Spartans Move Forward
Old-school effort nets Michigan State
CCHA playoff title
State 2, Miami 1
Crowder, T. Kennedy
McKenzie, D. Miller
Jeff Lerg, 60:00, 22 saves, 1 GA
Jeff Zatkoff, 59:24, 32 saves, 2 GA
MS 3/6; MIA 6/12
Plays: MS 1-6; MIA 0-3
Jeff Lerg, Michigan State (MVP)
D: Andy Greene, Miami
D: Matt Hunwick, Michigan
F: Tim Crowder, Michigan State
F: Ryan Jones, Miami
F: Drew Miller, Michigan State
You probably already know this, but Rick Comley
is the head coach at Michigan State. If you didn’t
know any better, however, you could’ve sworn it was
a Ron Mason-led hockey team that won the school’s
first CCHA playoff championship in five years.
Mason’s teams were known for stifling
defense, solid goaltending and exceptional special-teams
play, a formula that worked to near perfection in the Spartans’
2-1 win over conference regular-season champion Miami in
front of 16,234 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit Saturday.
The RedHawks mustered just 23 shots, of which all but one
were stopped by freshman goaltender Jeff Lerg, and failed
to score on its three power-play opportunities of the night.
“It might have been the best defensive
effort of the season,” said Lerg, who was named tournament
MVP. “All I had to do was make the saves, control
the rebounds and minimize second and third opportunities.”
MSU opened the scoring when freshman forward
Justin Abdelkader recorded his 10th goal of the season on
the Spartans’ first power-play chance of the game.
The RedHawks responded 20 seconds later, converting off
Lerg’s lone miscue of the night. Alec Martinez ripped
a shot from just inside the blue line that Lerg stopped,
but he couldn’t control the rebound and the puck kicked
to Ryan Jones, who stuffed it in for his 22nd goal.
Senior David Booth notched the eventual game-winner
for MSU on a rebound goal of his own 5:52 into the second
period, easily tapping the carom off a Jim McKenzie shot
past Miami goalie Jeff Zatkoff for his 13th goal.
The remainder of the game belonged to Lerg
and the Spartans’ defense, which limited the RedHawks
to 12 shots in the final two periods after getting 11 shots
on goal in the first period. MSU thoroughly frustrated Miami
as it attempted to get the game-tying goal, making it difficult
for the RedHawk attack to get through the neutral zone with
any speed or rhythm.
Three Stars of the
Ryan Jones, Miami
a goal in each of the RedHawks' games at the Joe, pushing
his team-leading total to 22.
Tim Crowder, Michigan State
Followed Friday's two-goal performance against
Michigan with an assist in Saturday's championship
Jeff Lerg, Michigan State
It's no coincidence that the Spartans' season
did a 180 when Lerg took over as the no. 1 goaltender.
He's the first freshman named CCHA Tournament MVP since
former MSU backstop Ryan Miller in 2000.
"They executed when they had to and made
the plays," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. "We...have
nothing to hang our heads about."
“Defense wins championships,”
Lerg said. “We knew we were a good team and we’ve
been in a lot of close games. I would say our confidence
is at a high, but we’re not overconfident by any means.”
Besides failing to win its first CCHA postseason
title, the loss to Michigan State likely dropped Miami from
a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament to a no. 2. The Spartans,
meanwhile, probably earned a top seed with the win –
their most logical destination appears to be the East Regional
in Albany, N.Y.
“We knew the no. 1 seed was there,”
Lerg said. “It was in the back of our minds, but we
wanted to win the championship just to win the championship.
This is the reason I came to Michigan State – to win
WOLVERINES OUTLAST NMU, TAKE CONSOLATION
3, Northern Michigan 2
Hensick, N. Ruden
Bateman, M. Santorelli
Kaleniecki, A. Ebbett
Bill Zaniboni, 58:30, 39 saves, 3 GA
Noah Ruden, 60:00, 29 saves, 2 GA
NM 7/14; UM 7/14
Plays: NM 0-3; UM 1-3
Junior defenseman Matt Hunwick scored two
goals – including the game-winner 8:19 into the third
period – as Michigan salvaged its trip to the CCHA
Tournament with a 3-2 win over Northern Michigan in the
consolation game at Joe Louis Arena.
Hunwick's first score was a power-play marker
midway through the first period set up by forward T.J. Hensick.
That goal came a little more than five minutes after Matt
Ciancio gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead 5:30 into the period
with his first goal of the season.
Hensick scored off an assist from Kevin Porter
with 3:59 remaining in the second period to give the Wolverines
their first lead of the game. It was a short-lived advantage,
however, as Northern Michigan forward Darin Olver answered
Hensick's tally with a goal of his own – his 15th
of the season – just 15 seconds later.
Michigan's Noah Ruden made 29 saves to earn
the win. NMU's Bill Zaniboni turned aside 39 shots in a
Assuming the NCAA Tournament selection committee
bases its decisions on who gets into the field and who doesn't
strictly on computer-generated data, the CCHA stands to
comprise one-fourth of the event – Michigan State
would be the fourth no. 1 seed and play in Albany, Miami
drops down to a no. 2 seed would most likely end up in Worcester.
Michigan is a probable no. 3 seed, and it's a good bet the
Wolverines end up in the Midwest or West Regional. Nebraska-Omaha,
which could end up being one of the most controversial selections
in tournament history if the Mavs get the nod, is probably
headed to Worcester as a no. 4 seed.