The roller coaster continues for Michigan State.
Practically left for dead in mid-season, the Spartans rode freshman goaltender Jeff Lerg to a solid second half and won the Mason Cup CCHA playoff championship last night by beating Miami, 2-1, at Joe Louis Arena.
David Booth's goal at 5:52 of the second period stood as the game-winner and Lerg finished with 22 saves and tournament MVP honors.
Crowder, captain Drew Miller and Lerg were named to the All-Tournament Team.
"When you get an opportunity, you've got to take advantage of it because you don't know when it's going to happen again," said Lerg, who finished with 22 saves. "Play every game as if it's your last and kind of go from there. I didn't really have to make too many big saves; our defense came up big for us."
Justin Abdelkader opened the scoring for MSU at 14:13 of the first period. Abdelkader took a feed from Tim Crowder to the left of Miami goalie Jeff Zatkoff and cut across the crease with a backhand shot to make it 1-0 Spartans.
Just 20 seconds later, Ryan Jones knocked down an Alec Martinez (Rochester) point shot and poked the puck through Lerg's pads. Michigan State argued it was knocked down with a high stick, but the goal stood.
On Booth's game-winner, Jim McKenzie's initial shot was kicked out by Zatkoff and the rebound came right to the left faceoff dot where Booth's quick one-time wrister beat Zatkoff high.
Zatkoff, from Chesterfield, made 32 saves.
"Obviously, there's a lot of celebrating, but these seniors have been through a lot," MSU head coach Rick Comley said. "Finally on the ice we said, 'You know what, guys? This tastes really good, but this is just one more step in the process.'"
The "process" continues Saturday at noon as the Spartans, with a No. 1 seed in the East Region, will face No. 4 seed New Hampshire in Albany, N.Y. The winner advances to Sunday’s regional final at 2:00 p.m. to face either No. 2 Harvard or No. 3 Maine.
"It so fulfilling to see a smile on everyone’s face," beamed Comley, who gathered with his team, media, and fans in East Lansing to watch the selection show on ESPN2 on Sunday morning, just over 12 hours after defeating Miami. "The nice thing is that we don’t need to change much, or need to depend on one or two guys to have a great weekend. We’ve already been through a lot this year, and been in a lot of tough games. I think our strength is in our locker room, where we have good leadership and guys who play hard for one another."
The last time these two teams met was Dec. 29, 2004, a 4-3 win for Michigan State in overtime in the first round of the Great Lakes Invitational. The schools have met three times in NCAA Tournament play, with New Hampshire owning a 3-0 all-time mark against the Spartans in the national tournament. The last post-season meeting was a 5-3 UNH win on April 1, 1999, in the NCAA semi-final at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif. The two teams teams first met in the tournament in 1982, with UNH winning the quarter-final series, 3-2 on March 19 and 6-2 on March 20 at Snively Arena.
Photo by Matt Mackinder