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MSU wins hockey title before record crowd

ST. LOUIS _ A fourth-place finisher in its conference and a No. 3 seed in a four-team regional, Michigan State completed an improbable climb to the pinnacle of college hockey Saturday night. The Spartans rallied past Boston College, 3-1, and capt...

ST. LOUIS _ A fourth-place finisher in its conference and a No. 3 seed in a four-team regional, Michigan State completed an improbable climb to the pinnacle of college hockey Saturday night. The Spartans rallied past Boston College, 3-1, and captured their first national championship in 21 years.

Michigan State scored the winning goal with 18.9 seconds remaining. Winger Tim Kennedy, whose goal with 10:07 remaining made it 1-1, scrambled after the puck behind Boston College's net and centered to center Justin Abdelkader. He sent a wrist shot past goalie Cory Schneider, igniting a wild celebration on the Michigan State bench.

"Tim made an unbelievable play," said Abdelkader, who was named the tourney's most outstanding player. "I knew I just had to find an open spot in the slot, and he hit me with a perfect pass."

Chris Mueller's empty-net goal ended the scoring.

The capacity turnout of 19,432 at Scottrade Center _ a Frozen Four record _ was treated to a pressure-packed duel that started slowly but turned into an intense confrontation between the speedy Eagles and gritty Spartans.

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"We knew darn well we couldn't play (Boston College's) game," Michigan State coach Rick Comley said. "They forced us to in the first period, but after that we got back to what we needed to do."

Boston College (29-12-1), which fell to Wisconsin 2-1 in last year's title game, was looking to take home the trophy for the first time since 2001 and third time overall. "You try as hard as you can," BC coach Jerry York said, "but there are no guarantees in this business."

Michigan State (26-13-3) had not appeared in the title game since 1987, a year after its last title. The Spartans also won it all in 1966.

Boston College, the No. 2 seed in the Northeast Regional, ousted North Dakota 6-4 in Thursday's semifinals. Michigan State, surprise winner of the Midwest Regional, turned back Maine 4-2.

The Eagles stormed into the championship game on a 13-game winning streak. But Michigan State, which posted several comeback wins along the tournament trail, had one more rally in its tank.

"It's really a great feeling that our team put it all together here," Spartans goalie Jeff Lerg said. "We're really a tight-knit bunch of guys, and we really enjoy being around each other."

After a scoreless first period, Boston College moved in front 6:50 into the second on a power play. Eagles forward Brock Bradford stole the puck near the right circle and fired a quick wrist shot that deflected in off Brian Boyle, his 6-foot-7 teammate.

Boston College took its 1-0 edge into the final 20 minutes, and only an eye-popping save by the 5-foot-6, 155-pound Lerg with just over 15 minutes left kept it that way.

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Boyle steamed in from the left side on a two-on-one and unleashed a low wrister. Lerg slid across and snared the puck with his glove.

"That was really a key part of the game," York said. "Just a terrific save."

Michigan State buzzed Boston College goalie Cory Schneider, and Kennedy finally beat him when he broke in clean off a faceoff. With 10:07 to go, it was 1-1.

The score was the same when Abdelkader clanged a shot off the left goal post with less than 30 seconds to go. But he quickly got another chance when Kennedy dug out the puck and sent it into the slot.

This time, Abdelkader didn't miss.

-- Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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