DETROIT — A pair of championships is certainly better than just one.
With the help of Jed Ortmeyer’s two goals, Mike Cammalleri’s two helpers, and Josh Blackburn’s 21 saves, Michigan captured the 2001-02 CCHA Championship Tournament crown, beating Michigan State 3-2 in Joe Louis Arena.
The win gives the Wolverines an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and the regular-season and tournament CCHA titles for the first time since 1996-97.
“We knew it would be a tough game,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “Michigan State played a great game. We knew we couldn’t get behind them in the game. I think our team did a good job of getting a lead, then getting a lead again.
“I thought our team, considering everything we’ve been through, held up well, and did all the little things they had to do. I can’t tell you that it was any special strategy, but it was a lot of character and hard work, leadership, patience, and poise — all the things you need from a winning team.”
Mark Mink gave Michigan its first lead at 3:43, when Milan Gajic’s rebound went from MSU goaltender Ryan Miller right to Mink’s stick.
Mink’s goal marked the first time that the Wolverines had scored first on the Spartans in eight games. “It’s important to get the first goal against them,” said Ortmeyer. “They concentrate on playing D, and if they get a lead right away it’s tough for us because they like to trap. It was a big boost for us to get the first goal.”
The Spartans tied it up just over three minutes later on the power play, with Ash Goldie picking up Brad Fast’s rebound. After a tussle for the puck in front of the crease, the loose puck squirted to Fast at the right point. Blackburn saved Fast’s initial shot, but gave up a big, soft rebound. Wolverine defender Andy Burnes made a dive to clear the puck, but Goldie skated in and lifted the puck up over Burnes, hitting top shelf.
The first period ended 1-1.
The Wolverines took their second lead of the night at 6:55 in second. After winning a faceoff in the right MSU circle, Ortmeyer passed back to Cammalleri. Cammalleri returned the puck to Ortmeyer at the top of the slot. When Miller made the save on Ortmeyer’s first shot, the Michigan forward swooped in to score on his own rebound, popping it by Miller clean on the right.
The Spartans tied it again at 18:56, on a goal credited to Steve Clark, who had a lot of help from Michigan’s Mike Roemensky. From the right Michigan corner, Clark attempted to center a pass in front of the Wolverine net. He succeeded, but found an unlikely target; the puck hit Roemensky’s blade and deflected into the Michigan net.
It was 2-2 after two.
Ortmeyer’s game-winner came at 4:39 in the third, when Adam Hall was serving two minutes for high sticking. Eric Nystrom sent a cross-crease pass to Ortmeyer, waiting to the left of the MSU cage. Miller went down, and Ortmeyer went up, and 3-2 was the final score.
Ortmeyer said that the third-period goal gave the Wolverines “a lift.”
“We were excited in between periods [two and three], and we wanted to have a good start. Nystrom made a great past, and I just lifted it up over Miller’s pads.”
“I thought it was a great game,” said Ron Mason, Michigan State head coach. “Between you and I, neither one of us will see a better team than we saw tonight.
“People talk about how young Michigan is, but we have freshmen in the lineup playing tonight, too. Both teams are very even in that regard. I think we did as good a job as they did this year, and we have a better overall record.”
Miller stopped 24 shots, and each team netted a power-play goal. Michigan had four man-advantages to Michigan State’s three.
Miller said that he and the Spartans weren’t dwelling on the loss. “I’m not happy, but I’m over it. We’re going to the NCAA [tournament].
“Unfortunately we lost tonight. That wasn’t part of our plan, but plans change. We’re just going to take a different route to the NCAA title.”