KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Chris Mueller had his first two-goal game of the season and Bryan Lerg had a goal and an assist to help lead the Spartans to a 4-2 victory at Western Michigan on Saturday afternoon. MSU improved to 20-8-5 on the season and 16-5-3 in the CCHA.
"It's a relief, really, to come out with two wins," admitted head coach Rick Comley. "They are a dangerous team for us to play, and we've not had much success in this building. They always play well against us."
Bryan Lerg scored the first goal of the game for the Spartans the second straight game, as his power-play tally put MSU on the board 4:38 into the game. Lerg was in the low slot and tipped a blast from the left point past Riley Gill for his 17th goal of the season.
Tim Crowder pushed the Spartan lead to 2-0 just 1:38 into the middle frame. Andrew Rowe carried the puck over the blueline at the left wall, and dumped the puck into the right corner. The puck took a fortuitous bounce out of the corner and right onto the stick of Crowder, who sniped his 12th goal of the season from just below the right dot.
The Broncos had their best chance of the game three minutes into that second period, when the defenseman flipped the puck high out of the defensive zone, and it landed just over the blueline in their offensive zone and onto the stick of Jeff LoVecchio. On the break, LoVecchio attempted low, stick-side on Jeff Lerg, but the goalie made the right pad save and directed the puck to the corner.
Mueller's power-play goal at 7:47 of the period pushed MSU's lead to 3-0. Abdelkader had the puck on the right side, and threaded a cross-slot pass across the top of the crease, looking for Tim Kennedy in front. Kennedy got a stick on it, but could not gain control - but the puck squirted out to the left side where Mueller was stationed at the post, and popped his second extra-man tally in as many nights.
The Broncos gained a 5-on-3 advantage at 8:30, with Vukovic and Abdelkader sent to the box 29 seconds apart. Just 14 seconds into the two-man advantage, Nathan Ansell's blast from the left point found its way through a screen and beat Jeff Lerg stick-side.
Both teams had good chances in the final three minutes of the period, but MSU's 3-1 lead took them into the final intermission. Tim Kennedy rang the post with three minutes remaining, and it was Spartan goalie Jeff Lerg who kept the two-goal lead when he made a pad save on Max Campbell on a 3- on-1 in the waning seconds of the frame.
MSU's lead shrunk to 3-2 less than a minute into the final frame. Just off the expiration of a power play, the Broncos had the puck deep in the zone, and Jeff Lerg made a pad save on LoVecchio. Stuck under a pile of players, Lerg had no chance on the ensuing Patrick Galivan shot from the top of the left circle that brought the home team within a goal.
Mueller iced the victory with exactly one minute remaining in the game, as the Broncos pulled Gill in favor of an extra skater.
The Spartans return home for a game next Friday, when they host the top-ranked Wolverines in an 8 p.m. game that will be televised on CSTV. The teams will face off on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.