2007 NCAA Frozen Four Championship Game
Grin and Bury It
MSU's persistence pays off with championship
By Joe Gladziszewski,
Jeff Howe, and Jess Myers
|Premature celebration: Goaltender
Jeff Lerg is mobbed by his Michigan State teammates
after Chris Mueller's empty-net goal with less than
two seconds remaining clinched the Spartans' championship
ST. LOUIS – You might
be surprised to hear what was found in Michigan State's
dressing room when Michigan State was trailing Boston College
1-0 after the second period of Saturday's national championship
"You know what? Smiles. I walked out
of that room and I was smiling and everybody was saying
that we were going to get it done," Spartan junior
Chris Mueller said. "There was absolutely no panic.
I think it's a sign of maturity, but also a sign of young
guys trying to have fun. That's what we came here trying
The Spartans are poised and optimistic when
facing deficits. It's led them to four wins this year when
trailing after two periods, after grabbing three victories
in conference play earlier in the year (Dec. 9 at Northern
Michigan, Jan. 6 at Miami, and Jan. 12 vs. Alaska). Overconfidence
would be the wrong word to use.
Michigan State even trailed in their semifinal
game, falling behind 2-0 to Maine before rallying to advance
to the championship game.
The mindset and composure in the Michigan
State dressing room is a positive reflection on the leadership
group which includes captain Chris Lawrence, and assistant
captains Bryan Lerg, Chris Mueller, Ethan Graham, and Tyler
Howells. They've been through difficult times in the past
and have instilled resilience among the Spartans.
One of the most vital teaching points was
last year's loss to Maine in the NCAA Tournament, a game
that Michigan State trailed 3-0 and eventually lost 5-4.
"I think it was the years coming up,
for us (seniors) four years, last year we got down against
Maine and we came back but not all the way. I think it's
just a building experience that our team has had and we
came into this year and all five captains have been there
and we stay calm and cool and collected in the locker room,
and the coaching staff too. That's the best thing about
it, being down 1-0 and nobody panics."
The overall resilience stands out, but it
was exemplified in smaller examples during the game. Tim
Kennedy's redirection shot missed a wide-open net early
in the third period, but he came back to score the game-tying
goal. Jim McKenzie blocked a shot and limped off the ice
in the second period, but returned for his next shift and
helped generate some chances on a Spartan power play.
"We never get down on each other; we
never blame anyone for a bad play because everyone makes
mistakes. I think we all kind of understand that and we
know that there's 60 minutes to a game. We kind of learned
that last year against Maine," McKenzie said.
The Spartans' poise and resilience helped
them overcome a deficit and win the school's third-ever
national championship. After celebrating on the ice, they
returned to the locker room with a trophy and inside of
the room smiles were found once again.
|A Michigan State
fan celebrates the Spartans' championship game win.
TITLE SLIPS FROM BC'S GRIP
It was right within their reach.
Boston College let its 1-0 lead slip away
in the third period, and everything that had been right
in Chestnut Hill over the last couple months turned horribly
Thirteen straight wins. Hockey East champions.
Frozen Four favorites. It all disappeared during the season’s
final 10 minutes.
“It’s a hollow feeling,”
goaltender Cory Schneider said. “I don’t know
what else to say. Two years in a row. It’s really
tough to swallow. I thought we had the team to do it this
year, but it just didn’t go our way.”
The Eagles were on their heels early in the
third period. Michigan State came out of the locker room
after the second intermission and attacked right away. The
Spartans nearly tied it a minute into the final frame, but
Tim Kennedy’s bid from five feet away on an open net
“That first shift, they really came
out hard,” Schneider said. “They just missed
that open net, and I think we kind of sat back on our heels
a little bit after that and weren’t ready for it.
There’s no excuse.”
For a moment, BC looked as though it would
take the title and run with it. With 15:25 remaining, Joe
Rooney stole the puck and led a 2-on-1, short-handed rush
down the left side. He fed Brian Boyle at the right point,
but his shot was snagged by Jeff Lerg, who made the stop
of the night.
“That was a great save,” Boyle
said. “I thought I had it. I got a lot of wood on
it, put it where I wanted to, and he just came across and
made the save. It was an unbelievable save.”
The Spartans tied the game after a defensive
miscommunication between Boyle and Mike Brennan. Justin
Abdelkader won the draw to Tim Kennedy, who strolled into
the BC zone all alone and sniped one past Schneider’s
blocker at 9:53.
“We really didn’t know where to
be set up on the faceoff,” Boyle said. “I kind
of went in halfway on the faceoff on the drop. You’re
always taught to go all or nothing. I really didn’t
know where I was supposed to be. Mike didn’t know
exactly where he was supposed to be or if he was supposed
to switch. It was something we really needed to figure out.”
In the game’s final seconds, Boyle tried
to feed Joe Rooney, but the Spartans took control and raced
down the ice on a 3-on-1 after BC had a slow line change.
Abdelkader’s goal with 18.9 seconds left was the latest
game-winning goal scored in regulation in national championship
“I’m just disappointed,”
Boyle said. “I can’t really process it in my
head right now. I took a chance, went down, thought we had
an odd-man rush, and I turned it over at the blue line.
It’s just something that I can’t really put
into words. I made a mistake, and they capitalized at the
wrong time in the game for that to happen.”
When time officially ran out, it marked the
end of the worst period of hockey the Eagles had played
since their streak started. And it ended the careers of
Boyle and Joe Rooney.
“It felt different this year throughout
the course of the game, throughout the course of the week,”
Boyle said. “There was just a different atmosphere.
We were pretty confident. I don’t think we were too
cocky or anything like that. We were just confident in our
ability with the way we were playing. If we stuck to that,
good things would happen, but that’s not always the
“We were feeling pretty good,”
Schneider said about the team’s mentality during the
second intermission. “We thought we were playing well.
We thought that if we just kept playing the way we were,
we would have been all right. But, some penalties there
and not picking up a guy in front, and that’s all
INCH's Three Stars of the Game
Mike Brennan, Boston College
with forward-turned-defenseman Brian Boyle, Brennan
has to think about protecting his own end first. He
had a terrific Frozen Four, even though he was hung
out to dry on the sequence that led to Justin Abdelkader's
Tim Kennedy, Michigan State
He scored the Spartans' first goal midway
through the third period, then set up Abdelkader's
winner with strong work behind the net.
Jeff Lerg, Michigan State
The Spartan goaltender could have easily
been named Frozen Four most outstanding player for
his work in St. Louis. His save on Brian Boyle's shorthanded
attempt five minutes in the third period was the biggest
play of the game.
Story: Spartans Make a State-ment
Michigan State's dramatic win gave the
Spartans their third-ever national title.
Complete with former coach Jeff Sauer's commentary.
SEEN AND HEARD AT THE SCOTTRADE CENTER
• The Spartans knew they were underdogs
against Boston College and relished that status, as they
did throughout the entire tournament.
"We proved ourselves every night. We
took out some big-time teams beating BU and Notre Dame,
and people weren't saying we were going to win this game
tonight, I know that," Brian Lerg said.
• Some observers compared this year's
Spartan club to the Denver Pioneers championship team of
2004 because of their relative underdog status and the very
laid-back attitude they exhibited throughout the week in
"There were a couple of things in the
newspapers saying that maybe we were a little too loose,
but I think that's what won us the national championship,"
Chris Mueller said.
• On the ice in post-game coverage,
ESPN's Clay Matvick was seen interviewing Michigan State
Director of Athletics and former hockey coach Ron Mason,
who is the all-time wins leader among college hockey coaches.
• Miracle On Ice star John Harrington,
who coaches Division III St. John’s University in
Minnesota, told INCH on Saturday that he’d like to
see the D-III championship game added to the Friday events
at the Frozen Four in future years. Tom Jacobs, the NCAA’s
director of championships, said the idea of moving the small-school
title game back a few weeks has been discussed, and he expects
it will be considered again when the hockey committees meet
over the summer, but no action toward that end has been
• The St. Louis Sports Commission organizers
did an outstanding job putting together a fan-friendly weekend
for the college hockey nation. Their efforts were underscored
on Saturday afternoon when a visit to historic Union Station,
a few blocks from the rink, revealed outdoor food booths,
kids’ games and participants from the Skills Challenge
signing autographs all while being serenaded by the Spartan
Brass. In just six years we’ve come a long, long way
from the “ghost town with a hockey rink” we
saw in Albany to a full weekend of Frozen Four events.
• Michigan State left wing Tim Kennedy
on the first period injury that forced him to the locker
room: “I was cutting across the ice and a guy stuck
his knee out, which snapped my head back and my groin moved
someway it shouldn’t move. I came in and the trainer
got some special medicine on me and got me back out there
• Michigan State senior captain Chris
Lawrence: “I was sitting in my stall crying before
the game and then somebody asked me if I was going to use
a stick. Here we were 10 minutes before start and I hadn’t
taped my stick yet.”
Louis embraced the Frozen Four and the tourism industry
made certain that the visitors from assorted college hockey
locales were made to feel welcome. During tours of the famous
local monument and brewery, constant references to the Frozen
Four were made by tour guides.
gesture by Boston College coach Jerry York for allowing
the final 1.7 seconds of the game to expire without a face
off, and without a minor penalty against Michigan State
Chris Mueller scored the empty-net goal to make the score
3-1, the Spartan players emptied the bench and discarded
their gloves and sticks all over the ice and huddled near
the end boards even though there was time remaining in the
game. Arena staff also opened the doors to begin setting
up for the post-game ceremony.
production of the game did not include high-definition transmission
for those with HD capabilities.