Dec. 9, 2006
Marquette, Mich. - Nick Sucharski and Bryan Lerg came up with third-period tallies and Spartan netminder Jeff Lerg made 27 saves to help Michigan State come from behind for a 3-2 victory over Northern Michigan on Saturday evening in Marquette. The sweep of Northern Michigan is the first CCHA sweep for the Spartans this season, and secured head coach Rick Comley his 100th victory at Michigan State. The Spartans enter the holiday break with a 9-7-1 overall mark, and are 7-5-1 in CCHA.
Bryan Lerg scored the game-winner at 17:22 of the final frame, seven minutes after the Spartans had tied the score on a Sucharski tally. Tyler Howells put the puck into the offensive zone at the far blue line, and left the puck for Lerg as he broke into the zone on a two-on-one with Chris Mueller. Lerg strode into the right circle and sniped the puck past Bill Zaniboni (17 saves) for his ninth tally of the season. It was also his national-best fourth game-winning tally of the year.
The Spartans swung the momentum with the pair of third-period strikes, and picked up their first victory of the season when trailing after two periods - MSU had been 0-6-0 when behind entering the final frame. With the road sweep, the Spartans also improve to 3-6-0 away from Munn Arena and recorded a CCHA sweep for the first time since February 17-18 2006, when MSU took a pair from then-second-ranked Miami. It was the first CCHA road sweep for the Spartans since January 23-24, 2004, at Ohio State.
Michigan State jumped on the board just over seven minutes into the game while skating on their second power-play opportunity of the night. Brandon Warner corralled the puck behind the net and came out to the right of Zaniboni, and tucked the puck past the leg pad of the netminder stick-side.
The home team retailiated with an extra-man strike of its own at 9:24. With just four seconds remaining in the Wildcat power play, Andrew Saraurer received the puck in the high slot off a pass from Rob Lehtinen at the far half-wall, and forced the puck through traffic in front - it rattled off the crossbar over the shoulder of Jeff Lerg for the junior's third goal of the season.
As was the case on Friday, the officials called a tight game, with a combined five power plays in the opening period (there were seven in Friday night's contest). The Wildcats held a 19-9 edge in shots at the midpoint of the second frame, thanks in large part to five power play chances at that point of the evening compared to just two by the visiting Spartans. At 14:36, the homestanding Wildcats took their first lead in the series, as Mike Santorelli took a feed from Zach Tarkir and stickhandled past the Spartan defense in the left circle, and deposited his 13th goal of the season over the glove-hand shoulder of Jeff Lerg.
The Spartans benefited from a seven-minute power play early in the third period, thanks to a hitting from behind call against Pat Bateman and a subsequent call against Nathan Sigmund in the waning seconds of the major. The Spartans certainly benefitted from the extended man-advantage, as a game which seemed headed for a strong finish by the home team saw the momentum swing to the visitors. With just under 30 seconds left in the second penalty, Nick Sucharski finally found a way to beat the netminderm, wristing the puck from the left dot for the equalizing tally at 10:12. Tyler Howells and Tim Kennedy were credited with assists. The Spartans kept the pressure on through the balance of regulation, which led to Lerg's game-winner late in the frame.
The Spartans will now have a 19-day hiatus for exams and the holidays, and will return to action on Dec. 29 at the Great Lakes Invitational. Michigan State tangles with Harvard in the semifinals of the tournament.