The Spartans get another shot at a different group of Black Bears this afternoon when they face each other at 4:00pm at the ScottTrade Center in St. Louis (ESPN2)
This game is likely to be decided by which of the two top goaltenders stand tallest and in this case, at least physically, they could be at more opposite ends of the spectrum.
MSU's 5-foot-6 Jeff Lerg has been a might mite for the Spartans. Lerg was phenomenal in the Spartans upset of #2 overall seed Notre Dame. He sports a 2.46 goals against average and if he can continue his hot play, the Black Bears will be hard pressed to solve him.
"We haven't forgotten that (5-4 loss to Maine), and I'm sure they haven't either," Spartans goalie Jeff Lerg told a reporter for the USA Today. "Anytime you have an opportunity for a rematch like that, it's good."
For Maine, Ben Bishop, at 6-foot-7, reminds some of a young Ken Dryden, the former all-time great of the Montreal Canadiens. Bishop, a Hobey Baker candidate, emblematic of collegiate hockey's best player, has a sparkling 2.08 GAA with a .925 save percentage through the tough Hockey East conference and with his combination of size and agilty, he will be an imposing presence in net for Maine.
"You at least want to give your team a chance to win every time you go on the ice," said Bishop. "You've got to prepare like that. It kind of helps that you know you're going to be out there every game and guys are looking at you to come up with the big saves," he said.
A native of St. Louis, Bishop denied feeling any extra pressure to shine back in his hometown playing before family and friends. "It's convenient that it's [here] in St. Louis and I grew up here, but the real reason we're here is to win a national championship. It's not going to bother me," he said.
Lerg and Bishop have known each other since junior hockey and are looking forward to facing off against each other. Despite being a foot shorter than Bishop, Lerg says he doesn't feel he takes a backseat to him on the ice.
"We were good friends out at a Smack 15 Festival and we'd talk a lot on the ice," said Lerg. "I didn't know we'd be playing against each other in the NCAA Tournament year after year. We talk every now and then. He's doing well, keeping that team together. He's a very good goalie and he's shown that throughout the year. It's going to be a real tough battle, but I feel if I can outplay him and do all the little things right, I have confidence in the team [that we'll come out with a win]," Lerg said.
The winner of the MSU (24-13-3)/Maine (23-14-2) contest will face the winner of the opposing bracket between the North Dakota Fighting Sioux (24-13-5) and the Boston College Eagles (28-11-1)
GoSpartans.net's Pavel Kofman is on scene with the team at the Frozen Four in St. Louis and will be sending updates throughout the day from the MSU Pep Rally where President Lou Anna K. Simon, Athletic Director Ron Mason and the MSU delegation are hanging out. Pavel will also be in the Press Box, Post Game Locker Room and Media Area to provide game stories, post-game analysis and behind the scenes material only to GSN subscribers.