by Theresa Spisak/CHN Staff Writer
ST. LOUIS Often times, a little hard work in practice will pay off in a game with big dividends. For the Michigan State Spartans' Jeff Lerg, facing a lot of post-practice two-on-one's and back-door plays ended up aiding him in making the momentum-changing save in their 3-1 victory over the Boston College Eagles.
"I practice them every day pretty much, getting across the crease as fast as I can and I always tell myself, 'Make a TSN turning-point save' — that's what they call them in the locker room — so I was actually pretty fired up when I made it," said Lerg.
"We're shorthanded, Joe Rooney makes a terrific pass to Brian Boyle and Lerg just kind of stabbed with his glove and that would have put us up 2-0. I thought that was a really key part of the game," said Eagles coach Jerry York.
Captain's Last Hurrah?
Those in attendance at the Scottrade Center may have witnessed the last hockey game ever for Spartan captain Chris Lawrence. It is assumed that he thinks he will never play at such a high level anymore and his comments after the title game seem to back up the story.
"It's kind of embarrassing to say this, but I was in tears before the game because I knew it was my last game. I was sitting in the locker room, I don't know why but I sat down when I got to the rink and I just started bawling, cause you never know — certainly you come to a game and you don't know for sure it's going to be your last game," he said.
"I knew tonight no matter what it was probably my last game of hockey and it just, it all hit me right when I walked into the room to get changed and guys were just ripping on me like, 'What are you doing?'
"I don't know, it's just, 20 years of your life you're doing one thing and then take it away, it's gone right now, but what a way to go out."
For the second straight year, the Eagles came up short in their bid for the National Championship. Last year, BC fell 2-1 to Wisconsin, almost taking the game to overtime by hitting a post with 1.8 seconds remaining.
This year, the Eagles held the lead until midway through the third period and lost it with 19 seconds remaining — a loss that was a bitter pill to swallow, especially considering the team hadn't lost since the Beanpot final on Feb. 12, stringing up 13 straight wins.
"Going through it, it felt different this year, throughout the course of the week, it was just a different atmosphere. We were pretty confident — I don't think we were too cocky or anything like that, we were just confident in our ability to play. If we stuck to that, good things would happen and that's not always the case," said senior defenseman Brian Boyle. "The end is just as devastating as last year."
On Second Thought, Forget That
After Chris Mueller's empty-net goal with 1.7 seconds remaining in the game, the Spartans flooded the ice in celebration, strewing sticks, gloves and helmets in their wake. While there technically should have been a center-ice face off after the goal, BC coach Jerry York told the refs to just let the clock run down without having to clean the ice back up to drop the puck.
"There was no sense — just let them go. They had already, gloves and sticks were on the ice, no sense in putting it all back," he said. "I thought it was the correct call."
Ending the Droughts
With the win, the Spartans ended not only their 21-year championship drought, but also a nine-year drought for the CCHA; the last nine championships have been split between the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and Hockey East.
"During the week here, we did 21 push-ups before every day in practice because it's been 21 years since the last title so it kind of set the mental state for our team there," said Lerg. "It's been a great feeling for our team to be able to put it all together."
"We've all been frustrated with [the CCHA drought]," said Spartan coach Rick Comley. "I think as a conference, when you work as hard as our conference office does, to be successful and to do it the right way and then to have a team win it, I think everybody's got a feeling of satisfaction about that.
"This is a win for Michigan State, but it's also a win for the CCHA."
Only in College Hockey ...
One thing unique at the Frozen Four is the amount of jerseys represented from other college hockey schools. You may see basketball fans from other schools at the Final Four, but the sheer number of teams represented in hockey is unlike any other.
D-I jerseys spotted (in alphabetical order): Air Force, Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska-Fairbanks, American International, Army, Bemidji, Bentley, Boston College, Boston University, Bowling Green, Canisius, Clarkson, Colorado College, Connecticut, Cornell, Denver, Harvard, Lake State, Maine, Massachusetts, Massachusetts-Lowell, Mercyhurst, Merrimack, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Northeastern, Northern Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Princeton, Providence, Quinnipiac, Rensselaer, RIT, St. Cloud, Union, Vermont, Wisconsin (46 out of 59 teams — about 78 percent represented).
Other teams represented (either club or defunct) (in alphabetical order): Arizona, Florida Atlantic University, Missouri, Oswego State, Syracuse, Wyoming.
To see some of these jerseys, view our pictorial.
F Justin Abdelkader, MSU
F Tim Kennedy, MSU
F Nathan Gerbe, BC
D Tyler Howells, MSU
D Brian Boyle, BC
G Jeff Lerg, MSU
Most Outstanding Player: Justin Abdelkader, MSU
Justin Abdelkader's game-winning goal with 19 seconds left was the latest regulation game-winning goal in NCAA finals history. ... Rick Comley becomes the third coach to win two national championships with different teams (Northern Michigan), joining Ned Harkness and his foe Saturday, Jerry York. ... The paid attendance of 19,432 was the highest ever for any Frozen Four game.