Michigan State needs one point this weekend -- or one missed point by Michigan -- to capture its first CCHA championship since 1989-90 following a historic weekend sweep. The Spartans (28-4-5 overall, 20-4-4 CCHA) could be ranked No. 1 in the nation following North Dakotas loss and MSUs wins over Lake Superior and Ferris State. Senior goaltender Chad Alban capped off the two wins when he fired the puck the length of the ice and scored an empty-net goal against Ferris State. Alban is the fourth collegiate goaltender ever to get credit for a goal and the first to shoot the puck into an empty net.
MSU meets Lake Superior (15-15-4, 12-13-4) for the second time in three games Friday in Sault Ste. Marie (7 p.m., WVFN-AM 730). Saturday the Spartans visit Northern Michigan (16-14-4, 14-12-3) in their first trip to Marquette in 14 years (7 p.m., WVFN-AM 730).
Head coach Ron Mason (St. Lawrence 64) is in his 19th year at Michigan State and his 32nd as a head coach in college hockey. He is the all-time winningest college hockey coach with 803 career victories, having celebrated his 800th career victory and his 500th victory at MSU this season. His records stand at 803-347-63 overall and 514-237-49 at Michigan State.
Lake Superior head coach Scott Borek (Dartmouth 85) is 34-29-9 in two years at LSSU and 67-62-14 in five years as a college coach, including three years with the White Mules of Colby College.
Ron Masons former player and assistant coach at Lake Superior, Rick Comley (LSSU 72) is 447-375-50 in 22 years as the head man at Northern Michigan. He is 506-421-53 in 25 years overall.
Lake Superior lost to MSU and Michigan last weekend, but still stands in sixth in the CCHA. Terry Marchant (17-22-39) is LSSUs top forward, while Jason Sessa (16-13-29) and Joe Blaznek (13-10-23) provide support. The Lakers penalty-killing (90%) is No. 2 in the league and has 12 SHGs.
Northern Michigan is in a fight for home ice in its first year back in the CCHA. NMU lost two at Notre Dame last weekend and its game with MSU is its only contest of the weekend. Buddy Smith (7-19-26) and Roger Trudeau (13-11-24) lead a balanced offense, while Duane Hoey is the goalie (14-13-3, 3.00, .880).
The Series vs. the Lakers
MSU leads, 39-27-8, and 13-11-6 in Sault Ste. Marie. MSU is 4-1-2 in the last seven, but each of the last four games in the Soo have been ties.
The Series vs. the Wildcats Tied, 8-8-1, and 3-3-0 in Marquette. The teams have played twice this season, with MSU leading 1-0-1. MSUs last trip to Lakeview Arena was a 4-3 OT win, 2/18/94.
Last weekends recap Michigan State put some distance between itself and second-place Michigan with a weekend sweep.
Friday the Spartans came from behind against Lake Superior for the second time this year, as two goals in 36 seconds lifted MSU to a 4-2 win. Mike York had the game-winner.
Chad Albans length-of-the-ice perfect shot into the empty Ferris State net capped an emotional Senior Night at Munn Ice Arena Saturday. Kevin OKeefe was the other MSU offensive star, netting two goals in the 6-3 win. Alban also made 23 saves.
Amazing Alban With Ferris State trailing 5-3 Saturday night, the Bulldogs pulled their goaltender and dumped the puck into the Spartan zone into the corner to senior goaltender Chad Albans right. Alban raced from his net and got the puck along the back boards and, with time and room, fired a wrist shot in the air towards the Ferris goal. The puck bounced just short of the Ferris blue line and slid into the left side of the empty Bulldog net with 13 seconds remaining. A few notes on Albans accomplishment:
He became the fourth college goaltender to be credited with a goal (Maines Jim Tortorella in 1980, Michigan Techs Damian Rhodes in 1989, and Vermonts Andy Allen earlier this year had done it previously). Alban is the first college goalie, however, to shoot the puck himself into an empty net.
Alban also had an assist Saturday on an outlet pass to Bryan Adams in the first period. His two points in a game are -- no surprise -- a career high.
The Spartan bench emptied in celebration, and head coach Ron Mason gave Alban a bear hug at the end of the game.
Did You Know? And oh, by the way Alban also tied Jason Muzzattis Michigan State record for career victories by a goaltender with his 83rd win Saturday night.
Talkin title Michigan State is close to clinching its first CCHA regular-season title since 1989-90. The Spartans will clinch if they win or tie one game this weekend OR if Michigan loses or ties one game this weekend (the Wolverines face Bowling Green and Notre Dame).
Senior stars Michigan State saluted its seniors Saturday night, and all four in the lineup came through with big games. Defenseman Tyler Harlton played his usual outstanding game and finished +2. Forwards Kevin OKeefe and Sean Berens and goaltender Chad Alban all had two points, while Alban also made 23 saves.
Two for 50? Senior center Sean Berens and junior center Mike York are tied for the team lead with 49 points. The Spartans last had a 50-point scorer in 1994-95, when Rem Murray (56), Anson Carter (51) and Steve Guolla (51) all surpassed the half-century mark.
Two for 25? Berens (31 goals) and York (24) could become the first Spartan teammates to both score 25 goals since Dwayne Norris (44), Bryan Smolinski (30) and Peter White (26) all had over 25 in 1991-92.
Follow the leader Senior defenseman Tyler Harlton leads the CCHA with a +33 plus/minus rating and recently had a four-game point-scoring streak. Michigan State is 11-0 this season when Harlton has a point (29-2 all-time).
More on the centers of attention York and Berens are third and fourth in the league, respectively, in CCHA scoring and tied for second in the league in overall scoring. They have combined for 40.7% of the teams goals and 28.2% of the teams points.
INJURY REPORT Andrew Bogle (Fr., C, questionable this weekend, right shoulder strain); Brody Brandstatter (R-Fr., D, questionable this weekend, right shoulder strain); Shawn Horcoff (So., C, possible for this weekend, fractured right thumb); Jon Gaskins (Sr., LW, out for the season, sprained right knee).
Did You Know? Streaking Michigan States seven-game unbeaten streak is the longest active streak in the nation. The Spartans have had two previous eight-game unbeaten streaks this year.
Builder of leads Senior goaltender Chad Alban has a .945 save percentage in the first period, helping MSU outscore opponents, 46-13, in the opening stanza. Protector of leads In his three years as MSUs primary starting goaltender, Alban has a 54-0-3 record when leading after two periods, including 20-0-2 this season.
Matching Muzzatti Senior goaltender Chad Alban equaled Jason Muzzattis Michigan State record for career wins with his 83rd Saturday night. He is also tied with Muzzatti and Clarksons Dan Murphy for fourth all-time in wins by an NCAA goalie. His 26 wins this season are tied for third in MSU history, six behind Muzzattis record of 32 (1988-89).
Change of scenery Two years ago, senior right wing Kevin OKeefe was in last place at Illinois-Chicago. OKeefe transferred to Michigan State after UIC dropped its hockey program and is now the fourth-leading scorer on the CCHA-leading Spartans. He had three goals last weekend and has 13-16-29 totals on the year.
Short-handed? Not really Michigan State has killed off 90.8% of opponents power plays this year, including 42 of the last 43. Senior Sean Berens, one of the nations best penalty killers, netted his 10th career short-handed goal Saturday night, tying him for fourth all-time at MSU.
Center of attention Michigan States dynamic 1-2 punch at center, senior Sean Berens and junior Mike York, are both among the top 10 goal scorers in the NCAA. The pair has combined for 42.4% of Michigan States goals and 28.8% of the teams points.
Big guns have big games Michigan States top five scorers have accounted for each of the Spartans last 11 game-winning goals.
SRO Each of MSUs last 15 games have been played in front of sellout crowds.
Plays ... of ... the Week Michigan State appeared on ESPN SportsCenters Plays of the Week for the third time this year and the second week in a row. Chad Albans goal was highlighted this week, while Mike York and Sean Berens have made the cut as well.
Tale of two seasons Through the GLI, Michigan State was 6-2-2 at home and 10-0-0 on the road. Since the GLI, the Spartans are 9-0-2 at home and 3-2-1 away from Munn Ice Arena.
Deciding the season series Michigan State has clinched all nine season series with CCHA teams which have already been decided. Only the series with NMU, which MSU currently leads, 1-0-1, is up in the air.
In the clutch, get the sensation Nineteen of junior center Mike Yorks 24 goals have come when Michigan State is trailing, the game is tied, or MSU has a one-goal lead.
QUOTING COACH MASON
On last weekend: I thought our team showed character Friday night in coming back to win. Saturday was a nice win and there couldnt be a better way to cap it off than Chads goal.
On Chad Albans goal: Ive seen it on TV in the NHL a few times and I knew if anyone could do it, it would be Chad. That puts the icing on the cake for him.
Looking ahead: Everyone is going to be up for the games at this time of year, and we have two tough stops to make. Our team has responded well to pressure this year, and hopefully that holds true this weekend.
QUOTING CHAD ALBAN
On his goal: Everything was perfect. The defensemen held up their forwards and I had plenty of room. I let it go and it looked good.