of the season.
Minnesota tacked on another in the final minute of the frame to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Alex Gologoski's slapper from the point was deflected by the tip of the blade of sophomore Blake Wheeler and beat Jeff Lerg stick-side.
Michigan State got the goal back with a tally just 1:18 into the middle frame. Kennedy helped force a turnover by freshman defenseman Erik Johnson at the top of the left circle, where the puck was corralled by Abdelkader. He strode into the slot with the puck and lifted it over the glove-hand shoulder of Jeff Frazee.
The teams engaged in entertaining, end-to-end action with good scoring chances throughout the second, and the Gophers took a 4-2 lead with a pair of goals with under five minutes remaining. Jay Bariball's offering from the left circle was saved by Jeff Lerg, and he directed the rebound behind the net. It was picked up by Blake Wheeler, who brought the puck out around out to Lerg's glove side between the goal line and the bottom of the circle, and buried it for his eighth of the season with 4:32 on the clock for a 3-2 lead. Just over two-and-a-half minutes later, Gologoski got his second primary assist of the night, as he and Kaufman executed the slapshot-tipped-in-front play for the second time of the night for a 4-2 advantage.
The Spartans battled back to tie the game with a pair of goals 38 seconds apart. The first came at 7:06 while skating on the power play. Abdelkader worked the puck from the wall out to Tyler Howells at the point, whose slapshot was redirected by Kennedy for his second goal of the night.
Mike Ratchuk netted the equalizer seconds later, taking a feed from Chris Mueller behind the net as he barreled into the slot, and beat Frazee high corner, stick-side. It was the freshman blueliner's third goal of the season.
The lead was short-lived, as the Gophers regained the advantage while skating on the power play. It was Gologoski again making things happen for the home team, taking a feed from Hirsch just above the faceoff dot in the right circle and wristing one past Jeff Lerg's glove hand.
The Spartans had a chance in the final minute of play, as junior Ben Gordon was whistled for tripping with 53 seconds showing on the clock. They managed to get Lerg out of the net for the final 30 seconds, but a last-second chance by Abdelkader that was saved by Frazee to seal the Minnesota win.
Jeff Lerg finished with 28 saves, while Frazee made 13 stops.
The Spartans continue the College Hockey Showcase on Saturday with a game at Wisconsin.
NOTES: Ten of the last 14 Showcase games between the Spartans and Gophers have been settled by a goal or less ... The Spartans were outshot for the sixth consecutive game, 33-17 ... Michigan State allowed its first goal in the first period in six games with Peltier's tally ... Kennedy scored a goal for the second consecutive game, and had his second career multiple-goal game ... Abdelkader had his fourth multiple-point game of the season, and tied his career high with a three-point night ... Freshman Mike Ratchuk scored his third goal of the season. He is the only defenseman to find the back of the net for the Spartans this season.
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