Two well-matched teams went head to head on Saturday night at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis in the 2007 National Championship game. When it was all said and done, it would be the boys from East Lansing who would emerge victorious in a tight checking and at times, hard-hitting affair.
To get here, Michigan State defeated Maine 4-2 and Boston College once again sent North Dakota home with a 6-4 loss in Thursday’s semi-finals matches.
Both teams came out strong and it didn’t take long before the physical play got started. Michigan State dominated play at the beginning of the game but as the opening period progressed, Boston College would slowly take over.
Early on, Boston College was guilty of some sloppy play in the defensive zone that led to turnovers and some quality chances for the Spartans. Another problem that plagued the Eagles was their inability to make good crisp passes. Often times, the passes were either off the mark or intercepted by the Spartans.
In the latter half of the opening period, Boston College started to take over the territorial advantage, getting quality shots on goals but failing to score on Michigan State sophomore goaltender Jeff Lerg. Both Lerg and Boston College junior Cory Schneider (VAN) looked at bit nervous early on but settled down as the game moved along.
One of the best scoring opportunities early in the game came late in the period. With junior Dan Bertram (CHI) in the penalty box for holding the stick, the Spartans were on the power play. Right off the draw, Boston College sophomore Nathan Gerbe (BUF) comes flying down the right wing boards and cuts inside towards the Spartans net, getting off a great short-handed opportunity that was stopped by Lerg.
Michigan State was very aggressive on the forecheck throughout the game. However, early in the second period, they got into a bit of penalty trouble. With sophomores Justin Abdelkader (DET) and Tim Crowder (PIT) both in the penalty box for the Spartans, the Eagles power play went to work.
At the 6:50 mark, senior Brian Boyle (LA), one of the Eagles best players in the game, got Boston College on the board first with his 19th of the season when sophomore Brock Bradford (BOS) picked up a loose puck and launched a high shot from the left faceoff dot. Boyle then deflected the shot that went off of Lerg’s glove and into net.
At about the midway point of the period, the aggressiveness of Michigan State would begin to work in their favor as Boston College began taking some penalties of their own. The Eagles penalty kill was quite effective throughout the game but it would be only a matter of time before the Spartans would capitalize on the number of penalties that the team (Boston College) was taking.
The beginning of the third period saw the intensity level rise immediately and by the midway point of the period, the nastiness was in full bloom. With Boston College sophomore defenseman Tim Filangieri in the penalty box, Michigan State would once again get an opportunity to get themselves on the board. It didn’t take long before they did. Just six seconds into the power play, sophomore Tim Kennedy (BUF) would get the equalizer on the man-advantage. The play came right off of the draw. Kennedy picked up the loose puck and skated in on a partial breakaway. He wristed a shot that beat Schneider high stick side for the goal.
"After we got the faceoff, it just squirted to me. I kind of cheated on the play," Kennedy said when describing his game-tying goal after the game.
With the score now tied up, both teams stepped up their efforts to tally the all-important next goal. Kennedy’s goal gave new life to the Spartans but the Eagles weren’t about to go away.
One noticeable thing that Boston College was doing, particularly in this period, that may have played a part in the outcome was the fact that they were making far too many passes instead of simply launching shots off in hopes of getting a rebound, deflection or a lucky bounce. And it would prove to be very costly for them.
With regulation time winding down and the score tied 1-1, the Eagles had gained puck possession and was moving into the Spartans zone. With the puck being passed around frequently, Abdelkader sees an opportunity to intercept one of the Eagles passes. He takes the puck and moves the play the other way on a three-on-one opportunity. He takes the initial shot that gets deflected over to the sideboards. From there, Spartans senior defenseman Tyler Howells sends the puck around the boards where Kennedy picks it up from behind the Boston College net. He then finds Abdelkader coming into the slot area and dishes to him. Abdelkader then proceeds to fire a one-timer that beats Schneider for what would become the game-winning goal at the 19:41 mark.
"When we got the chance our defensemen pinched down and Timmy (Kennedy) got the puck. When Timmy gets the puck, then I know that I should be in an area where I’m open because he’s going to find me. He gave me a great pass and I just happened to put it in," said Abdelkader, describing his Championship-winning tally.
The elation on the Michigan State bench and the dejection on the Boston College bench would say it all.
Down 2-1 with just 18 seconds left in regulation time, Boston College pulled Schneider for the extra attacker. At the 19:58 mark, junior Chris Mueller would put the frosting on the cake for Michigan State with an empty netter for his 16th of the season. The jubilant Spartans bench poured onto the ice either not realizing or ignoring the fact that the game had not ended yet.
After the sticks, gloves and helmets that were strewn all over the Spartans zone was picked up, play resumed. The just-under two seconds left was a mere formality for Michigan State.
"It’s a hollow feeling. Not sure what more there is to say," said a clearly disappointed Schneider after the game. "I thought that we had the team here to do it. It just didn’t go our way."
The resilient Spartans team didn’t get many golden opportunities to which they could capitalize on but all they needed was one, and that one gave them their third National Championship and first in 21 years.
"It’s just so surreal right now because it just doesn’t seem like it’s really real and that we had just won it all," said tournament MVP Abdelkader of having just won the National Championship.
"It’s just unreal, it happened so quick. We got that late goal and put it away," said Jeff Lerg during Michigan State’s post-game press conference. "We just knew that we could do it, and we did."
The loss was especially bitter for the graduating seniors of Boston College because they felt that winning the National Championship was attainable with the second and final chance that they had gotten to do it again.
"It’s a special place, Boston College is. I’m really disappointed tonight because it has given me a lot and I had the opportunity to bring home some hardware and a trophy for the team," a somber Boyle said afterwards speaking about his final collegiate game at Boston College.
G Jeff Lerg – Michigan State
D Brian Boyle – Boston College
D Tyler Howells – Michigan State
F Justin Abdelakder (MVP) – Michigan State
F Nathan Gerbe – Boston College
F Tim Kennedy – Michigan State
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.