Spartans win first NCAA hockey title since 1986

Updated: April 8, 2007, 10:23 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Beating the odds again, Michigan State won its first NCAA hockey championship in 21 years.

Justin Abdelkader snapped a tie with 18.9 seconds to go, seconds after ringing a shot off the post in the Spartans' 3-1 victory over Boston College on Saturday night.

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"We know we're not fancy and we know we're not picked by anybody to win anything," coach Rick Comley said. "But you know what, what a great, great group of kids. They've wanted so badly to walk around with their heads high, and now they're going home with a national championship."

Jeff Lerg made 29 saves, and Chris Mueller added an empty-net goal with 1.2 seconds left to clinch it for the Spartans (26-13-3), a lightly regarded No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional when the tournament began.

Tim Kennedy tied it midway through the third period, and set up the go-ahead goal from behind the net when he spun off his man and passed the puck in front. Abdelkader, the MVP of the finals, beat Cory Schneider for his 15th goal and first in nine games.

"Tim made an unbelievable play," Abdelkader said. "I just had to find a spot open in the slot, and he hit me with a perfect pass. I was at the right place at the right time."

Brian Boyle scored in the second period for Boston College (29-11-2), which had won 13 in a row before the final. The Eagles lost in the championship game for the second straight year. They lost 2-1 to Wisconsin in 2006.

"When we sign up to play sports, there's going to be a winner and a loser," coach Jerry York said. "There's no guarantees in this business, and I think our kids are old enough to understand that."

Comley also won it all with Northern Michigan in 1991. He and York are among three coaches to win championships at two schools.

Boston College's success on the power play was a key to its drive to the final, with a 35.6 success rate and three goals in the semifinals against North Dakota. Michigan State held the Eagles to 1-for-4 with the man advantage and was 17-for-18 on the penalty kill in the tournament.

"Our penalty kill has been outstanding throughout the tournament," said defenseman Chris Lawrence, the team captain. "That's what wins games at this time of the year."

The 5-foot-6 Lerg made his biggest save of the game when he stopped Boyle on a 2-on-1 short-handed break early in the third period, keeping it a one-goal game. He pumped his glove after the stop.

"I was pretty fired up," Lerg said. "We played with a lot of emotion. I don't usually show that much emotion after a save."

Kennedy tied it at 1 midway through the third period on a power play, breaking in alone after a faceoff just outside the zone and beating Schneider to the stick side. Kennedy has 18 goals, five in the last seven games.

Boyle was credited with his 19th goal when Brock Bradford's shot from the top of the left circle deflected off his leg before beating Lerg at 6:50 of the second. Bradford stole the puck when the Spartans' Jim McKenzie stumbled near the boards in his own end.

Michigan State outshot the Eagles 9-3 the rest of the period, getting most of its chances on three consecutive power plays that began at about the 8½-minute mark. Schneider made several nice saves, stopping Tim Crowder alone in front and denying Mueller on two attempts from close range at the end of the third penalty-kill.

"I thought he was very good," York said. "Both goalies were excellent. That's why it was 1-0 entering the third period and 1-1 with 10 minutes left."

Boston College gave up the only shot on its first power play midway through the first period, with Abdelkader getting a decent short-handed shot for the Spartans. Boston College got warmed up after going without a shot the first five minutes of the game, with a 13-6 advantage in the period.

Michigan State was the second No. 3 seed to make it to the championship game since the bracket was expanded to 16 teams in 2003. Boston College made it last year as a No. 3 seed.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press