by Tim Rosenthal/Staff Writer
Head Coach: Rick Comley
2006-2007 record: 26-13-3 (15-10-3 CCHA); National Champions
Key Returnees: Bryan Lerg F SR., Bryan Lerg F SR., Jeff Lerg G JR., Tim Kennedy F JR., Mike Ratchuk D SO.
Key Losses: Ethan Graham, Tyler Howells, Chris Lawrence, Jim McKenzie (early departure)
"It was a year where we didn't know what to expect," said head coach Rick Comley about the 2007 National Champions.
After losing the likes of Drew Miller, David Booth and Colton Fretter, all of whom had 10-plus goals in 2005-06, the number one concern was who was going to replace them? How about four players with 15-plus goals including Tim Kennedy and Justin Abdelkader the heroes of the National Championship game against Boston College.
The season started off slow in October and November as the Spartans had a record of 6-6-1. This included a three-game losing streak to the hands of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin in the end of November where the Spartans were outscored 9-5.
The next two months, much better. The Spartans only lost two games in December and January. During this span, Michigan State won the Great Lakes Invitational.
However, the end of the regular season saw the team struggle again as MSU lost four out of its last five games including losses to Ferris State, Western Michigan, and Bowling Green. Going into the CCHA tournament, the Spartans came in as the fourth seed. The Spartans went 3-1 in the tournament helping them get away from the bubble and moving up in the Pairwise.
"We struggled in the first half," said Comley. "We had a real good second half and then exploded in the NCAA tournament."
The big key to Michigan States Title Run was the play of Jeff Lerg in net and the defense surrounding him.
"You can put any adjective you want to describe Lerg," Comley said about his 5-foot-6 goaltender. "He proves that size doesn't matter. He is always prepared and I think he is one of the best goaltenders in the country."
Jeff Lerg took over his freshman year for struggling Dominic Vicari and almost took them to the Frozen Four in 2005-06.
As far as the defense goes, Comley said, "We have an overall team defense. A lot of players take responsibility, and the forwards compliment the defensemen. It is a group of kids who believe in one another."
In 2007-08 the Spartans only lose five seniors from the National Championship squad, although power forward Jim McKenzie did recently sign a pro contract, giving up his final year of eligibility. The groups of players coming in to replace them (incoming freshmen) are very talented.
"We have a very good class," said Comley. The legendary head coach also points out that they are not usually rated very high, but the key to recruiting is to fill holes and Comley seems like he has done so.
With such players such as Jeff Petry (second round pick of the Edmonton Oilers) and Andrew Rowe leading the way of recruits, the class of 2011 will look to compliment the group of 17 upperclassmen (7 seniors and 10 juniors).
In 2007-08 the Spartans will defend their National Championship against such opponents as North Dakota and their rival Michigan.
"With four good teams in the conference (Miami, Michigan and Notre Dame), 2007-2008 will be very competitive." Comley also said "This is a team that can compete nationally."