EAST LANSING, Mich. – The atmosphere at Munn Ice Arena was like any title fight in the final rounds. Northern Michigan University and Michigan State University were meeting for the seventh time on Sunday for the 2007-08 season. The six games were split down the middle at 3-3-0. NMU landed the first blow of the game with a goal in the first period then after the Spartans tied the game in the second period the ‘Cats came back and held the lead again after 40 minutes of play.
MSU tied the game in the third. Matt Butcher was the hero for the ‘Cats as he scored the game-winning goal at 11:04 of the overtime period. With the win, 3-2, NMU will advance to Joe Louis Arena and the CCHA Championships next weekend (March 20-21).
NMU improves to 19-19-4 on the season while MSU is now 24-11-5. “I gave our guys a ton of credit tonight they scored a late goal,” said Walt Kyle. “A young team has an ability to fold and to the credit of our leadership we were able to get together with our selves.”
It took a senior to get things rolling for the Wildcats. Andrew Sarauer gave the ‘Cats the 1-0 lead with his third goal of the season at 17:51 of the first period. Tim Hartung and Ray Kaunisto assisted on the goal. Shots on goal for the first 20 minutes of played favored the Spartans 11-9.
MSU tied the game a little under four minutes into the second period on a goal by Bryan Lerg (3:48). Phil Fox answered for the ‘Cats at 14:45 for his 13th of the season to put NMU in the lead once again at 2-1. Butcher and Blake Cosgrove assisted. Once again the Spartans had the edge on shots in the period at 14-9. The NMU penalty kill unit in the period held off the Spartans power play when MSU had a five-on-three advantage.
Twenty minutes separated the ‘Cats from a trip to Joe Louis Arena and the CCHA Championships. NMU controlled the period until Nick Sucharski tied the game for MSU at 17:02. MSU outshot the ‘Cats 12-10. The Spartans had two power play opportunities and failed to score. Regulation ended at two-all.
Butcher’s power-play goal at 11:04 of the overtime period gave the ‘Cats the win (3-2). The goal was Butcher’s seventh of the season. “The puck got chipped out and Gregor (Hanson) made a great play,” said Butcher. “I just closed my eyes and shot.” Gregor Hanson picked up his 11th assist on the season. The power-play goal was the ‘Cats lone power-play goal in the series. NMU had a 9-6 shot advantage in the overtime period.
MSU had a 43-37 shot count for the game. Brian Stewart backstopped 41 shots in the win. “I am just so excited to go to The Joe,” said Stewart. Jeff Lerg had 34 saves in the loss. NMU was 1-4 on the power play while MSU was 0-6.
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Sports Information Director