ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Red Berenson walked into his post-game Yost Arena press conference Friday night, sat a puck on the table in front of him and leaned forward with a satisfied smile.
His Michigan Wolverines had just rewarded him with a 5-2 victory over Northern Michigan, a win that gave Berenson his 600th career coaching victory. All 600 wins came at Michigan, his alma mater, in a span of 23 seasons reaching back to 1984.
“T.J. (Hensick) and (Matt) Hunwick gave me that puck as a memento of 600,” said Berenson. “I told them that my favorite win was number 300. If you put numbers on things, it (number 300) was in Cincinnati when we played Colorado College. I don’t know if they have pucks like this in St. Louis (site of this season’s Frozen Four), but it would be nice to have one,” he noted with another small smile.
Berenson, a former Michigan captain and two-time All-American for the Wolverines, sits in eighth place on the list of all-time college coaching wins and, with only five more victories this season, will have put together a string of twenty straight campaigns with twenty or more wins.
“Red deserves all the credit in the world for getting 600,” said Northern Michigan head coach Walt Kyle. “I just wish it wasn’t against us, but it was.”
“We just gave him the puck,” said Hensick. “As a team we’re just happy to be a part of it. You just realize the tradition all the teams that Coach has had in the past. Hopefully, we can continue the legacy that he has created.”
Despite a small shooting edge of 33 shots to 26 over Northern, Michigan capitalized on early scoring chances in both the first two periods to jump to a 4-0 lead and goaltender Billy Sauer made several big saves on Wildcat scoring opportunities to help preserve the victory.
“It was a good game for our team,” said Berenson of the milestone win. “We saw Northern as a dangerous team. They’re a physical team. We got some balanced scoring tonight – a shorthanded goal, a power play goal, a good effort in goal. It’s a good win, but the whole weekend comes down to tomorrow night.”
“They’re a very good team,” commented Kyle on the Wolverines. “We let them get out on us early. They are a team that can convert on opportunities and they did. We struggled converting our opportunities. I thought we were disciplined tonight. We didn’t give them a lot of power plays. We just have to tighten up a little bit (tomorrow).”
Michigan jumped on the Wildcats early in the first period with two goals in the first ten minutes of the period.
Wolverine defenseman Jason Dest’s shot from the right point rebounded off the stick of Wildcat netminder Bill Zaniboni straight out to Brandon Naurato who slapped it by Zaniboni at 4:50.
Freshman Anthony Ciraulo tipped defenseman Steve Kampfer’s shot between Zaniboni’s legs to give Michigan a 2-0 edge at 10:02 for his first career goal.
“Anthony Ciraulo has come in the hard way,” said Berenson of the freshman. He’s had to wait just to get a chance to play. He plays bigger than he is and he has some puck skills.”
The Wolverines broke out even quicker in the second period.
Tim Miller whirled around during a scramble in front of the Wildcat net and picked the puck out of the air, thigh-high, to beat Zaniboni baseball-style at 2:29.
Less than two minutes later with Wolverine Danny Fardig in the penalty box, Michigan defenseman Mark Mitera made a nice clearing play at his own blueline sending Hensick and Kevin Porter on a two on one shorthanded break. Hensick’s pass found Porter waiting to bang it home to grow the Wolverine lead to 4-0.
Northern Michigan’s Mike Santorelli replied quickly for the Wildcats with his team-leading 18th goal, closing out the second period scoring.
Michigan’s Andrew Cogliano and Northern Michigan’s Nick Sirota traded third period goals, but the early damage done by the Wolverines was ultimately too much for the Wildcats to overcome.
Asked if he anticipated seeing victory number 700, Berenson said “that’s a good question. I would say that’s a long way off. It depends on how good our team is. You only play 40 games (a year).”
Both Michigan (15-8-0, 10-5-0 CCHA) and Northern Michigan (8-14-1, 5-11-1 CCHA) return to Yost Arena ice on Saturday night for the re-match of their two-game weekend series.