This Kennedy Haunts Boston
by Dane DeKrey/Staff Writer
ST. LOUIS It's good to be a sophomore.
A night after North Dakota sophomore, Ryan Duncan, was selected as the 2007 Hobey Baker Award recipient, Michigan State stunned Boston College, 3-1, led by its top line of sophomores, Tim Kennedy, Justin Abdelkader and Tim Crowder.
Billed as the "'09 line" by their teammates, in reference to their prospective year of graduation, the three accounted for both Spartans non-empty-net goals, the latter in the waning seconds of the third period.
For Kennedy, who notched the Spartans' first goal and assisted the game winner, the game's outcome was the fitting response to the skepticism many had regarding Michigan State's chances on Saturday night.
"It feels crazy right now," said Kennedy, his voice muffled by the screams of his teammates. "Before the game, people were saying we had like a 30 percent chance of winning, it feels amazing to prove them wrong."
But until Kennedy and company took the game upon their shoulders, the contest was overwhelmingly controlled by Boston College. Keeping Michigan State in the contest, however, was goaltender, Jeff Lerg, yet another sophomore who came up enormous for the Spartans.
Lerg made one season-preserving save after another, as he prevented the game from ballooning beyond a 1-0 deficit going into the third period. It was Lerg's standing-on-his-head, Kennedy said, that allowed the Spartans to claw their way back into the contest.
"He's our best player," Lawrence said. "Not only tonight, but all year, he's the reason why our team won tonight."
Well, maybe Kennedy helped a bit too.
The Muskegon, Mich., native struck first blood for the Spartans halfway through the third, beating Boston College goaltender, Cory Schneider, high stickside after springing for an unusually created breakaway.
Kennedy's linemate, Tim Crowder, said he wasn't surprised in Kennedy's play; for that matter, Crowder was equally unsurprised about the-game winning goal of the line's centerman, Justin Abdelkader.
"I figured I'd let my linemates get all the goals tonight," joked Crowder. "They're such dynamic players who create such good opportunities out there, and tonight they just capitalized on two of them."
The second opportunity Crowder referred to came just as both teams appeared to be gearing themselves for overtime.
A turnover at its own blue line left Michigan State with a three-on-one with a little over 45 ticks left on the clock. Leading the charge was Abdelkader, a Detroit Red Wing draft choice, accompanied on his left by Kennedy. Played relatively soft by a Boston College defender, Abdelkader opted to shoot the puck, looking to beat Schneider upstairs.
The shot hit the post.
Unscathed, Michigan State fittingly displaying the kind of grit and determination that typified its late charge, Kennedy and Abdelkader kept the pressure applied on the Eagle defense; their perseverance paid off.
"The defender played soft on me, so I just cut back and saw Abs in the slot, he had three guys around him so I just put it as close to his stick as I could," Kennedy said. "Somehow it beat Schneider; I don't know how because he played amazing all night, but thank God it beat him."
It seemed on this night luck was with the three sophomores, who led the Spartans to their first national championship in 21 years.
When asked to put into words what the win meant, senior captain, Chris Lawrence, could muster up but one word.
"Surreal ... surreal."