EAST LANSING - Michigan State bounced back Saturday afternoon from a disappointing overtime loss the night before with a 4-2 victory over Nebraska-Omaha.
"It was tough loss, obviously, and then tonight was critical," Spartan coach Rick Comley said. "I thought this was kind of a make or break game for us."
The win keeps the Spartans firmly in third place in the CCHA standings with 31 points, trailing Michigan and conference leader Miami (34 points) with eight games remaining.
Michigan State was led once again by the Lerg family. Junior goaltender Jeff Lerg bounced back from a disappointing performance Friday — when he allowed 5 goals — by stopping 37 of 39 Maverick shots, including a penalty shot with a minute left in the third period.
Forward Bryan Lerg, Jeff's cousin, tallied a pair of goals and an assist. The two goals give the Spartan captain a team-high 15 for the season.
The Spartans jumped out to an early 1-0 lead just over a minute into the game when Bryan Lerg dug the puck out of the right corner and snuck a wrap-around past Maverick goalie Jerad Kaufmann.
Nebraska-Omaha responded quickly, unleashing a flurry of shots on Jeff Lerg. The Spartan goalie was up to the task, stopping all 15 Maverick first period shots, including an outstanding stop on forward Thomas Klempa who came streaking in on a shorthanded breakaway.
The Spartans had their own shorthanded opportunity before the period was up. Spartan forward Chris Mueller broke into the Mavericks zone all alone and let a wrist shot go that Kaufmann turned away, keeping the score 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Michigan State jumped all over the Mavericks in the second period, scoring three times in the first five minutes to give the Green and White a commanding 4-0 lead.
Freshman forward Andrew Rowe stepped his game up against the Mavericks. He has been in and out of the Spartan lineup all year, but had three points tonight and meshed well on the second line with Tim Crowder and Bryan Lerg.
"(Rowe's) fast — he gets in there quick and he also plays the body. I think he played an excellent game," said Bryan Lerg. "I give him a lot of credit for how hard he played tonight. Obviously me, him, and Crowder clicked pretty well."
UNO eventually solved Jeff Lerg, scoring one goal late in the second period and adding another in the third. But they could not get any closer, despite outshooting the Spartans 39-26 for the game and 19-11 in the finial period.
The Spartans will return to action next weekend in Marquette for a pair of games against a young but gritty Northern Michigan team.
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