In 25 NCAA tournament appearances, Michigan State now improves to 27-28-1, including a 4-2 record under head coach Rick Comley in three trips. Comley has an overall 14-11 record in NCAA tournament games at the Spartans’ helm and at Northern Michigan.
The Spartans will try for their third national championship Saturday; their previous two wins were in 1966, a win over Clarkson, 6-1, and a 6-5 win against Harvard in 1986. This is the first title appearance for Michigan State since 1987. The Spartans are now 7-8-0 in the Frozen Four, including 5-6-0 in the semifinals.
This was the fifth semifinal game for the Spartans against a current Hockey East opponent and the first win over one since 1966. After downing Boston College in 1959 and Boston University in 1966, Michigan State lost its next two: to BU in 1967 and to New Hampshire in 1999.
Michigan State has kept its opponents scoreless on the power play in 13 tries during the NCAAs, including 0-for-2 Thursday.
This is Michigan State’s first appearance in a Frozen Four since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2003. The Spartans made four semifinal appearances when the tournament sported a 12-team bracket: 1989, 1992, 1999 and 2001.
April 5 is the latest date Michigan State has ever played a game. The Spartans are now 2-3 in April games in school history.
Maine’s overall NCAA tournament record is now 30-19. Coach Tim Whitehead’s NCAA record drops to 10-6 with the loss.
Maine’s 11 visits to the Frozen Four ties the Black Bears for eighth all time. But all of those have come since 1988. In that span, Maine is tops, followed by Michigan with nine. Of the other four teams in the Frozen Four, Boston College has eight appearances, North Dakota six, and Michigan State five.
Among coaches, Whitehead has the eighth-longest streak with six consecutive NCAA appearances. Michigan’s Red Berenson leads with 17 straight, while Maine’s Shawn Walsh had seven. Maine has nine in a row overall.
Maine dropped to 6-7-0 on the season when it did not score a power-play goal.
Three Straight — Can They Make It Four?
This is the first time that the Spartans have won three NCAA tournament games in a postseason since 1989, when they downed Maine in the now-defunct third-place game. Michigan State also won three games in 1987, when it lost in the finals to North Dakota. The Spartans could match the feat of four NCAA tournament victories on Saturday with a win; they did so in 1986, winning the title in a 6-5 win over Harvard.
More MSU By The Numbers
Michigan State improves to 18-1 on the season when scoring four or more goals — that only loss was 5-4 on Nov. 24 to Minnesota — and 7-5-1 when allowing two. The Spartans are now 4-5-0 in the campaign when trailing after one period and 6-3-1 when tied after two, while Maine ends the season 2-3-2 when tied starting the third. Maine had not lost this season when leading by two goals. The Spartans had come back from two down once before this season: a 7-4 win over Michigan on Nov. 5, 2006 after trailing 3-1.
The Spartans are 13-0 this season when Chris Mueller scores.
An Exclusive Club
Comley’s Northern Michigan Wildcats won the 1991 championship in an epic 8-7 overtime tilt against Boston University. He can join Jerry York (Bowling Green, Boston College) and Ned Harkness (Rensselaer, Cornell) as just the third coach to lead two teams to national titles.
The game marked Comley’s fourth appearance in the Frozen Four. The previous three were all at the helm of Northern Michigan, a program he founded in 1976. His all-time record improves to 4-3 in the Frozen Four: 3-1 in the semifinals, 1-1 in the title game, and 0-1 in the consolation.
Thursday marked the 14th all-time matchup between the Spartans and the Black Bears. Maine had won the two previous contests, including Maine’s 5-4 win over the Spartans in the 2006 East Regional Final 374 days ago. Michigan State leads the series 9-4-1. Six of those nine wins have come in the NCAA tournament, including four consecutive tournament wins over Maine between 1987 and 1992; this was the first win for the Spartans over the Black Bears since a win in that 1992 regional in Providence.
Michigan State and Maine faced three common opponents this season: Boston University, Western Michigan and Minnesota. The Spartans were 2-4-0 in those games, including a win against BU in the Midwest Regional and Western Michigan in the opening game of the season Oct. 15. Maine was 2-2-1, downing Minnesota and Western Michigan and tying BU on the road after being swept by the Terriers in Orono.
A Game Of Inches
Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg and Maine’s Ben Bishop may have set the record for the largest height disparity between two Frozen Four netminders, if the NCAA even kept such a record. At 6-foot-7, Bishop is 13 inches taller than Lerg.
Home Ice, Sort Of
Two players in Thursday’s game are from the suburbs of St. Louis. Spartan junior defenseman Jeff Dunne hails from Grover, Mo., while Maine’s Bishop is from Des Peres. Bishop was also a third-round pick of the St. Louis Blues — whose home ice is the Scottrade Center — in the 2005 draft.
• Total paid attendance was 18,857, second only to the 19,316 who shelled out to see the 2002 semifinals in St. Paul.
• With a stoppage in play with 2:22 left in the second period, the score was 2-2. Each team had 22 shots on goal.
• Keith Johnson’s goal 23 seconds into the game was the sixth-fastest goal in Frozen Four history; the fastest was scored seven seconds into the game by Michigan Tech’s Al Karlander vs. Cornell in a 1969 semifinal. But Johnson’s marker doesn’t even rank in the top ten fastest in the tournament. Boston College’s David Emma scored after only six seconds on March 25, 1990 in a quarterfinal against Minnesota for the quickest goal to start a game.
“Two weeks of preparation out the window in 15 seconds … So much for coaching, I guess.” — Comley
“I’m just very proud of this group for getting here against the odds and really not giving up on each other. Obviously we’re very disappointed; we thought we could do it all this year.” — Whitehead
“Obviously we could have used a few more power plays. But the refs did a good job. We still had a couple good chances on the power play, and we hit the post and the crossbar. … I don’t mind it when the refs let the game go — it flows more.” — Maine captain Michel Leveille
“We’re not sure what happened. We just looked at each other. Coach started laughing. We just knew we had to regroup and start over.” — Michigan State senior defenseman Chris Snavely on Johnson’s quick goal
“[H]e’s so tidy — that’s a Ron Mason word. … He’s probably always going to answer questions about being 5-foot-6, but we can’t make him — I guess we could put lifts in his skates to eliminate the questions — but he’s really special.” — Comley on Jeff Lerg
“If you were a couple inches taller, it might have gone off the top of your head and in.” — Jeff Lerg, quoting captain Chris Lawrence, after a puck caromed off Lerg’s blocker and landed on top of the net
“It was awesome. I used to watch plenty of games here and to finally get a chance to play in one felt great.” — Bishop, on playing at the hometown Scottrade (and originally Kiel) Center
“Nothing seemed to work for us. We worked so hard to get here, and then we bottomed out.” — Maine senior forward Josh Soares
“I am 100 percent disappointed.” — Maine sophomore defenseman Matt Duffy