March 24, 2006
Michigan State has earned the top seed in the East Regional for the 2006 NCAA Hockey Tournament. The East Regional, hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the ECAC Hockey League, features two semifinal games on Saturday (top-seeded MSU vs. #4 New Hampshire at noon, and #2 Harvard vs. #3 Maine at 3 p.m.), with the regional final on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Live Statistics: Available at ncaasports.com
Radio: WJIM 1240 AM / msuspartans.com (free audio)
Scott Moore (PBP) and Rob Woodward '00 (Analysis)
Television: Live: ESPNU ; Dan Parkhurst (PBP), Cap Raeder (analysis)
(DirecTV Channel 609; Dish Network Channel 148).
Shown in East Lansing on Comcast (tape delay) Saturday at 3 p.m. Sunday's game would be shown live on both networks (2 p.m.)
Michigan State and New Hampshire will face off for just the tenth time in school history this weekend, and for just the fourth time since 1982. The Spartans trail the series by a 3-6-0 margin, which includes three losses to the Wildcats in NCAA Tournament play. The two teams last met in the postseason in 1999, when UNH dealt MSU a 5-3 loss in the national semifinals; the two teams previously met in the 1982 NCAA regional held in Durham, NH at the old Snively Arena, with the Wildcats taking 3-2 and 6-2 decisions.
The two teams have renewed acquaintences in the 2004-05 season. UNH played at Munn on Oct. 17, 2004 (a 5-1 Spartan victory), and State got an overtime tally from Jim Slater in the Great Lakes Invitational semifinals on Dec. 29, 2004 to take a 4-3 victory and a date with Michigan in the finals, a game the Spartans would win in overtime on a Colton Fretter goal.
The Road Here
Michigan State claimed the CCHA's autobid into the tournament with a 2-1 victory in the championship game over regular-season champion Miami on Saturday in Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. It was the 11th CCHA Tournament title in history for the Spartans, and their first since 2001.
A Tale of Three Seasons
Michigan State has had essentially three parts to its season - a hot (5-1-1) start where it defeated North Dakota for the Lefty McFadden Invitational title, followed by a tough stretch that was both injury-filled (up to eight scholarship players missing time). During November and early December, the Spartans struggled through a frustrating stretch of 11 games where they won just once, had five overtime games, and six games were settled by a goal or less (1-6-4). MSU rebounded with a win in Fairbanks (3-0) and against Michigan Tech in the first round of the Great Lakes Invitational, but fell to sixth-ranked Colorado College in the final to close the 2005 portion of the schedule.
Since January 1, the Spartans have enjoyed a reniassance of sorts, and a 180-degree turnaround of their season. Sitting in seventh place in the CCHA standings when the 2006 portion of the schedule began, MSU has gone on an impressive tear (16-3-3) which has seen the Spartans undefeated against ranked teams (5-0-2), post a team defense of 1.75 goals against, and outscore opponents 69-39. In that time frame, the power play has clicked at 21.2% (28-132), while the penalty kill has allowed just 12 extra-man tallies in 100 opportunities (12.0%).
In that time, David Booth has gotten healthy and posted 24 of his 33 points of the season (10g, 14a), while Drew Miller has tallied 11 goals and 11 assists. Freshman netminder Jeff Lerg has played in 21 of 22 games, boasting a 1.74 GAA and .935 save percentage. (see stats, pg. 60)
We've Been Here Before
Michigan State has played twice previously in Albany's Pepsi Arena in NCAA Tournament play. The 1992 and 2001 Frozen Fours were held in the building, and the Spartans played in both; MSU dropped a 4-2 decision to eventual National Champion Lake Superior State in 1992, and lost to North Dakota in 2001; the Sioux, would capture the national title two days later.
Representing Your Conference
Michigan State is one of four CCHA schools in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Miami is the #2 seed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester (playing Boston College), while Nebraska-Omaha is the fourth seed in Worcester and will take on the #1, Boston University.
Michigan will be playing in Grand Forks, and will tangle with the regional host North Dakota. Minnesota is the top seed in Grand Forks, with Atlantic Hockey champion Holy Cross as the #4.
Michigan State is making its 24th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and owns an overall record of 23-27-1 in its previous trips. MSU has won two national championships (1966 and 1986), made ten trips to the Frozen Four (most recently in 2001), and has played in four National Championship games.
MSU is making its second trip to the NCAA's in the four-year tenure of head coach Rick Comley, its previous a 5-0 loss to Minnesota-Duluth in 2004.
In the Record Book
Michigan State's 24 NCAA Tournament appearances ranks fifth all-time in the NCAA annals, and MSU is one of 14 schools to win multiple NCAA Ice Hockey Championships. The Spartans' streak of nine consecutive appearances from 1982-1990 ranks fourth all-time, while its ten Frozen Four appearances ranks in a tie for eighth place.
In its 23 trips to the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State owns a 10-13 record in it's opening game.
At the One
Michigan State has been a regional #1 seed in five previous seasons (1987, 1989, 1990, 1998, and 2001), and own a 5-8 record in those seasons. MSU advanced to the Frozen Four in two of those seasons (1984, 2001).
Against the Field
The Spartans played a total of 18 games during the 2005-06 season against eight of the teams in this year's tournament field. State owns a 8-6-4 mark against those teams: Colorado College (0-1-0), Cornell (1-1-0), Miami (3-0), Michigan (2-0-3), Minnesota (0-0-1), Nebraska-Omaha (1-3-0), North Dakota (1-0-0), and Wisconsin (0-1-0).
Since the NCAA went to the four, four-team regionals in the 2003 season, no regional #1 seed has been defeated in its first-round game. Top seeds own a 8-4 record in the regional finals, a 4-4 record in national semifinal tilts, and a 2-2 record in the National Championship game.
At the Helm
Rick Comley is making his second NCAA appearance as the head coach of the Spartans, and his ninth trip to the national tournament overall. He owns an overall NCAA Tournament coaching record of 10-10-0, which includes three Frozen Four appearances and a National Championship (1991, an 8-7 triple-overtime thriller over Boston University) on his coaching resume. He also brought teams to the Frozen Four in 1980 and 1981.
Against the other teams playing in Albany this weekend, Comley owns a 7-2-0 record against New Hampshire, 8-5-0 against Maine, and 1-1-0 againstsHarvard.
Michigan State head coach Rick Comley collected the 675th win of his illustrious career on Jan. 14, 2006, with a 2-1 victory over Alaska Fairbanks, and moved into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time Division I wins list. Comley surpassed former Clarkson and Boston College bench boss Len Ceglarski to take sole possession of fifth place; in 32-plus seasons he has amassed a record of 687-534-87 , including a 89-59-16 mark in his fourth season at MSU. Former Spartan head coach and current athletics director Ron Mason tops the list with 924 career victories.
Comley is third among active coaches in career victories - behind Boston College head coach Jerry York and Boston University frontman Jack Parker, who each have more than 700 victories to their credit.
Taking On the Big Boys
Michigan State owns a 8-3-4 record in games played against ranked teams this season. The Spartans are No. 3 in this week's USCHO/CSTV poll, and are fourth in the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine survey.
The MSU defense has clamped down and become one of the stingiest in college hockey over the second half of the season. On the year, the Spartans rank sixth nationally in team defense (2.28 gpg), having allowed an average of 1.75 goals per game since the start of 2006.
Michigan State has eight ties on its overall record this season, tied for the most in college hockey (with Ferris State). The eight deadlocks ties the school record, set in 1991-92.
Free Hockey ...
Michigan State went to overtime for a school-record 12th time this season in the regular-season finale against LSSU. That shatters the previous Spartan record of 11, set by the 1986-87 and 1991-92 squads.
The Spartans are 3-1-8 in overtime games this year, which is the most ties ever on a MSU ledger in a single season.
No Place Like Home
Michigan State's record at Munn Ice Arena finished at 13-5-3 this season.
Everyone Loves a Winner
MSU will finish the year with a winning record in five of the six months this season, highlighted by a 6-2-2 mark in January and an unbeaten 6-0-1 in February. On only two other occasions has an MSU team been unbeaten in the year's shortest month - the 1998-99 team which advanced to the Frozen Four, and the 1985-86 NCAA Champions.
The Spartans currently average 17.0 penalty minutes per game, which is 10th overall in the CCHA and 44th among the nation's 59 Division I programs. Only 12 times this year has MSU been whistled for more infractions than its opponent; State is, however, 6-1-5 in those games.
How Sweep It Is
MSU owns five weekend series sweeps of an opponent this season and was unbeaten in six of the last seven, sweeping Wayne State, Alaska Fairbanks, Notre Dame, and Miami, taking three points from LSSU, and earning two ties with Michigan.
The Miami sweep was the fourth of a CCHA opponent this season for the Spartans; they previously took a set from Northern Michigan (5-4 in OT, 5-0) back in November and from UAF (4-0, 2-1) at Munn in January. In its last two series, MSU swept Notre Dame in a home-and-home, and took two from Miami at Munn. State took both from Wayne State in a non-league set on Jan. 6-7.
MSU's penalty kill has been a large contributor to its recent success. The Spartans killed all six man-down situations last weekend in Detroit, and was 15-for-18 in the three-game set with Fairbanks; the Spartans have allowed just six power play goals over the last 11 games ( 55 chances, 90.2%), and on the season is clicking at a .838 success rate (186 of 212).
The power play was 3-for-11 on the weekend, and is currently 12th nationally (19.4%, 54-of-278). Michigan State has scored at least once on the man advantage in each of its last nine games, and 12 of its last 13. On the season, MSU has potted a power play tally in 32 of 41 games - and owns a record of 4-2-3 when it fails to convert while skating a man up.
Pick your Poison
It's not just lip service when head coach Rick Comley talks about a balanced scoring attack. Below is a breakdown, by class, of where the Spartan offense gets its points (does not include goaltenders).
Class (No.) GP Goals (pct.) Points (pct.) Freshman (8) 155 32 (24.1%) 73 (19.9%) Sophomore (6) 209 39 (29.3%) 98 (26.8%) Junior (6) 191 34 (25.6%) 101 (27.8%) Senior (5) 167 28 (21.1%) 94 (25.7%)
Little Room for Error
Twelve of MSU's last 16 games have been settled by a goal or less, and Michigan State is 7-3-2 in those contests. On the year, the Spartans have had a margin of a goal or less in 23 games, and sport a record of 11-5-7 in those tilts.
Five Earn CCHA Honors
Senior blueliner Corey Potter and freshman goalie Jeff Lerg each earned Honorable Mention All-CCHA accolades, as released by the league office in Detroit last week. In addition, Lerg was the sole MSU selection to the All-Rookie team, while the all-freshman line of Justin Abdelkader, Tim Crowder, and Tim Kennedy each earned an honorable mention to the All-Rookie Team.
More CCHA Accolades
The Spartans had three players earn major honors at the CCHA Awards Banquet in Detroit on March 16. Drew Miller won both the Ilitch Humanitarian Award and received recognition as the Best Defensive Forward, freshman Jeff Lerg earned Rookie of the Year honors, and Jeff Dunne was MSU's representative on the All-Academic team.
Miller is the fourth Spartan to be named the Best Defensive Forward recipient, joining Mike York (1999), Shawn Horcoff (2000) and John Nail (2001). Lerg has had an outstanding freshman campaign, and is one of just four Michigan State players to ever win the league's honor for first-year players (Bill Shibicky (1984), Joe Murphy (1986) and Rod Brind'Amour (1989).
In addition, Tyler Howells is among the three finalists as Best Offensive Defenseman (which went to Miami's Andy Greene). while Rick Comley was in the running for the CCHA Coach of the Year, which went to Miami's Enrico Blasi.
And From the Tourney, Too
Three players - junior Drew Miller and freshmen Tim Crowder and Jeff Lerg were named to the CCHA All-Tournament Team at the conclusion of the championship weekend. Lerg allowed just two goals in two games in Detroit, stopping 45 of 47 shots to earn Most Valuable Player honors as the All-Tournament netminder. Miller was the CCHA Tournament's leading scorer (4-4-8 in five games), while Crowder was the league's top scoring freshman (3-3-6).
He's Got Skills
Senior Colton Fretter has accepted a spot on the West All-Star Team for the first NCAA Skills Challenge, which will be held on Friday, April 7 at the Frozen Four in Milwaukee. The competition will be held in an East versus West format with each team having six male position players, six female position players, two male goaltenders and two female goaltenders. (An alternate list has been established in the event that players have to withdraw from the competition due to other commitments, such as their team's participation in the Men's Frozen Four.)
To be eligible, all players must have exhausted their collegiate eligibility and be nominated by their head coach. The players were selected by representatives from the American College Hockey Coaches Association, the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Committee and the National Youth Sports Corporation. The competitions will include puck control relay, fastest skater, hardest shot, rapid fire shooting and penalty shot.
Junior captain Drew Miller captured the 2006 Ilitch Humanitarian Award at the CCHA Awards Banquet, and is one of seven finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, one of the two premiere individual awards in college hockey. Miller is one of two CCHA players to make the cut; the winner will be announced on April 7 at the Frozen Four in Milwaukee.
Miller was a driving force behind the creation of the Spartan Buddies Program, where MSU student-athletes are "buddies" with pediatric patients at Sparrow Hospital. He has also involved himself with countless other community and campus programs, including MSU's "Teams for Toys", Children's Miracle Network, Special Olympics, the Adaptive Sports Festival, and DARE.
Honored Among Peers
Michigan State held its team banquet on Tuesday, March 7 to hand out annual team awards; sophomore Bryan Lerg (Most Improved Player, Outstanding Offensive Player), senior Corey Potter (Dr. John Downs Outstanding Defensive Player, Bill Burgess Outstanding Senior Award), each won two awards, while junior captain Drew Miller captured both the Amo Bessone Award for athletic, scholastic, and community participation, in addition to being voted by his teammates as the squad's MVP.
Other award winners included Jared Nightingale (Spartan Fitness Award), sophomore Zak McClellan (Goofus Award, as team humorist), senior Colton Fretter (Blue Line Club Presidents Award as team's top senior scholar-athlete), Jeff Lerg (Outstanding Rookie).
In addition, Kevin Miller, a standout forward from the Spartans (1984-88) who skated in the 1998 Olympics and had a 14-year NHL Career, was given the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Spreading the Wealth
Michigan State's 24 game-winning goals in 2005-06 have been scored by 12 different players. Only Colton Fretter and junior Drew Miller (four), senior David Booth, sophomores Bryan Lerg and Chris Mueller, and freshmen Nick Sucharski, Tim Kennedy and Justin Abdelkader (two) have more than one GWG. Fretter and Miller are tied for 15th in the nation in the category.
Sophomore Zak McClellan scored his first career game-winner last weekend in the CCHA semifinal against Michigan.
Among the Giants
Junior goaltender Dominic Vicari finds his career numbers among the best in the history of the Spartan program. He is second in the MSU record book in career shutouts with 16, 10 off the 26 posted by Hobey Baker winner Ryan Miller from 1999-2002. He also is third in career goals against average, boasting a 2.37 career mark. Vicari's 83 career games is eighth in the annals while his 41 career victories ranks ninth all-time, and he needs just 12 more saves to unseat Mark Mazzoleni '80 for 10th place in the annals in that category.
Jeff Lerg's current-season goals against average of 1.95 ranks as the seventh-lowest season average in program history. Ryan Miller holds the record, posting a 1.32 GAA in 2000-2001. In addition, Lerg's .925 saves percentage ranks fifth in program history. Miller holds the record, posting a .950 saves percentage in 2000-01.
Lerg currently sits third in goals against and sixth in save percentage in the national rankings entering the NCAA Tournament; he is tenth in winning percentage (16-5-6, .704).
Senior forward David Booth and junior captain Drew Miller have been the team's most prolific scorers of late. Miller's eight points during the CCHA Championship weekends gives him 14 points in his last 11 games; he assisted on Booth's game-winning goal in the CCHA title game.
Booth had a career-best 11-game point streak snapped in the last regular-season home weekend against Miami; he had recorded five goals and 13 assists in that span. That was snapped during a three-game stretch with just one assist, but he responded in the playoffs, with seven points (2g, 3a) in the five playoff games. Booth was the only player on the roster to score a point in each of MSU's five playoff games, and has eight goals and 14 assists in his last 22 games. Booth owns the team's longest current point-scoring streak (five games).
Freshmen Nick Sucharski (23 of 36, .639) and Justin Abdelkader (44 of 84, .524) were the Spartans' top two faceoff men in the CCHA Tournament.
On the season, Sucharski is at 58.3% (98-168), and Chris Mueller ranks second with nearly 52% (344-668).
Junior defenseman Tyler Howells earned CCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors on Feb. 20 after the Spartans swept Miami. He collected his seventh multiple-point game of the season in the Saturday game, recording a goal and pair of assists; his second-period tally stood as the game-winner. Howells is the top-scoring defenseman in the CCHA, and ranks ninth nationally in defenseman scoring (0.83 ppg, 10-24-34. Howells was one of three finalists for the CCHA's Best Offensive Defenseman Award.
Corey Potter has amassed 115 penalty minutes this season, moving into eighth place for penalty minutes in a single-season in the MSU record book. In his career, Potter has spent 281 minutes in the box, four minutes shy of moving into a tenth-place tie all-time.
The all-freshman line of Tim Kennedy, Justin Abdelkader, and Tim Crowder each were honorable mention selections to the CCHA All-Rookie Team, released prior to the CCHA Tournament. The trio combined for 10 points in the team's run to the CCHA title, and for 28 goals and 36 assists on the season. Nick Sucharski, who missed several games early this season while suffering from mononucleosis, had an assist this past weekend, and both of his goals this season have been game-winners.
First-year netminder Jeff Lerg, an All-Rookie Team honoree and a CCHA Rookie of the Year finalist, has come on strong in this second half of the season. He has played 19 of the last 20 Spartan games, and boasts a 1.82 GAA and .933 save percentage in those contests. He ranks sixth nationally on the season with a 2.02 GAA, is ninth in save percentage (.925), and ranks 13th in winning percentage (.680, 14-5-5).
Bryan Lerg has more than doubled his freshman-year scoring in as many games; Lerg netted just 15 points all of last season as a freshman, but is currently second on the team in points (36) and has 14 goals and 22 assists to his credit.
Junior Tyler Howells has also had an offensive explosion this year, his 34 points surpassing his first two seasons combined. Howells entered the season with two goals and 24 assists (26 points) in his first two varsity seasons, and this year alone has 10 goals and 24 assists. He is third on the team - behind Bryan Lerg and Drew Miller - in scoring.
First to 10, Wins
Michigan State boasts nine 10-goal scorers on its roster for the first time since the 1994-95 season. Justin Abdelkader became MSU's latest in the club of 10-goal scorers, with his first-period tally in the CCHA Championship game against Miami.
The 1983-84 team posted the most 10-goal scorers in a single season, as 13 players reached the milestone.
Sophomore forward Bryan Lerg became the first Spartan to reach the double-digit goal plateau this season when he potted a first period power-play goal in a 3-2 loss to UNO on Jan. 20. Tim Crowder was next, notching his 10th in the Friday tilt at Notre Dame, Drew Miller recorded his 10th of the season a night later at Munn, and David Booth joined the club with his tally at Ohio State on Feb. 9. Tyler Howells potted his 10th against Miami, and Colton Fretter added his 10th against Lake Superior at The Joe. Chris Mueller and Jim McKenzie both scored their 10th of the season last weekend against UAF.
But What Does it Mean?
Among MSU's double-digit goal scorers ... the team is 10-2-1 in games that Bryan Lerg scores, 8-2-1 when David Booth gets a goal, 9-2-2 when Drew Miller lights the lamp, 5-3-2 in tilts where Colton Fretter adds to his goal column, 9-2-2 when Tim Crowder taps one in, and 2-1-4 when Tyler Howells finds the back of the net. MSU is 6-1-2 when Chris Mueller gets on the scoreboard, 8-1-1 when Justin Abdelkader pots one, and 4-5-1 when Jim McKenzie slips one past an opposing netminder.
Scoring in Bunches
The Spartans set a CCHA tournament record in the March 11 game against Alaska Fairbanks for the fastest three goals - just 1:46 elapsed between Tim Crowder's goal at 19:11 of the second period, Bryan Lerg's tally at 19:37, and Chris Lawrence's goal at 0:57 of the third period. Michigan State had held the previous record of 2:27 in the 2003 quarterfinals against Fairbanks.
More Quick Strikes
Michigan State's offense has had three occasions this season in which it's put back-to-back tallies on the board in under 30 seconds. In the final regular-season weekend, Bryan Lerg and Drew Miller potted goals just 23 seconds apart.
Freshmen Justin Abdelkader and Tim Kennedy scored 15 seconds apart early in the first period of the Feb. 9 game at Ohio State, combining for the second-fastest, back-to-back Michigan State goals this season; 14 seconds separated the previous two quickest tallies, as Abdelkader and sophomore Jim McKenzie teamed up for a pair of second period strikes on Nov. 15 (a 3-2 loss) at Ohio State.
Freshman Tim Crowder picked up his 20th point of the season with his assist on Justin Abdelkader's first-period tally against Ohio State; he became the first freshman and the seventh Michigan State skater to crack the 20-point plateau this season. The Victoria, B.C., native (who now has 27 points) is the first MSU freshman to reach 20 points in a season since A.J. Thelen potted 11-18-29 in in 2003-04. Abdelkader recorded his 20th point in the Fairbanks playoff series, and Tim Kennedy has 16.
Speaking of 20-Point Scorers ...
The Spartans boast 11, 20-point scorers for the first time since 2000-01.
Drew Miller leads the team in multiple-point efforts this season, as he has had at least two points in 10 games. Second on that list is junior Tyler Howells and sophomore Bryan Lerg (seven), followed by Colton Fretter, David Booth and Jim McKenzie, (six).
Twenty-three of Michigan State's games so far this year have been televised, and the Spartans own a 12-7-4 record in those contests.
Quite the Cluster
MSU's record against its CCHA "clustermates" (Alaska Fairbanks, Michigan, and Nebraska-Omaha) concluded with a mark of 5-3-4 on the year. The Spartans completed their four games against Fairbanks with a 3-0-1 record, were 1-3-0 against UNO, and 1-0-3 mark against archrival Michigan this season.
Michigan State opened the 2005-06 regular season with a wins over Wayne State (5-1) and North Dakota (3-0) to capture the fourth annual Lefty McFadden Invitational tournament title. Forwards Bryan Lerg and David Booth and defenseman Tyler Howells earned All-Tournament Team honors for their performances. Lerg paced the offense with a goal and three assists, Booth chipped in a short-handed goal and a pair of assists, while Howell added two helpers from the blueline. MSU junior goaltender Dominic Vicari earned the victory in both contests, allowing just one goal on 41 shots for the tournament.
C's and A's
Junior forward Drew Miller has been selected to captain the 2005-06 Michigan State hockey team. Miller, an assistant captain as a sophomore, is the 10th member of his family to don the Green and White; the East Lansing native entered his junior season with 21 goals and 22 assists, and skated in his 100th career game in the semis of the GLI against Michigan Tech.
Wearing A's on their jerseys this season are senior defensemen Jared Nightingale and Corey Potter, and senior forward Colton Fretter.
The Road to the Joe ... Went through the Joe
Michigan State has played two CCHA regular-season games at Joe Louis Arena this year: the Spartans picked up a 5-5 stalemate against Michigan on Jan. 28, and another deadlock (2-2) against Lake Superior State in the regular-season finale. In all, the Spartans played four regular-season tilts at the Joe, as the GLI back in December added two Detroit games to the MSU schedule. Including the CCHA Championship last weekend, MSU went 3-1-2 at Joe Louis Arena this season.
The 2005-06 season marks the 40th anniversary of the Spartans first national championship in 1966 and the 20th anniversary of the program's 1986 national title.
The 1966 team rebounded from a rocky 4-9-0 start to win 12 of its final 16 games to qualify for the national tournament. MSU would defeat Clarkson University, 6-1, behind the goaltending of Gaye Cooley.
In 1986, the Green and White rode the goalscoring of senior forward Mike Donnelly; Donnelly scored his 59th goal of the season to lock up the Spartans' second national title, 6-5, over the Harvard Crimson.