DETROIT — Even though the Michigan Wolverines beat the Michigan State Spartans 6-2 in the home of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings tonight, UM head coach Red Berenson thought his squad was as cohesive as pond hockey — at times.
“We played a lot of sloppy, shinny hockey tonight at times, and they made us,” said Berenson. “Give Michigan State credit. They forced turnovers, they got two-on-ones, three-on-twos. They got two breakaways tonight behind our D and they only scored on one. It could have been a different game.”
The Wolverines scored six even-strength goals, two from Louie Caporusso, and Bryan Hogan had 22 saves. For the Spartans, Tim Buttery netted his first career goal on that breakaway Berenson mentioned and Jeff Lerg stopped 30 in what has become very familiar territory recently in this series; this was UM’s fourth win over MSU this season. The Wolverines have outscored the Spartans 22-7 in those contests, all played since Dec. 6.
“We don’t score well. We don’t score easy,” said Michigan State head coach Rick Comley. “We have guys playing, probably, that you don’t want out there to be honest with you, but there’s nothing you can do about it. We’ve just got to fight the battle and keep putting people out there and hope some of these young kids get better and give us a chance. There’s nothing we can do –just keep plugging.”
The Wolverines led 1-0 after one on Matt Rust’s fourth goal of the season at 5:50. The goal — a tip-in of Aaron Palushaj’s shot from the top of the left circle with the Wolverines buzzing Lerg — equaled Michigan’s entire offensive output in their split series with Bowling Green last weekend and was crucial for the Wolverines’ success, according to Palushaj.
“Lerg is the type of goalie where you’ve got to get a lot of shots if you want to win and we did that today,” said Palushaj. “Rust’s first goal was a huge one and it set the tone. You don’t want a goalie of that caliber playing off a shutout and playing that psyched up. It was good that he [Rust] got in front and got that tipped goal to begin with.”
The Spartans were sharper at the start of the second, leading to the turnover that resulted in Buttery’s goal a minute in, but the Wolverines answered with two more goals to make it 3-1 at then end of two. UM had a little puck luck to help them overcome the momentum of Buttery’s early goal when the puck trickled in between Hogan’s legs and came to a full stop against the right post. Spartan Dustin Gazley made a dive across the crease for it but couldn’t get to it before Tristin Llewellyn cleared for the Wolverines.
Moments later at 3:22, Danny Fardig scored at the other end, picking up Anthony Ciraulo’s rebound, and at 5:53, Carl Hagelin scored on the fly to make it 3-1.
Caporusso netted his first of the night and 19th of the season 1:43 into the third when his cross-crease pass to David Wohlberg hit the skate of Spartan Brandon Gentile and ricocheted past Lerg.
Gazley did find the net at 13:39 for MSU’s second goal — a nice deke on Hogan off a turnover forced by Kurt Kivisto — but Wohlberg scored 29 seconds later, again negating any Spartan momentum. Capurosso’s second goal at 16:49 capped the night for the Wolverines.
Neither team scored on the power play, with the Wolverines missing on three chances, the Spartans 0-for-6.
“I don’t think we played that good of a game,” said Caporusso. “We weren’t playing positionally well. We were playing a little bit shinny and luckily it worked out for us. We were able to put in the goals, but then again, probably tomorrow’s going to be a different story.”
Even with their dominance of the Spartans this season, Berenson said that the Wolverines won’t be overlooking the Spartans in Saturday’s rematch.
“I think we have to play better — our PK, our PP, our forecheck, our neutral zone,” said Berenson.
“I liked the third period. I thought we played better in the third, we put our chances in. When you’re in a close game like that, even though they scored a goal we came right back with another one.
“They split the last three weeks with their opponents . . . so this weekend is not over.”
Michigan (17-8-0, 11-6-0-0) and Michigan Spartan (7-15-3, 4-11-2-2 CCHA) meet Saturday at 7:35 p.m. in Yost Arena for their final regular-season game of 2008-09.