April 7, 2007
2007 NCAA Frozen Four Championship Game
Spartans Make a State-ment
Goaltender Lerg keeps MSU in it, Abdelkader's late goal wins it.

By Jess Myers

Michigan State 3,
Boston College 1
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
No scoring

Second Period

1-BC Brian Boyle (19) PP
6:50 B. Bradford
Third Period
1-MSU Tim Kennedy (18) PP
9:53 J. Abdelkader
2-MSU Justin Abdelkader (15) EV
19:41 T. Kennedy, T. Howells
3-MSU Chris Mueller (16) EN
19:58 J. McKenzie, D. Vukovic
MSU: Jeff Lerg, 60:00, 29 saves, 1 GA
BC: Cory Schneider, 60:00, 26 saves, 2 GA (1 ENG)
Penalties: MSU 6/12; BC 8/16
Power Plays: MSU 1-6; BC 1-4
Attendance: 19,432
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Complete with Jeff Sauer's commentary on each selection.

ST. LOUIS – The thinking before Saturday's NCAA title game was that an extraordinary 60-minutes effort would be required for anyone to beat Boston College’s red-hot team. Michigan State’s third NCAA title came after an effort of less than 60 minutes — 1.7 seconds less to be exact.

Tournament most outstanding player Justin Abdelkader scored the game-winner with 18.9 seconds left, lifting the Spartans to the NCAA crown via a tightly-played 3-1 victory.

The final margin came after Chris Mueller potted an empty-net goal, touching off a raucous celebration behind the Spartans’ net. Rather than force a cleanup of the sticks, gloves and helmets strewn all over the ice for a final faceoff, Boston College coach Jerry York allowed the officials to run the final ticks off the clock.

Abdelkader looked prepared to end the game seconds before the game-winner, when he clanked the right goalpost on a surprising 3-on-1 break by the Spartans.

“When it hit the post, you’re thinking, ‘oh no, don’t tell me we hit the post and they’re going to come back and win it and we’re going to lose 2-1,’” said Spartans coach Rick Comley. “And before I knew it, the puck was right back in front and Justin put it in.”

After the puck was dug out of the corner, winger Tim Kennedy won a battle with Brock Bradford behind the net, centering the puck to Abdelkader, who was at the right of the crease. Abdelkader’s quick snap shot got past Eagles’ goalie Cory Schneider low on the stick side, giving the Spartans their first lead of the game.

“They like to throw it out in front of the net, in the middle and see what happens,” said Schneider, who finished with 26 saves. “So he threw it between the legs and I tried to reach out real quick to try to get a piece of it, and I think that second when I reached out for it kind of cost me.”

Abdelkader didn’t get a clear shot on net on the play, as an Eagle defender was closing hard. That was the modus operandi all night for BC, which blocked 20 shots and played solid defense to keep the Spartans off the board for the game’s first 50 minutes.

It's not easy being green (or Greene): Boston College forward Matt Greene crashes into Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg in the third period of Saturday's 3-1 win.

A scoreless first period was dominated both offensively and defensively by the Eagles, who outshot State 13-6 and generally kept the Spartans away from Schneider. The best scoring chance came with a little more than five minutes left in the frame during a scramble in front of the Spartans’ net. Pat Gannon swiped at a loose puck and looked to sweep it into the net only to have Jeff Lerg stop the puck with his paddle along the goal line.

State turned the tables in the second, outshooting BC by a 2-to-1 margin, but emerged down by a goal. The Spartans killed 35 seconds of 5-on-3 power play, but gave up a goal with the Eagles still up by one man.

A nifty stick-lift move along the side boards by Nathan Gerbe left a loose puck available for Bradford. The top-line wing got a hold of the puck and spun to the left faceoff dot, where he got off a low wrist shot. Lerg looked to have the shot covered, but the puck deflected high and past the goalie’s glove. Originally the goal was credited to Bradford, but the scoring was changed in the third period after reviews revealed the puck hit Brian Boyle just below the left knee en route to the net.

It was the eighth power play goal of the season for Boyle, who assisted on the game-winning empty net goal late in the Eagles’ 6-4 semifinal win over North Dakota on Thursday. Even leading with the game clock clicking down, Boyle said they knew the Spartans were still capable and dangerous.

“You always want to score another goal,” Boyle said. “That is what we said in between periods, going into the third, that we wanted to keep the pressure on.”

Lerg kept the Spartans within a goal early in the third, gloving a Bradford shot that looked net-bound during a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush by the Eagles. BC effectively killed the Spartans first five power plays, but the sixth time was a charm for State. Eagles defenseman Tim Filangieri was whistled for hooking near the midway point of the third, and the Spartans needed just six seconds to convert.

“I thought what turned the game around and settled it down were the power plays,” Comley said. “And then when Kennedy’s scored, it’s been so hard for us to score this year that when we finally do score, our play just skyrockets.”

Off the faceoff just outside the Eagles blue line, Abdelkader won the draw and pushed the puck ahead. Boyle charged for the puck but missed it, allowing Kennedy to zoom past and come in alone on Schneider. Kennedy’s stick-side wrist shot beat the goalie, and as the next nine minutes ran off the clock, overtime loomed.

BC entered the game riding a 13-game winning streak, and Schneider had looked so solid in the playoffs, that the Spartans were decided underdogs. But the efforts of Lerg, the diminutive goalie who finished with 29 saves, were the ones that earned a spot on the all-tournament team and a chance to hoist the national championship trophy.

Crash into you: Boston College defenseman Tim Filangieri knocks Michigan State forward Bryan Lerg off his skates.

“This is what I’ve waited for my whole life,” Lerg said. “I’ve been too small for every level of hockey and I’ve been turned down by schools all along the way.”

The loss was particularly difficult for the Eagles, who had fallen 2-1 to Wisconsin in the title game last season. They are the first team to lose consecutive title games since Denver fell to North Dakota in 1963 and Michigan the following season.

“That’s what happens when you play sports,” York said. “That’s what you get involved with. There is going to be a winner and there is going to be a loser. You try as hard as you can, but there is no guarantee in this business. And I think our kids are mature enough to understand this.”

For Michigan State, it was the first NCAA crown in 21 years. The Spartans beat Harvard in the 1986 title game, and beat Clarkson 6-1 in 1966 for their first hockey title.