By Matt Mackinder/Michigan State Beat Writer &
By Tom Morelli/Western Michigan Beat Writer
Michigan State earned some much-needed momentum heading into this weekend’s series with Michigan with a two-game home-and-home sweep of Western Michigan last weekend.
Friday night in East Lansing, Tim Kennedy had a goal and an assist - his first goal since the calendar turned to 2008 - as Michigan State earned a 3-0 shutout victory over Western Michigan at Munn Ice Arena.
MSU also snapped a three-game losing streak against the Broncos.
Jeff Lerg made 23 saves for his third shutout of the year and senior captain Bryan Lerg and Chris Mueller also scored for MSU.
“I felt confident throughout,” Jeff Lerg said to USCHO. “When my game is on, I feel confident. I felt comfortable making saves, and tonight the guys did a pretty good job getting out of the way and not tipping them. It pretty much just made my job easier. It’s an easy night if you do a lot of little things right and that’s what happened.”
Jerry Kuhn kicked out 36 shots for the Broncos.
After getting shutout the night before, Western Michigan was able to muster some offense on Saturday against Michigan State, but still came up short in a 4-2 loss against the No. 8 ranked team in college hockey.
Bryan Lerg put the Spartans on the board first, finishing off a pass from Jeff Dunne and Tim Crowder with 4:38 gone by in the opening period. Lerg’s goal was his 16th of the season, which came off the man-advantage.
Crowder extended Michigan State’s lead early in the second period, knocking home his 12th goal of the campaign. Andrew Rowe and Jeff Petry were credited with the assists.
A checking-from-behind penalty on the Broncos’ Jeff Pierce gave the Spartans another power-play opportunity in the middle of the period. Justin Abdelkader and Tim Kennedy fed Chris Mueller the puck, who jammed one home over goaltender Riley Gill.
Penalties became costly for Michigan State shortly thereafter, as a holding call on Daniel Vukovic and a slashing call on Abdelkade left the team in a 5-on-3 situation. Western Michigan took advantage of the matter, as junior Patrick Galivan slid the puck toward defenseman Tyler Ludwig at the blue line. Ludwig then fed a wide-open Ansell, who was standing between the face-off circles. The long-range shot by Ansell beat netminder Jeff Lerg, this breaking any efforts of a shutout.
The Broncos came within a goal of their opponent in the first minute of the final period. Winger Jeff LoVecchio came streaking down the right side of the ice, firing a laser off of Lerg. As he got off his shot, LoVecchio took a huge hit from the Spartans’ defense and went crashing to the ice. Galivan scooped up the loose rebound in the crease and scored his first goal since January 6th against Nebraska-Omaha. LoVecchio was escorted to the locker rooms visibly clutching his right side, but would return later in the game.
Looking for the equalizer, Western Michigan head coach Jim Culhane pulled Gill in the last minute of the game to put an extra attacker on the ice. Bryan Lerg snagged the puck, and passed up-ice to Mueller, who added his second goal of the night on an empty-netter.
Western Michigan (7-22-3, 3-19-2 CCHA) travels to Miami this weekend for a two-game set.
The Spartans (20-8-5, 16-5-3 CCHA) return home Friday when they host the top-ranked Wolverines in an 8 p.m. game that will be televised on CSTV. The teams will then faceoff on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena on FSN Detroit.
“Coming off two road losses last weekend, you struggle a lot emotionally,” said MSU head coach Rick Comley. “Now, I think this week we can have a positive practice and get ready for Friday.”