ANN ARBOR, Mich. — 09Anyone familiar with Michigan coach Red Berenson knows that he’s fond of saying after a win that there wasn’t much difference between the two teams playing. In the Wolverines’ 3-2 home win over Michigan State, there was a difference of one goal, 14 shots on net, and little else — except for the two mistakes the Spartans made that led directly to Michigan goals.
“We’ve had a lot of things to fix on our team, and I don’t know that they’re fixed just because of one game, but I think they feel better as players about their individual work ethic in our game tonight, and our collective work ethic for an entire 60 minutes — not just for part of a period or half of a game,” said Berenson. “I thought our team put it on the line tonight for 60 minutes. The game could’ve gone either way, but I like the momentum we got in the second period, and then we finally got the goals we needed in the third.”
Cristoval “Boo” Nieves had two goals for the Wolverines, one in the first period from an MSU turnover in the Spartans’ offensive zone and the game-winning, net-crashing goal in the third. Nieves, a freshman, had four goals coming into tonight’s game.
“Well, good for him,” said Berenson. “He’s been a dangerous player — one of our most dangerous players — nearly every game, especially in the second half. It’s nice to see him get rewarded. He’s had some shots that missed the net. Tonight, they went in. He had a strong game. When you score a goal, you get a lot more confidence from it, and he just got better as the game went on.”
The Spartans led, 1-0, after the first on Brent Darnell’s goal at 4:53. Darnell came up with the puck after struggling for it in the right corner, then turned and shot from near the goal line, beating Michigan goaltender Jared Rutledge high.
Derek DeBlois tied it up for the Wolverines at 7:20 in the second on the first of Michigan’s goals that resulted from a turnover. A bad giveaway in the Spartans’ own zone came to Phil Di Giuseppe, who passed to Nieves in the slot. Nieves fed DeBlois near the right circle, and DeBlois fired to beat Jake Hildebrand clean.
All of the scoring done in the third period was done flurry style, and was over before the period was five minutes old. Nieves scored at 1:57 on a power play after the Spartans’ attempt to clear the puck hit MSU’s Anthony Hayes in the back at the top of the right circle. The puck came to Lee Moffie, who passed to Di Giuseppe, who passed to Nieves, who shot and scored to give Michigan a brief 2-1 lead.
At 2:42, Jake Chelios threaded traffic in front of the Michigan net to get off a backhanded shot that beat Rutledge low, making it a 2-2 game, but Nieves scored again at 4:51 — a beautiful shot assisted by Di Giuseppe as they were both crashing the net — and that was that.
“Their first goal was easy,” said MSU coach Tom Anastos. “We move the puck out and we bobble the puck and it ends up in our net. Second goal, we’ve got a nice clearing opportunity, we make a bad decision and start racing down the ice, and it hits us in the back and it just seems that’s how things are going.
“When you get those kinds of things … you’ve got to stay together, you’ve just got to stay together, and it can be frustrating, but we’ve got to overcome that.”
Michigan outshot Michigan State, 37-23. Hildebrand had 34 saves in his 12th loss of the season; Rutledge stopped 21 in just his fourth win.
“I thought he played well,” said Berenson of Rutledge. “He won’t like the first goal, but he hasn’t started a game … in a month. I just thought it was time. He showed he wasn’t ready in the first half of the year. He came up with a good game.”
The Wolverines (9-16-2, 6-13-2-2 CCHA) and Spartans (7-17-3, 5-13-1-0 CCHA) play Saturday at 4:05 p.m. in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. It will be the last regular-season meeting between Michigan and Michigan State as members of the CCHA.