East Lansing, Mich. - Michigan State's streak of 20 consecutive overtime games without a loss came to an end on Friday when Nebraska-Omaha's Dan Charleston put the puck past Jeff Lerg at 2:53 of the overtime period to give the visiting Mavericks a 5-4 victory over the Spartans. MSU had gotten a pair of goals in the final 12 minutes of regulation - including an extra-attacker goal from senior captian Bryan Lerg with 1:04 remaining - to battle back from a two-goal deficit.
Charleston's winner came just after he sprung from the penalty box after being whistled for hooking just 38 seconds into the overtime period. The Spartans had two good chances - one from winger Tim Crowder, the other a blast by defender Daniel Vukovic from the top of the right circle - on that power-play chance. Charleston's game-winner came when he picked up the puck off the half-wall, eluded the defender, and put the puck off the hip of a MSU defender at the far post.
Lerg's tying goal in the waning seconds of regulation reinvigorated the crowd of 5,831 on hand to watch tonight's contest. Nick Sucharski had the puck out to the goalie's left behind the goal line, and tried to feed Dustin Gazley in front of the net - Gazley went down in front, but the puck squirted out to Lerg, who tallied his 13th goal of the season.
The loss snaps MSU's 12-game unbeaten streak in CCHA contests, and snaps the nation's longest unbeaten streak (eight games). The Spartans had not lost a conference contest since Nov. 15-16 against Miami.
Jeric Agosta put the Mavericks on the board at 5:11 of the opening frame. Agosta broke down the center of the slot and took a tape-to-tape pass from winger Nick Fanto, and managed to beat Jeff Lerg low, stick-side just inside the left post.
The lead was short-lived, however, as it took 62 seconds for the Spartans to gain an equalizer. Tim Kennedy passed from behind the net to the goaltender's right to Corey Tropp in front. Tropp's shot was saved by Kaufmann, but the rebound was batted past the netminder by Justin Abdelkader for his 12th goal of the season.
The Spartan power play, operating at better than 30 percent in its last five games, added a tally at 11:02 to give MSU its first lead of the night. Michael Ratchuk initiated the play at the right point, and moved the puck low for Abdelkader. The centerman had the puck at the right post, and held it just long enough to pull the goalie to the right side of the crease - he then lofted a soft pass to Tropp, who had a wide-open left side and his sixth goal of the season.
The Mavericks had nearly a full-two-minute man-advantage to open the middle frame, and Mick Lawrence scored just the second power-play goal against the Spartans in their last 36 chances against at the 48-second mark of the period. Lawrence had the puck in the high slot and placed a shot over the glove-hand shoulder of Jeff Lerg for his 16th goal of the season.
Jeff Dunne was whistled for a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind at 15:29, putting MSU on the kill for the balance of the period. The Mavericks put six of their eight power-play shots in the period on net during that major, but the Spartan defense and Jeff Lerg were up to the task and kept UNO off the board, and entered the final frame trailing by a goal.
UNO took a two-goal lead at 4:59. Winger Matt Ambroz took a slapshot from the right circle, and Jeff Lerg made the pad save. The rebound went out to Nick Fanto on the left side, who had a wide-open net into which he deposited his second goal of the season.
Abdelkader's second goal of the night brought MSU to within a goal at 4-3, setting the table for Bryan Lerg's heroics later in the period. Abdelkader's tally came at 8:08, off a pass from Kennedy - he went low, stick-side to beat Kaufmann for his 13th goal of the season.
Kaufmann finished his night as the game's third star, making 34 saves, including 15 in the third period. Jeff Lerg made 28 in his first loss in more than a month.
The two teams face off again on Saturday afternoon in East Lansing in a 4 p.m. start.