A lucky bounce and a breakaway was all Michigan State needed to shutout No. 6 Michigan last night at Munn Ice Arena.
And oh yeah, it helps if MSU's goalie Jeff Lerg has been on a hot streak as of late. His 2-0 blanking of the Wolverines was his second shutout in three games and the freshman is also on a five-game winning streak.
The 19th-ranked Spartans (13-8-5, 7-5-4 CCHA) leapfrogged the Wolverines in the CCHA standings and are now tied for third in the conference with Lake Superior State.
"I don't think there was any upset tonight," said MSU head coach Rick Comley. "I think we played well and right now it's a level table. I think these teams are as level as you can get."
Colton Fretter (above left) gave MSU an early 1-0 lead with a 5-on-3 power-play goal. Captain Drew Miller sent a shot on U-M goalie Noah Ruden that Ruden couldn't control and the puck squirted loose in the crease. Fretter swiped at the puck and put it over Ruden's glove at 14:50.
"I was caught a little off balance," said Ruden. "I wasn't ready for the guy from the side to try and tuck it on me. I was waiting for the pass, so I was off balance in trying to get back and sort of fell over. When the shot fluttered up I was falling back. I felt it trickle over my head."
Fretter reignited the crowd early in the second period when his open ice hip check upended Michigan's T.J. Hensick head-over-heels, bringing the crowd of 5,580 to its feet.
Michigan was awarded power play at the 9:08 mark, but Bryan Lerg scored 15 seconds later on the penalty kill, giving Michigan State a 2-0 advantage.
Jared Nightingale flipped the puck out of the zone and Lerg raced uncontested down center ice, gloving the puck down in stride, allowing him to skate into a clean breakaway. Lerg made a beautiful move, faking the forehand before finally slipping a backhand over Ruden's outstretched pad.
"I was struggling on draws tonight against (Andrew) Ebbett so I had (David) Booth take the draw," Lerg said. "As soon as I saw him win it clean to Jared, I just took off. I don't know if Jared saw me, but he just flipped it. I caught it and when I saw the goalie come out I knew what I was going to do the whole way."
Meanwhile, Lerg's cousin in net stopped all 31 shots he saw for the shutout.
"It was definitely one of the best games we've played as a team," Jeff Lerg said. "Tonight, I didn't have to make any really big saves. The team did a great job clearing things out in front of the net and keeping shots to the outside."
"He's got a bright future," Comley said of Lerg. "We've got two goalies (Lerg and Dominic Vicari), both can play, both have proven they can play, and they're just going to have to battle with each other and whoever's hot is going to play."
Ruden finished with 35 saves for Michigan (13-8-1, 8-5-1 CCHA).
"It was a game of playing better defense," Wolverines' head coach Red Berenson said. "If we play better (defense), we end up playing better with the puck. I can't tell you we played well coming out of our zone. Then there was too many turnovers, too many mistakes and too many penalties. Those we're costly. We had isolated chances, but we didn't generate enough. We weren't good enough to win this game tonight the way we played, start to finish."
MSU plays Nebraska-Omaha this weekend on the road while U-M has a home-and-home set with Bowling Green beginning Friday night in Ann Arbor.