Spartans Pack Bags For Frozen Four!

Tim Kennedy's power-play goal at 5:59 of the third period proved to hold up as the game-winner for the #3-seed Spartans (24-13-3) over the top-seed in the Midwest Regional, Notre Dame (32-7-3).

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - For the first time since 2001, Michigan State is headed for the Frozen Four in St. Louis.

Tim Kennedy's power-play goal at 5:59 of the third period proved to hold up as the game-winner for the #3-seed Spartans (24-13-3) over the top-seed in the Midwest Regional, Notre Dame (32-7-3).

"We were loose today. It was a good loose. The guys were ready, the guys were focused. The guys were enjoying the moment," said senior center and captain Chris Lawrence.

The home-state fans in Grand Rapids backed the Spartans the whole way and were in for an interesting end to the game, after seeing the Spartans hold a 1-0 lead for half of the game.

Evan Rankins' deflection goal at 14:52 of the third period put the Irish on the board and only down one goal at 2-1 with 5:08 to play.

The Irish peppered Spartan goalie Jeff Lerg with shots after getting a revival from Rankins goal.

"They kept coming at us and coming at us," said Michigan State coach Rick Comley. "The BU team last night was tough, this team was very tough."

But with 2:23 left in the game, Irish sophomore Garrett Regan drove to the goal and ran over Lerg, scoring into the vacant net in the process.

The goal was immediately waived off and Regan was sent to the penalty box for goaltender interference.

With the Spartans on the power-play and with time winding down, the Irishs last minute efforts came up short, as their season as well as first-ever NCAA tournament regional final trip came to an end.

"State is a little more experienced then we are in these types of environments," said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson.

"To me this game involved the wrong two things, first of all was face-offs which I knew was going to be a concern coming in. Puck possessions of the face-offs, we are a pretty good face-off team, but one team we trouble with this season was Michigan State."

The officials had waived off an MSU goal just a period earlier, as Jim McKenzie appeared to score his twelfth goal of the season. After going upstairs, the officials ruled that sophomore Justin Abdelkader was in the crease, therefore disallowing the goal.

But the Spartans didnt go away after that point, as Chris Mueller put in a back-door rebound on the power-play at 6:04 of the second period to open the scoring in a tight defensive game.

"As we've done all year, were a resilient hockey team, said Comley. We have a tendency to get ahead and give up leads; you never know whats going to happen. It came right down to the wire, so obviously were thrilled to be going to St. Louis."

The Spartans held the Irish to only 11 shots through two periods of play, including three shots in the second period in which the Irish had three power-play opportunities. From the start of the second period to the 10:00 mark of the third, the Irish had put just four shots on Jeff Lerg.

But Lerg was also tested at times in the game, especially early in the first period. Shedding off an MSU defender, Irish freshman Kevin Deeth found himself all alone in front of Lerg.

Deeth waited and hesitated as he got Lerg to go down. But as Deeth saw an entire right open side of the net, his shot along the ice was stopped by a sprawling Lerg, who managed to get an arm down.

The early save gave the Spartans new life and was one of the factors that made Lerg the Most Valuable Player of the Midwest Regional.

"When I'm on my game, I can be as good as anyone in the country," said Lerg. "If I play my game and keep things simple, I know if I make all the saves Im supposed to plus two or three big ones, well get the win. I felt confident."

Michigan State now travels to St. Louis to face Maine (23-14-2) in the national semifinal game on April 5.

The contest is a rematch of last years regional final game where Maine went to the Frozen Four after crushing the Spartans 5-4.

Michigan State is the first CCHA team to play in the Frozen Four since 2003 when Michigan made an appearance.


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