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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Eleven Spartans honored at MSU hockey banquet

Sophomore netminder Jeff Lerg captured the 2007 Spartan Hockey Most Valuable Player Award and 10 other players earned individual honors when the team held its annual banquet on Monday at the Kellogg Center.

Lerg, who has started all 38 games for Michigan State this season, currently boasts a .909 save percentage and a 2.53 goals-against average while playing 96.5 percent of the team's minutes - the second highest percentage in the nation. The Livonia native posted four shutouts this season, and allowed two or fewer goals on 22 occasions.

Lerg's cousin, junior forward Bryan Lerg, took home Outstanding Offensive Player honors. Bryan's eight game-winning goals not only led the nation, but also places him in a tie for first on the Spartans all-time list for game winners in a season along with Steve Beadle (1989-90) and Mitch Messier (1986-87). Lerg's 23 tallies leads the team, and his 35 points ranks second.

All three senior defenseman - Tyler Howells, Ethan Graham and Chris Snavely - garnered awards as well.

Howells was the recipient of the Amo Bessone Award, which honors athletic, scholastic and community participation. A food industry management major, Howells initiated a relationship with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Lansing, a team community project that he hopes will continue to grow long after he graduates in May. Thanks to Howells' efforts, the Spartan hockey team partnered with Big Brothers and Big Sisters Michigan Capital Region chapter this fall.

Graham, who has posted a career-high 10 assists in 2006-07, received the Dr. John Downs Outstanding Defensive Player Award. The Xenia, Ohio native has been a key cog on the Spartans blue line this year, posting 11 points while spending time on both the power play and penalty kill.

Snavely took home the 2007 Spartan Fitness Award, posting nine points (1g, 8a) in 23 points after having only six points in 30 games a year ago. The native of Lancaster, Pa., was durable down the stretch, scoring the game-winning goal and adding an assist for first-star honors in the Spartans final regular season victory at Bowling Green Feb. 23.

Classmate Brandon Warner was named the Blue Line Club President's Award Winner, presented to the top scholar-athlete in the senior class. A Kinesiology major, Warner boasts one of the highest grade point averages on the team, and is scheduled to graduate this spring. On the ice, Warner has doubled his career goals and points totals as a senior, posting two tallies and six points.

The Bill Burgess Outstanding Senior Award was given to captain Chris Lawrence for his leadership both on and off the ice. A gritty, hard-working winger, Lawrence was selected by the team last summer to wear the "C" in a unanimous vote. Playing in all but two contests this season, the Havertown, Pa., native has seven points (1g, 6a).

The Most Improved Player Award went to junior defenseman Daniel Vukovic on the heels of his two-goal, three-point, plus-four performance at the CCHA Championships last Saturday. After posting just a goal and five points in his first two varsity seasons combined, Vukovic has scored six goals and added four assists as a junior to add an offensive punch to his defensive game. As one of just four Spartans to appear in every contest so far in 2006-07, Vukovic paces the team in plus/minus with a plus-16 rating.

Fellow defenseman Mike Ratchuk earned the Outstanding Rookie Award, pacing the team among full-time blueliners with 12 points (4g, 8a) in 36 games. The Buffalo, N.Y., native also was a CCHA All-Rookie Team Honorable Mention selection.

For the third consecutive season, junior Zak McClellan was the recipient of the team's Goofus Award, given annually to the team humorist. McClellan has appeared 25 games thus far for the Spartans, collecting a pair of assists, his claim to fame has become "In the Box with Zak McClellan," the weekly talk show he hosts online at Having also claimed the award in his first two seasons, he joins current Spartan volunteer assistant coach Rob Woodward (1991-93) and Chris Bogas (1997-99) as the only three-time winners.

Mike Donnelly (1982-86), the NCAA record holder for goals in a season (59), was honored as the Distinguished Alumnus. A native of Livonia, Donnelly was a four-year letterwinner at MSU, helping his teams combine for a 136-38-3 record in his four years (1983-86). During that span, the Spartans captured three CCHA Tournament titles and two regular-season crowns in addition to the 1986 national title. Donnelly went on to a fruitful NHL career, and skated with the LA Kings in the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs. He retired as a player in 1998, and is currently employed by the Kings as an amateur scout.

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