For its 50th anniversary in 2004, Sports Illustrated named the fiercest sports rivalry in each of the 50 U.S. states. No one familiar with college hockey was surprised when Michael Farber wrote about the intensity of what happens on the ice when Michigan and Michigan State meet.
Not football. Not basketball. Not croquet. Men’s Division-I ice hockey.
This week, as these fabled foes meet for the second time in an outdoor venue designed for football, it’s easy to overlook the game being played for the event being presented.
Here are 15 things to remember when watching this very real, very contentious first hockey game of the season between the Spartans and the Wolverines.
- These teams last met Mar. 12-13 last season, when the Wolverines swept the Spartans in East Lansing in the second round of the CCHA playoffs, scoring five goals in each contest. David Wohlberg had the game winner in the Friday contest; Chris Brown had the game-winner Saturday. Shawn Hunwick faced just 37 shots in the series.
- The teams met for a total of six times last season, with each winning three games. UM outscored MSU 19-13 for the season.
- In the 2008-09 season, Michigan swept all five of its games against Michigan State.
- According to Michigan, the Wolverines lead the Spartans 136-121-18. According to Michigan State, the Wolverines lead the Spartans 140-122-18. Why the difference? Pure, unadulterated hatred. Just kidding. Something about games played in the 1920s, and a question of UM’s varsity status at the time.
- In Ann Arbor, UM leads the series 68-43-4. Of course, none of those games was played in Michigan Stadium.
- UM head coach Red Berenson is 17-14-8 against MSU head coach Rick Comley since Comley went from Northern Michigan to Michigan State in 2002-03. Berenson is 28-19-11 all-time against Comley-coached teams.
- Comley is the fourth all-time winningest coach in college hockey history (774-604-109). Berenson is the sixth all-time winningest coach in college hockey history (708-333-73). Each has won two NCAA titles: Comley with NMU (1991) and MSU (2007) and Berenson with UM (1996, 1998). Additionally, Comley won an NAIA national championship at Lake Superior State (1974).
- The last time the Spartans shut out the Wolverines was Nov. 14, 2009, a 2-0 decision. Chris Forfar had the game-winning goal and Drew Palmisano made 31 saves in the win. Forfar is a sophomore with one assist this season. Palmisano (2.44 GAA, .914 SV%) is a junior with six wins.
- The last time the Wolverines shut out the Spartans was Dec. 5, 2003, a 2-0 decision. Eric Nystrom had the game-winning goal and Alvaro Montoya made 23 saves in the win. Nystrom has a goal and an assist in 26 games with the Minnesota Wild (NHL) this season. Montoya (3.01, .895) is 7-3-0 with the San Antonio Rampage (AHL) this season.
- The teams have met before, of course, in a similar setting, Oct. 6, 2001, in Spartan Stadium, in front of a then-record crowd of 74,554. That game ended in a 3-3 tie. MSU and UM have met 42 times since that contest, through which the Wolverines have an 18-15-9 advantage. Ten of those contests have been one-goal games.
- Junior Brett Perlini (11-5–16) leads the Spartans in scoring this season and is the only MSU player with 10 or more goals. Senior Louie Caporusso (6-10-16) leads the Wolverines in points, while junior David Wohlberg (7-2–9) leads UM in goals.
- Junior Drew Palmisano (2.44 GAA, .914 SV%) sees the majority of time in the MSU net. Seniors Bryan Hogan (2.11, .923) and Shawn Hunwick (2.79, .903) split time in the UM net.
- The Spartans are averaging 2.47 goals per game this season, the 41st-best offense in the country. The Wolverines average 3.22 (20th).
- The Spartans allow on average 2.17 goals per game (26th), the Wolverines 2.50 (15th).
- The Spartans are 31st nationally in combined special teams (49.4%), the Wolverines 23rd (50.9%).
According to UM’s website there are still tickets available for Saturday’s game for $15 each. Call 866-296-6849 if you’re interested.
My thanks to Matt Trevor, the assistant athletic media relations director at UM, who does such a thorough and timely advance job with hockey notes.