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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Eight Spartans honored at banquet

Compiled by MiCHO Staff

Junior goaltender Jeff Lerg was named the team’s Most Valuable Player for the second straight season while classmate Justin Abdelkader and freshman Jeff Petry were the night’s two-award winners as the Michigan State hockey team held its season-ending banquet on Tuesday evening at the Kellogg Center.

Five other Spartans earned honors on the evening, with most awards presented selected by a team vote.

In addition, former hockey coach and athletics director Ron Mason was honored as the program’s Distinguished Alumnus.

Putting together one of the most decorated campaigns in school history, Lerg (pictured) was a Hobey Baker finalist, a Second-Team All-America selection, the CCHA First-Team goaltender and the CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year. In addition, he was a finalist for the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete, as well as a finalist for CCHA Player of the Year honors. Lerg finished the season ninth in the country in save percentage (.926), which is tied for sixth-best all-time in the MSU annals, and a 2.22 goals-against average, which ranked 18th nationally and ninth-best in the Spartan record book. His 24 victories were the fourth-highest total in the country this season and puts him tied for eighth in the MSU records. He set his career-best in shutouts (four, eighth all-time at MSU) and saves (1,136, which ranks third in the MSU annals). Lerg’s career numbers also rank among the top five all-time at Michigan State in several categories: save percentage (.922), second; saves (2,956), second; goals-against average (2.22), third; career shutouts (10), fourth; wins (67), fifth; games played (114), fourth; and consecutive games played (63), first.

Abdelkader captured both the Spartan Fitness Award as well as the Amo Bessone Award, which honors athletic, scholastic, and community participation. The junior, who recently signed a three-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings and made his NHL debut on April 3, ranked second on the team in scoring with 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points (all career highs), was named the CCHA’s Top Defensive Forward and was named to the NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team. A 3.2 student as a Supply-Chain Management major in the College of Business at MSU, Abdelkader also captured the Mike and Marion Ilitch Humanitarian Award at the CCHA Awards Show and MSU’s Gwendolyn Norrell Community Service and Leadership Award at its Academic Gala on April 14. Abdelkader, who was not in attendance due to Detroit road games in Nashville, asked Bryan Lerg to accept the Fitness Award on his behalf, and “Shoot for a Cure” co-creator Daniel Sturges accepted the Bessone.

Petry was named the Dr. John Downs Outstanding Defensive Player as well as the team’s Outstanding Rookie. Petry, a 20-year old freshman, developed into one of MSU’s top blueliners by season’s end, and contributed 24 points (three goals, 21 assists). He ranked third on the team in assists and second among MSU rearguards in points. He was named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team, Inside College Hockey’s national All-Freshman team, and was one of three finalists for CCHA Rookie of the Year honors. He was also an NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team selection.

Bryan Lerg was named the team’s Bill Burgess Outstanding Senior Award winner. Lerg, the team captain, had a career-best 39 points, on 20 goals (10 on the power play) and 19 assists. He ranked third on the team in scoring, and was a two-time CCHA Player of the Week selection. Lerg signed a professional contract with the Edmonton Oilers on March 31, and played in four games for the Oilers’ AHL affiliate Springfield Falcons this spring.

Outstanding Offensive Player honors went to junior Tim Kennedy. Kennedy led the Spartans in scoring, tying his career best with 43 points in 42 games (20g, 23 a). He led the team in all offensive categories, scored nine times on the power play, and tallied five game-winning tallies on the season. At season’s end, he was named a Second-Team All-CCHA selection.

The Blue Line President’s Award, given to the top scholar-athlete in the senior class, was given to defenseman Jeff Dunne, a crop and soil science major, who has a cumulative grade point average of 3.771. Earlier this season, Dunne was awarded a Charles E. and Frances M. Osterman Scholarship from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, and was also honored at the MSU Academic Gala as the team’s scholar-athlete. A stay-at-home defenseman, Dunne had a 3-4--7 scoring line this season, with all three of his goals coming on the power play.

Most Improved Player honors went to sophomore defenseman Justin Johnston. Johnston, who appeared in three games last year as a freshman, earned significantly more playing time on the MSU blueline this season. He appeared in 24 of MSU’s final 27 games this season and compiled two assists.

Zak McClellan pulled off an unprecedented feat and was awarded the team’s Goofus Award for the fourth consecutive season. McClellan, a senior forward, was presented his award by volunteer assistant coach Rob Woodward, himself a three-time Goofus winner (1991-93). McClellan has been a solid, steady player for the Spartans in addition to gaining notoriety among the fan base as the host of “In the Box with Zak McClellan” on Most recently, he headlined the wildly popular “Zak and the Macs” lip-sync music videos that appeared on gamenights on the Munn Arena video boards. Woodward and Chris Bogas, who won the award from 1997-99, had been the program’s only three-time winners of the award.

Photo courtesy Michigan State Athletics

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