Junior captain Drew Miller, senior assistant captain Corey Potter and sophomore Bryan Lerg each captured two awards at the 2006 Michigan State Hockey Awards Banquet, held Tuesday evening at the Holiday Inn South in Lansing.
Potter was named the team’s Outstanding Defensive Player as well as earning the Bill Burgess Outstanding Senior Award, while Bryan Lerg was the team’s Outstanding Offensive Player, and also voted Most Improved in a vote of the 2005-06 MSU team.
Miller (pictured), meanwhile, captured the Amo Bessone Award for athletic, scholastic, and community participation in addition to being voted by his teammates as the squad’s MVP.
Miller, who’s family has a long history of excellence within the Spartan hockey program, enters the postseason tied for the team lead in scoring with Bryan Lerg (13 goals, 21 assists, 34 points). He is among three finalists for the CCHA’s Best Defensive Forward honor, and ranks 11th in the league in scoring, and 14th in assists. Miller’s steady contributions throughout the season have become even more impressive down the stretch run of the regular season, with four goals and two assists in February; two of his goals stood as game-winners, he assisted on a third, and assisted on a game-tying goal at Ohio State, a game MSU went on to win.
The junior’s off-ice contributions to the campus and surrounding community are as impressive as those to his team on the ice. He has been the driving force behind the creation of the "Spartan Buddies" program, where MSU athletes are "buddies" with pediatric patients at Sparrow Hospital. He also has involved himself, with, among other things, MSU’s "Teams for Toys" program, the Childrens Miracle Network, Special Olympics, the Adaptive Sports Festival, and DARE. He is a finalist for the CCHA’s Ilitch Humanitarian Award (which will be awarded in Detroit during the CCHA Championship weekend), as well as the prestigious Hockey Humanitarian Award, which will be presented in conjunction with the Hobey Baker Memorial Award at the Frozen Four in Milwaukee.
Potter, an assistant captain for the Spartans, captured the Dr. John Downs Outstanding Defensive Player Award for the third consecutive season, joining former MSU blueliner Joby Messier as the only players voted the recipient three times in their playing careers. Potter anchors a defense which ranks third in the CCHA and ninth nationally, allowing just 2.34 goals per game. He has also contributed at the other end, as his three goals and 13 assists (16 points) is the best offensive output of his career. In a season marred by injuries to several key players early in the year, Potter is one of just four players to make an appearance in all 38 games.
Bryan Lerg shares the team lead offensively with Miller, with 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points. He has more than doubled his offensive output from his first varsity season, when he had 10 goals and five assists in 41 games. Lerg ranks 11th in the CCHA in scoring, and 14th in assists. Like Potter, Lerg is one of just four players to appear in all 38 games this season for Michigan State.
Another Lerg secured a team award, as freshman netminder Jeff was named the team’s Outstanding Rookie. Jeff Lerg has backstopped the Spartans to their impressive second-half surge, posting a 1.72 GAA and .936 save percentage since Jan. 1. He has emerged as one of the top first-year players in the nation, and was the Hockey Commissioners Association/CSTV National Rookie of the Month in January. Overall, he boasts a record of 12-4-6, a goals against average of 1.98 (which ranks sixth nationally), and is eighth in the country in saves percentage (.926). He is among the three finalists for the CCHA Rookie of the Year award.
Senior Colton Fretter was named the Blue Line Club President’s Award Winner, presented to the top scholar-athlete in the senior class. Fretter boasts a 3.046 grade-point average as a kinesiology major, and will be graduating this summer. He has been on the Dean’s List (3.5 semester GPA or higher) three times, was CCHA All-Academic Team Honorable Mention in 2004 and Academic All-Big Ten last year. The senior has served on MSU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as the hockey representative for the past three years, and has also done a number of outreach events, including March is Reading Month, Pen Pal Program, Jr. Spartan Tailgate and Picnic, and Trick or Treating with Children with cancer.
On the ice, Fretter is the team’s fourth-leading scorer (10 goals, 17 assists,. 27 points), and ranks fourth in the CCHA with four game-winning goals, which includes two in overtime; his biggest of the year was the OT game-winner against Michigan Tech to send the Spartans to the GLI Championship game in December.
Classmate Jared Nightingale was given the Spartan Fitness Award. The three-year assistant captain of the Spartans has appeared in 34 of MSU’s 38 games; he has a goal and six assists for seven points, and is second on the team with a plus/minus rating of +7. There is a family history with this honor, as Nightingale’s brother, Adam, won this award in 2004.
Finally, the team’s Goofus Award, given annually to the team humorist, was awarded for the second straight season to sophomore Zak McClellan. McClellan, who appeared only in one exhibition game as a freshman last season, has played in 24 games in 2005-06 on the Spartans’ fourth line, a critical component of MSU’s depth and a considerable contributor to the team’s success. He has a pair of goals and two assists on the season, and potted his first collegiate goal in November against Northern Michigan.
Michigan State, entering the postseason with a 20-10-8 overall mark, finished second in the CCHA in the regular season (14-7-7), and hosts Alaska Fairbanks this weekend in a quarterfinal series with an eye on advancing to the league’s championship next weekend in Detroit. Michigan State is the all-time winningest team in CCHA Tournament play, with a 72-20-0 mark all-time in tournament games, a league-best 10 CCHA Tournament titles, and boasts a 45-3 mark all-time in conference tournament games played on its home ice.
Photo, from 2005 GLI, by Matt Mackinder.