ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan finally got the second period it had been seeking.
After following good first-period efforts with lackluster second-period performances more than once this season, a four-goal outburst in the second frame enabled the Wolverines to skate to a 6-2 win over against in-state rival Michigan State Saturday night at Yost Arena.
“I think our team knew that we did not play well (last night),” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We didn’t play at the level that we needed to play, especially in the second period. The good thing is that they got a chance to come back and redeem themselves.
“I thought from our goalie out, everyone played a better game than we played last night,” continued Berenson. “We competed harder. We played more physical, played with more emotion. We just played more like a team. We had a good start last night, but we dropped the ball.”
Senior T.J. Hensick and junior Kevin Porter combined on three of the six Wolverine goals to lead Michigan’s revenge for an embarrassing 7-4 Friday night loss to the Spartans.
“He’s as good a passer as there is in college hockey,” said Berenson of Hensick. “If you’re open, he’ll find a way to get the puck to you. He has the vision, too. He can see the plays.”
Porter echoed his coach’s sentiments on Hensick. “They weren’t that great,” Porter jokingly said of his linemate’s passes. “No, he sets me up all the time. They were two unbelievable passes. There was one in the slot, too, right on the tape, pretty much empty-netters.”
“Only 13 seconds in, we have a couple of experienced players turn the puck over and it’s right back in our net,” said Spartan coach Rick Comley of the loss. “We came back at 3-2, but then made a couple of rookie mistakes again, and it’s all over.”
For the second straight night, Michigan got on the scoreboard first.
Only 17 seconds after the opening faceoff, Kevin Porter and Hensick skated in two-on-one on Michigan State netminder Jeff Lerg. Hensick took Porter’s cross-ice pass and buried it past a helpless Lerg.
After the Spartans killed a 1:41 Michigan five on three advantage mid-period, sophomore forward Tim Kennedy knotted the game, 1-1, at 17:49. Kennedy picked up a loose puck behind the Michigan net and deposited it by Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer who was waiting for the puck to come out from behind the opposite side of the net.
The Wolverines jumped right back on top, though, less than a minute later with Porter and Hensick connecting again.
Hensick’s pass from behind the Spartan net found Porter alone in the slot and he drove it by Lerg to put the Wolverines ahead, 2-1 at the first intermission.
Sophomore Tim Miller opened the decisive second period for Michigan with a shorthanded effort, his first of the season, at 5:42 to give the Wolverines a two-goal gap at that point, 3-1. The Wolverine forward stole the puck at his own blue line and skated in alone, slipping a backhand by Lerg.
After junior Tim Kennedy pulled the Spartans back within one goal with a five on three advantage power play score, Michigan center Andrew Cogliano converted a breakaway goal of his own, streaking in on Lerg’s right, shifting the puck onto his forehand and burying it behind the Spartan netminder at 12:11.
Hensick set up two more goals with crisp passes to extend the Michigan lead to 6-2 at the end of the second period.
At 14:55, Hensick rifled a pass from the left point to Porter at the top of the right circle. Porter one-timed a bullet past Lerg for his seventh goal of the season.
Hensick was the catalyst again on the night’s final goal less than two minutes later. The Wolverine senior chased the puck deep into the corner to Lerg’s left and found defenseman Jack Johnson alone in the slot. Johnson snapped it by Lerg for his fifth marker of the season to finish the scoring.
Johnson’s presence in his return after a one-game suspension didn’t go unnoticed by either team.
“I think Johnson makes them all better, plain and simple,” Comley said. “The same guys were there last night, minus him. He’s difficult to control — he’s up ice all night.”
“His presence alone is huge for this team,” agreed Hensick.
Sauer turned away 34 shots for Michigan, 12 coming in the crucial second period.
The Spartans (4-2-0, 2-2-0 CCHA) jump right back into action on Tuesday night by hosting Ferris State at Munn Arena. Nebraska-Omaha is next up on the docket for Michigan (5-3-0, 2-2-0 CCHA) when the Mavericks invade Yost next weekend for a two-game conference set.