MSU, Western Michigan Face Off During
Feb. 13, 2008
Michigan State, which has won just once in its last five games (1-3-1), looks to right the ship this weekend when it takes on Western Michigan. The teams will meet Friday in East Lansing, then on Saturday afternoon at 4:35 p.m. in Kalamazoo as part of "Hockey Day in Michigan." Former Spartan Kelly Miller will drop the ceremonial first puck prior to Friday's game, as MSU takes part in the "Hockey Day Across America" celebration.
Date/Time: Friday, Feb. 15; 7:05 p.m. - East Lansing, Mich. (Munn Arena)
The Spartans lead the all-time series 56-27-7; the ledger is in favor of MSU at Munn by a 31-5-6 margin. Western is much better on its home ice, where MSU holds only a 22-20-1 advantage.
The Broncos have won three straight in this series - as clustermates last season, MSU won the opening-night game in October (4-1), but fell in Kalamazoo, (3-2). In the February series, Western took a 2-0 decision at Munn and a 4-3 win in Kalamazoo.
Western has won six of the last eight games played between the teams on their home ice, and four straight.
Each of MSU's final three regular-season weekends will have games contested at different sites - the Spartans have a home-and-home with both Western Michigan and Bowling Green, and will tangle with archrival Michigan at home and then at Joe Louis Arena. All remaining home games will be played on Friday nights.
MSU's game against Michigan at Joe Louis Arena has been changed to a 7:05 p.m. start time.
To help commemorate USA Hockey's Hockey Weekend Across America, former Spartan great Kelly Miller will drop the ceremonial first puck prior to Friday's game against Western Michigan, representing the 10 Miller family members who have played for Michigan State.
Hockey Weekend is a USA Hockey initiative, inspired in part by the CCHA's successful Hockey Day in Michigan promotion. Hockey weekend is Feb. 15-17, and Hockey Day in Michigan is Saturday Feb. 16. The puck drop will celebrate the contributions of the Miller family to MSU's hockey program, and celebrate both Hockey Day in Michigan and Hockey Weekend Across America.
Miller, a four-year letterman from 1981-85, still ranks among MSU's finest players. He ranks 25th on the all-time scoring chart (82-82-164), and went on to a 15-year career in the National Hockey League with the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals.
Michigan State not only expects another sellout crowd for next Friday's game against Michigan, (Feb. 22) but the Spartans may also challenge the single-game Munn Arena attendance record. When the teams met on Jan. 26 at Munn Arena, they played in front of 7,072 fans - the sixth-largest crowd in Munn history, and just 49 fans shy of the all-time record of 7,121, set on March 1, 2001 against the Wolverines.
In addition to trying to set the single-game attendance record, the Feb. 22 game has been declared a "White-Out" - all fans are encouraged to wear white to the game to support the Spartan icers.
Western Michigan has had a rough go of it in the 2007-08 season, as the Broncos occupy the 12th spot in the CCHA rankings with a 3-17-2 mark in conference games (eight points) and a 7-20-3 mark overall. Head coach Jim Culhane is in his eighth season at the helm of his alma mater.
Junior Patrick Galivan sits atop the scoring charts, with seven goals and 20 assists for 27 points; classmate Jeff LoVecchio leads the team with eight goals, and ranks third with 19 points. Newcomer Max Campbell has a 6-14-20 scoring line to sit second on the WMU scoring chart.
Between the pipes, sophomore Riley Gill has played 21 of 30 games, and owns a .897 save percentage and 3.33 GAA. He and freshman Jerry Kuhn have split time the last two weekends - Kuhn has played 11 games, and has a .925 save percentage and 2.41 GAA.
Each of Western's last seven games have been settled by a goal or less and four went to overtime. The Broncos own a 1-4-2 record in those games. Western is 0-5-3 in overtime this season.
MSU suffered just its second conference sweep this season and its first road losses in CCHA tilts with 3-1, 3-0 losses to Northern Michigan in Marquette on Feb. 8-9.
Nick Sirota had an impressive hat trick in the Friday tilt, netting an even strength, power play, and shorthanded goal to propel the Wildcats to a 3-1 victory on Friday. Jeff Dunne had the lone Spartan tally, which came in the final three minutes of regulation on the power play. The teams combined for 22 power-play chances in the penalty-plagued contest. Jeff Lerg made 15 saves in two periods, but was replaced for the third by Bobby Jarosz, who made six stops in the third.
Saturday's game had less penalties, but was no better fate for the Spartans as they were shut out for just the second time this season, 3-0. Matt Siddall scored twice and Mark Olver added a tally in the game, as Jeff Lerg made 26 stops.
MSU has five ties this season, tied for the third-most all-time in the Spartan annals. The school record of eight was set in 1991-92 and tied in 2005-06.
With the Jan. 19 win at Ohio State (4-0) and the 1-0 victory at Michigan on Jan. 25, MSU recorded consecutive shutouts for the first time since Feb. 20-21 2004, (vs. Nebraska-Omaha, (3-0, 5-0).
MSU was shut out for the second time this season on Feb. 9 at Northern Michigan. Two of MSU's three road losses this season have been shutouts - the first was opening night at North Dakota (Oct. 13), 6-0.
The Spartans had their 20-game undefeated streak in overtime games (6-0-14), snapped on Feb. 1 when they dropped a 5-4 decision to Nebraska-Omaha. The Mavericks had been the last team to defeat MSU in the extra period, back on Nov. 12, 2005 (3-2).
Michigan State is 0-1-5 in overtime games this season, and has played overtime games in four of their last five series
MSU's roster averages: 6-0, 188 lbs., and the average age is 20 years, 11 months.
MSU's two losses at Northern Michigan cost it a chance to move up in the CCHA standings. Michigan took three points out of Miami, moving the Wolverines into the top spot (36 points), one point ahead of Miami (35) and five ahead of the Spartans (31) in the CCHA standings. Notre Dame is currently occupying the fourth and final bye position in the standings, with 28 points.
The Spartans have two remaining games on the slate against Michgian - Feb. 22 at Munn Arena, and Feb. 23 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
The Spartans finished the month of January unbeaten (5-0-3) - their first unbeaten regular-season month since February of 2006 (6-0-1). MSU was also unbeaten in April 2007 (2-0).
MSU has nearly half (three of eight) of its losses this season in the month of February, all coming in the last two series.
MSU is ranked eighth nationally in winning percentage (66.1%).
During the Rick Comley era, the Spartans have traditionally been a second-half team. The first three months (October, November, December) of his first five seasons (2002-07), the Spartans were a combined 48-43-8 (52.5%), then compiled a 69-33-10 mark in the second half (66.1%).
The 2007-08 Spartans had their best first-half record under Comley (12-5-2, 68.4%), and are 6-3-3 since the start of 2008 (62.5%).
The Spartans have played 17 of their 31 games at home this season, but own a 8-3-1 mark in 12 road contests. Seven of the eight victories have come as part of CCHA sweeps - at Alaska, Lake Superior, and Ohio State and in a home-and-home with Ferris State. The Spartans earned their road tie at Notre Dame (Jan. 13), and defeated Michigan at Yost in a three-point weekend. The Spartans went 0-2 in their only two neutral-site games, at the GLI.
Until last weekend's sweep at the hands of Northern Michigan, MSU was the only undefeated team within its cluster, (Michigan, Lake Superior, and Northern Michigan). MSU now owns a 6-2-2 record with sweeps at home against Northern Michigan (5-4, 3-2), at Lake Superior (3-2, 5-2) a three-point home effort against the Lakers (8-2, 3-3), and a three-point effort in a home-and-home with Michigan. Michigan has also swept both upper peninsula schools, and Northern Michigan swept Lake Superior in a home-and-home.
Michigan State is one of four teams in the CCHA that returned 20 letterwinners this season, the highest number in the CCHA. The Spartans returned 83.9 percent of their goal scoring from a year ago (115 goals), tops in the league. MSU returned 73.9 percent (263) of its points from a year ago, which ranks second in the CCHA behind Miami (81.5%). The Spartans returned five of their top six forwards: seniors Bryan Lerg and Chris Mueller, and juniors Tim Kennedy, Justin Abdelkader, and Tim Crowder.
MSU has won 20+ games in 15 consecutive seasons.
The Spartans will look to snap a rather inauspicious streak: neither of the last two NCAA titleists made the tournament the year after they won the championship: both the Denver Pioneers (2005 champions) and Wisconsin Badgers (2006 titleists) failed to qualify for the 16-team field.
In 2007-08, MSU will play 20 regular-season games at Munn Arena, compared to 15 a year ago. Fourteen of the 20 will be televised.
MSU took three points from then-No. 1 Michigan on Jan. 25-26, snapping a three-game losing streak to teams ranked No. 1 in the national polls. In last year's NCAA Tournament, the Spartans defeated both Notre Dame (2-1) and Boston College (3-1) when they held the top ranking.
Michigan State has eight losses this season, and three were to teams which held the No. 1 ranking at the time of the game (North Dakota, and twice against Miami).
MSU has scored the first goal of the game in 13 of its last 18 games. The Spartans own a 16-1-2 record when scoring the game's opening tally, and are 2-7-3 when letting its opponent get on the board first - as it did in both games last weekend at NMU.
MSU's only loss when netting the first goal of the game came against Providence in the GLI (Dec. 29).
Michigan State has allowed just three power play goal in its last 13 games, snapping a streak of 32 consecutive kills when Michigan scored an extra-man tally in the second period of the Jan. 26 game in East Lansing. In those 13 games, the Spartans have killed 50 of 53 chances against, dating back to the Providence game (Dec. 29). The penalty kill is now at 85.1 percent for the season (114/134).
The MSU power play ranks eighth nationally (36/170, 21.2 percent).
In its first nine games, MSU scored nearly half (15 of 34) of goals on the power play. That pace has slowed somewhat, as 19 of its last 65 have come with a man advantage.
MSU has converted 28 of 95 chances on the power play (29.5%) in its 18 victories, while scoring just three times in 49 opportunities (6.1%) in its eight losses.
The penalty kill is at 86.1 percent (68/79) in victories, and just 28-of-36 (77.8%) in losses.
In its five ties, MSU's power play has connected five times in 26 chances (19.2%) - but has gone 18-for-19 on the penalty kill (94.7%).
Michigan State's 52 shots on net against Mercyhurst (Nov. 10) was the most since a 52-shot effort against Wayne State in a 7-2 victory on Nov. 21, 2003. The Spartans had their second-highest shot output of the season on Dec. 1 at LSSU (41 shots).
On Jan. 13 at Notre Dame, the Spartans had their fewest shots on net (15) since a 1-0 victory over Michigan on Nov. 4, 2000 in which they had 13 shots.
The third period is the only one in which MSU does not hold a significant scoring advantage - the Spartans hold a 38-20 (+18) edge in the first and 29-24 (+8) in the middle frame, but but hold only a 32-31 advantage in the third (+1).
MSU has allowed multiple third-period goals on eight occasions. The Spartans allowed a season-high four goals to Providence in the third period on Dec. 29, and twice allowed three (Oct. 13 at North Dakota, and Oct. 26 vs. Northern Michigan).
If Michigan State holds a lead entering the final period, its a good bet to finish off the game. The Spartans are 16-0-2 if they lead at the second intermission, and are 2-2-2 when tied entering the final frame.
Only seven times this season, including four times in the last eight games, has MSU been assessed more penalty minutes in a game than its opponent. MSU was whistled for its season-high in penalties (11) on Jan. 13 at Notre Dame and on Jan. 26 agaisnt Michigan, and its season high for penalty minutes (31) came in the Jan. 19 game against Ohio State and again on Feb. 1 against Nebraska-Omaha.
Northern Michigan was assessed 66 penalty minutes in the Feb. 8-9 series, the most against MSU in a two-game set this season. Miami was whistled for 50 in the Nov. 15-16 set, the previous high.
After sweeping four of its first five CCHA series in the 2007 portion of its schedule, MSU has swept only once since the calendar turned to 2008, at Ohio State. It earned three points in three series (LSSU, Notre Dame, and Michigan) before splitting with UNO and falling twice to Northern Michigan in the last two weeks.
Which class is the most productive for the Spartans? The eight-member junior class averages of 0.65 points per game. The overall breakdown:
The junior class has accounted for more than half of the team's scoring since the calendar turned to 2008. In 12 games, the juniors have 49 of MSU's 95 points (52 percent) and have 18 of the 35 goals scored (52 percent). Junior netminder Jeff Lerg has posted a 1.94 GAA and .936 save percentage.
Since Jan. 1, Senior Bryan Lerg leads the team in scoring with seven goals and seven assists; Justin Abdeklader shares the goal-scoring lead with Lerg and has four assists for 11 points. Tim Crowder is second on the team in points (13) with five goals and eight assists.
Bryan Lerg has a point in seven of the last eight games, and had a seven-game point-scoring streak snapped in the last game. Lerg had recorded 5-6-11 in that span.
Tim Kennedy has not had a point in three games, his longest streak of the season. He still leads the team with a 13-16-29 scoring line.
Kennedy has not had a goal in 13 games - the longest goal-less streak of his career.
Daniel Vukovic has been on the ice for 12 of 18 game-winning goals this season, and has had a hand in scoring six of them (1g, 5a). Tim Crowder has a hand in seven game-winners (3g, 4a), and has been on the ice for 11 of the 18.
Tim Kennedy has scored a team-best five of MSU's game-winners, has assisted on two others, and has been on the ice for nine of 18 game-winners this season. Kennedy has also been on the ice for both of MSU's game-tying goals this season, and had a hand in scoring both - he netted the tying goal against Minnesota (Nov. 23), and assisted on Michael Ratchuk's equalizer in the Lake Superior State deadlock (Jan. 5).
Michigan State owns one of the top-scoring defensive units in the country, ranking seventh. MSU's blueliners average 2.23 points per game (12- 57- 69).
Tim Kennedy leads the Spartans with eight multiple-point outings this season, followed by Matt Schepke, Bryan Lerg, Tim Crowder, and Justin Abdelkader (7) and Michael Ratchuk (6).
Jeff Lerg is now 6-1 this season in one-goal games, with the only loss coming in overtime. Lerg already has five ties on his ledger this season as well.
In his career (103 GP), Lerg has eight shutouts, and 26 games in which he has allowed a single goal. He has allowed just two goals on another 28 occasions - a grand total of 62 of 103 games that he has allowed two goals or fewer.
Jeff Lerg posted back-to-back shutouts of Ohio State (Jan. 19) and Michigan (Jan. 25), and ran his shutout streak to 190:54 through all or part of 11 periods of hockey. The streak was snapped with a second-period power play tally on Jan. 26 against Michigan. In his career, Lerg has two shutouts against Michigan and has twice posted a 1-0 victory - the first was in the 2006 NCAA East Regional against New Hampshire. Both of Lerg's shutouts this season have come on the road.
Jeff Lerg has been an intregal part of MSU's success. Since Jan. 1, he boasts a 1.94 GAA and sports a .936 save percentage. In the three series at the end of January, (No. 6 Notre Dame, Ohio State, No. 1 Michigan), Lerg's numbers were beyond outstanding - he boasted a .971 save percentage, and 0.86 GAA.
Jeff Lerg leads all collegiate goaltenders in minutes played, entering the weekend with 1796:15. He ranks sixth in percentage of team minutes played, (96 percent).
In 2006-07, Lerg logged 96.9% of available minutes for MSU, (2465:06), which ranked second only to Boston College's Cory Schneider.
For more Jeff Lerg statistical information, see page 11.
Jeff Lerg ranks first among all Division I goaltenders in saves (811) and faces an average of 27.03 shots per game, the third-most of any CCHA netminder and 12th nationally. His 811 saves in 30 games is 123 more than Wylie Rodgers of Alaska, who ranks second in that category in the CCHA; Beau Erickson of Connecticut ranks second behind Lerg nationally with 801 saves on the season.
Jeff Lerg moved into sixth place on the all-time career saves list, surpassing Ryan Miller (106 GP, 2,600 saves). Lerg finished with 15 stops against Northern Michigan on Feb. 8, pushing his career total to 2,605 in 102 career games. He added 26 the following night.
Lerg has moved into the top 10 in several netminding categories at Michigan State: Career wins (60), eighth; career games played (103), seventh; career GAA (2.25), third; career save percentage (.920), third; career saves (2,631), sixth; career shutouts (8), fourth; wins in a season (26), T-fifth; games played, season (42), T-first; saves, season (1,042), fourth.
Jeff Lerg's penalty-shot save on Feb. 2 against Bill Bagron of Nebraska-Omaha was his second of the season, and also of his career. He previously stopped Tyler Burton on Oct.20 in a 2-1 victory over Colgate. He made 37 saves in that win over UNO, tied for his second-highest single-game total of the season. He made 40 against Providence (Dec. 29) and 37 at Ferris State (Dec. 8)
In his six games this season against the other top three teams in the CCHA (Michigan, Miami, and Notre Dame), Jeff Lerg owns a 1.47 GAA and .952 save percentage, which includes a shutout at No. 1 Michigan on Jan. 25. Those three rank (as of Feb. 11) first, second, and 15th nationally in team offense.
Three players reached the 100-games milestone against Nebraska-Omaha: Junior netminder Jeff Lerg played in his 100th career game on Feb. 1, just the seventh MSU netminder to reach that milestone. Senior blueliner Jeff Dunne and junior winger Tim Kennedy reached the 100-game mark on the next evening. Three other juniors reached the milestone earlier this season: Nick Sucharski (at Notre Dame, Jan. 13); Justin Abdelkader (vs. Michigan Tech, Dec. 28); and Tim Crowder (at LSSU, Dec. 1).
Senior Zak McClellan and junior Brandon Gentile, with 85 career games each, will likely be the next to reach the milestone.
MSU benefits from a deep corps of quality centermen who excel on faceoffs. Senior Chris Mueller has won 238 of 405 faceoffs, for a team-best 58.8 percent; since Jan. 1, Mueller has won an even more impressive 62.4 percent (106 of 170). Justin Abdelkader has won 341 of 638 (53.4%), Zak McClellan is at 51.8 percent (100 of 193), while Nick Sucharski and Bryan Lerg are both at at 51 percent (Sucharski 125 of 243; Lerg 235 of 460).
Five veterans have already surpassed their single-season bests through the midpoint of the season. Matt Schepke has already bettered his sophomore-year point total (2-3-5) with his 10-14-24 scoring line through 30 games. He has had two, two-goal games this season. Senior blueliner Daniel Vukovic, who recorded a 7-5-12 stat line in what was a breakout junior season, has three goals and 14 assists for 17 points - the 14 assists betters his career total of nine coming into the season.
Sophomore Michael Ratchuk has bettered his 12 points he recorded as a freshman (6-15-21), while classmate Ryan Turek and junior Brandon Gentile are also already ahead of their totals from a year ago. Turek has four assists this season after just two as a freshman, while Gentile's nine helpers betters his total of four last year.
Sophomore Justin Johnston has earned an everyday spot in the MSU defensive corps. He has appeared in 13 of the last 15 games for the Spartans, and has steadily shown growth and improvement this season. Johnston's emergence has not only added another dimension to the defensive corps, but the Spartans have recently employed to a seven-defenseman lineup as they did during the 2007 National Championship run.
Freshman Andrew Rowe is making a case for more ice time as well. Playing in just his 10th game of the season, Rowe was inserted into the lineup for the Feb. 2 game against UNO on the second line with Bryan Lerg and Tim Crowder. He responded with a career-best three-point night (1-2-3) and helped MSU earn a split with the Mavericks. Rowe had a hand in all three even-strength tallies on the night.
The freshman class has found ways to make an impact through the first half of the season. Five of the six MSU freshmen have recorded their first collegiate goal, with blueliners Jeff Petry and AJ Sturges getting their first on Nov. 10 against Mercyhurst. Petry, a regular on the MSU power play, currently has a 1-12-13 line. Dustin Gazley had an impressive home debut, netting a pair of goals in his first home game (Oct. 19 vs. Colgate) and currently has three goals and nine assists. Corey Tropp leads freshmen in goal scoring (6-9-15) and is the leader in freshmen points. Andrew Rowe played in his first game in green and white on Oct. 26 against Northern Michigan, and has a 3-2-5 line on the season. Forward Joey Shean has played in five games, and still looks for his first collegiate tally - but has played well in his role when called upon.
MSU has boasted two, two-goal scorers three times this season, the most recent Michael Ratchuk and Tim Crowder against Lake Superior State on Jan. 4.
Dustin Gazley and Matt Schepke each had two-goal outings on Oct. 19, a 6-2 victory over Colgate, and Schepke and Bryan Lerg completed the feat again against Wisconsin (Nov. 23) in a 4-4 tie.
In 42 games last season, there were 15 occasions where an MSU skater recorded two goals in a game. Through 31 games this year, it has already happened 14 times.
The Spartans gear up once again for a series against archrival Michigan. The teams will face off on Friday night in East Lansing, then again on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena. Friday's game will be televised on CSTV and is an 8 p.m. start, while Saturday's game will air on FSN Detroit at 7:05 p.m.
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