EAST LANSING, Mich — No. 5 Michigan State used five consecutive goals to beat No. 9 Michigan, 7-4, extending the Spartans’ unbeaten streak against their bitter rival to a remarkable nine games (4-0-5).
After a disappointing first period in which it seemed like the Wolverines pounced on every miscue, MSU charged back with its best period in years.
I can’t tell you we outplayed them that bad in the first period but we made our chances count,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “The first intermission was a chance for MSU to regroup and maybe a chance for our team to think that they were having a great game It’s very disappointing. It’s embarrassing to come in here and play like that after you get off to such a good start.”
Atoning for one of the turnovers that led to Michigan’s early lead, Tyler Howells got the Spartans started with a terrific slap pass to Chris Mueller on the left post for a slam-dunk power play goal.
“We played the whole period in our zone. They had a couple power plays to get them going and after that we didn’t do anything to change the momentum,” said Berenson.
MSU did its best, however, to keep a stranglehold on the momentum with goals from Matt Schepke, Jim McKenzie, and Justin Abdelkader.
“I thought they looked a little tired in the second period, they seemed to run out of gas in the second period and we just built on it and built on it,” said Comley.
This was not the first game of the young season where the Wolverines have really faltered in the second period.
“Four goals in one period is inexcusable. It’s embarrassing,” said assistant captain T.J. Hensick. Something we talked about this week is coming out in the second period and playing up to our ability. Second period is our weakest period, and it’s something as a team that we need to figure out fast.
The Wolverines surrendered five consecutive goals beginning in the middle frame to Connecticut yes Connecticut while squeaking out a 7-5 victory on October 14, 2006. Again, in a 4-1 loss to No. 4 Miami on October 20, 2006, Michigan gave up three in the second and four unanswered.
For the first time in years, the Spartans may have a slight edge in depth and team speed.
“For a couple of years we were chasing (Michigan). I don’t think we’re chasing any more. These are two teams that you put them on the same table and let them play,” Comley said.
“We’re trying to play high speed hockey on both ends of the ice. We’re putting people in roles that they haven’t been in before. That’s’ the style of hockey that we are trying to play and we’re recruiting the players that can play that way.”
Comley recognized, however, that his Spartans were victorious against a Michigan team minus perhaps its best player.
“Obviously they didn’t have Jack Johnson who is a major player not to have in there… They are a different team without jack Jackson. You don’t take one of the best players in the country out of the lineup without it having a major impact. Tomorrow we’ll see the real Michigan team.”
In the Michigan net, Billy Sauer was not to blame for allowing 6 goals.
“Billy played well but when you give up 6 goals you have to second guess yourself as a goalie and ask if there were any he could have saved. I didn’t think he got the support he needed to have a good game in here. He was making the first save on most shots,” said Berenson.
Neither was Jeff Lerg to blame for allowing four for the Spartans.
Lerg, a Livonia, Mich. Native, may be blamed for being too friendly with the enemy, however, as two of his best friends victimized him for three goals.
The normally stalwart keeper has spent most of his life, especially his off seasons, playing with Brandon Naurato (Livonia, Mich.) and Kevin Porter (Northville, Mich.). Naurato paced the Maize and Blue with two goals while Porter beat Lerg on a breakaway, accounting for the early 3-1 Michigan lead.
David Rohlfs tallied Michigan’s other goal, depositing a loose puck in the slot to make it a 6-4 game in the third.
MSU’s Justin Abdelkader added an empty-netter for the 7-4 final. Abdelkader, a Muskegon, Mich. native and second-round draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings, finished with a pair of goals and an assist for solid night in front of Steve Yzerman, Executive VP of the Wings who visited Munn for the game.
Jack Johnson will re-join his Wolverines tomorrow as they will try to snap the Spartans’ streak. A 7:35 PM faceoff is scheduled at Yost Ice Arena.
Yost’s atmosphere should rival tonight’s crowd at Munn Arena, which was the fourth-largest in 32 years.
“That was the biggest crowd since I’ve been here and that was tremendous. It’s such a great advantage to have the buzz and the excitement in the building,” said Comley.