If you watched the first four minutes of the first NCAA semifinal, you might have guessed that this just wasn't the day for the Michigan State Spartans at the Scotttrade Center in St. Louis on Thursday afternoon.
The Maine Black Bears, the same team that knocked MSU from the NCAA Tournament last year, went up 2-0 after just 3:24 and looked like they’d be cruising into Saturday’s final.
The Green and White (24-14-2) had other ideas, though, as they scored four unanswered goals to advance to the title game for the first time since 1987 and earn the right to play for their third national title. MSU last won it all in 1986.
"Two weeks of preparation out the window in 15 seconds; so much for coaching I guess," MSU head coach Rick Comley said. "Great job by these kids. All year long, they've been very resilient and just kind of got better and better. Now they've got a chance to play for a national championship and I'm as proud as you can be, or as proud as I've ever been, of any team I've ever coached."
Chris Mueller got the Spartans back into the contest, scoring an unassisted goal at 7:25 of the first.
Chris Snavely evened the score by notching the only goal of the second period at 16:32.
MSU went on top at 5:11 of the third when Nick Sucharski popped in the eventual game-winner.
Then, at 9:46, Jim McKenzie pounded in the final nail in the Bears' coffin and gave the unlikely Spartans a ticket to the final game of the season.
Jeff Lerg finished the night with 29 saves for the win between the pipes.
The Spartans will battle Boston College in Saturday's championship tilt after the Eagles topped the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, 6-4, in Thursday's late game.
"I think it is going to take a while for it to sink in," MSU forward Justin Abdelkader said. "It doesn't really feel like we're in the national championship. We're going to take it one game at a time and enjoy this one. We've got a big game Saturday"
"The Frozen Four is a special thing and I think everyone was nervous," said Mueller. "But once the puck drops and you get a couple hits, it's just another game. A big thing that played into this game was that Maine ended our season last year. When we found out that we were playing Maine, I don't think there was another team as excited and ready to go (as we were) play this game.We've thought for 365 days how Maine ended our season.
"We just had to get the job done."