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Monday, August 06, 2007

Spartans name 2007-2008 captains

Hockey coach Rick Comley has announced that senior forward Bryan Lerg (pictured) serve as the captain of the 2007-08 Michigan State Spartans. Comley also announced that senior forward Chris Mueller and junior forwards Justin Abdelkader, and Tim Kennedy and junior goaltender Jeff Lerg will serve as alternate captains for the upcoming season.

"Bryan had tremendous support from all of the players and coaching staff," noted Comley. "He has been an excellent player for us for three years, and we expect that he will be an outstanding senior captain. We are all confident that Bryan will help us reach the goals that we have set for our program."

"It’s obviously a great honor to be elected the captain of your team," noted Bryan Lerg. "It really means a lot, because the staff and the players feel that they have confidence in you to lead the team. Coming off the year we just did, I have some big shoes to fill."

Bryan Lerg has appeared in 127 career games in Green and White, and has 48 goals and 41 assists. As a junior, he led the team with his career-best 23 goals and added 13 assists to rank second on the team with 36 points. He led the nation in game-winning goals (eight), and was named the Most Valuable Player as the Spartans captured their 11th Great Lakes Invitational Tournament.

"I’ve been able to learn from some great captains in my time at Michigan State," added Bryan Lerg. "Jim Slater and Drew Miller both led by example on the ice, and were great at the off-ice things – making the younger guys are brought into the fold, and things like that. Chris Lawrence was a little different case – he was a fourth-line guy who maybe didn’t play as much, but never complained about his on-ice role. He was always ‘up’, and really was an unbelievable leader that helped us win a National Championship. All three may have been different, but all three were great captains.

"All of our guys have been working really hard this summer to make sure that we’re prepared to come in and be ready to go once practice starts. We’re confident that we can have an exciting season."

Mueller will wear an "A" for the second consecutive season. The Spartans’ best defensive forward, Mueller plays in all situations and ranked fourth on the team in scoring with 16 goals and 16 assists. In addition to his career-high goal output as a junior, he set a career high in power-play goals (five) and potted two game-winners. He has appeared in 124 career games, and enters his senior season with 29 goals and 48 assists (77 points).

"He’s probably the best defensive forward in the league, and I’ve been lucky to have the chance to play on a line with him the last two years," added Bryan Lerg. "He leads by example – he’s one of the hardest workers on the team, and is out there to make plays. As a guy who also wore a letter last year, he really knows how important his leadership role is. As good as he is with on-ice leadership, he’s also really good off the ice with keeping the guys together."

A trio of juniors will wear captain letters for the first time in their collegiate careers. The MVP of the Frozen Four, Abdelkader scored both the first goal of the 2006-07 season (against Western Michigan) and also the biggest – the game-winner in the National Championship game against Boston College. Abdelkader, who missed four games mid-year while winning the bronze medal with the US World Junior Team, still managed to finish third on the team in scoring (15-18—33), and contributed four power-play tallies.

Kennedy, who missed 16 games as a freshman with a broken hand, had a breakout sophomore season. He led the team in scoring a year ago (18-25—43), and was perhaps Michigan State’s best skater throughout the NCAA Tournament. He was named to the All-Tournament Team at both the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids and at the Frozen Four. He scored the game-tying goal midway through the third period against Boston College in the National Championship game, and also had the primary assist when he set up Abdelkader for the game-winner. The winger enters his junior campaign with 22 goals and 40 assists in 71 career games.

Jeff Lerg, Bryan’s cousin, has excelled in each of his first two collegiate campaigns, but has truly made the college hockey world take notice in each of the last two postseasons. The CCHA Tournament MVP in 2006, Lerg was named the Midwest Regional MVP and earned a spot on the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team. He allowed just five goals in four NCAA Tournament games a year ago and owns a career 1.50 GAA and .949 save percentage in six career NCAA Tournament contests. Last spring, he was named the USA Hockey College Player of the Year, the MSU team MVP, and was also a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection in 2006-07.

"Kennedy and Abdelkader are both guys who can make big plays at big times - they both can step up for us when the game is on the line. Jeff Lerg is a guy whose main concern is team success – any of the individual stuff is nice to him, but he’s really just concerned with helping our team win. With everything he’s battled, he’s always proven himself – and that makes him a guy that brings the team together," added the captain.

Comley added praise for the four alternate captains. "If we’re going to have a chance to duplicate what we accomplished a year ago, the leadership in the locker room is incredibly important. I think we touch all of the areas with the four alternate captains – there is a nice mix of styles and approaches, and each of them can be a leader in a slightly different manner. I believe that the five, together, will do a nice job in leading our hockey team."

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