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A day later than he would have liked, Red Berenson got his 500th career victory as Michigan’s head coach.
The Wolverines held off Michigan State 5-4 at Joe Louis Arena in front of 20,058, after having their Senior Night ruined with a 4-0 loss Friday in Ann Arbor.
Even though Michigan State scored four goals each night, coach Rick Comley said his team “needed more weapons” and was tired after Friday. The Spartans ran out of gas in the third period, getting just six shots on goal en route to being outshot 33-24 for the game.
“I’m still lamenting the fact that we didn’t win last night, not because of number 500, but because these are big games,” Berenson said after the victory.
The loss Friday night all but eliminated Michigan from a chance at the CCHA regular-season title. In order for Michigan to salvage a tie for first place, 11th-place Bowling Green must sweep first-place Ferris State and Michigan needs to sweep Ohio State in Columbus next weekend.
But a second-place finish and a bye in the CCHA Tournament are still at stake for the Wolverines. A bye “is very important,” senior captain Jed Ortmeyer said. “It is one less game and less wear on your body.”
Currently, Michigan (37 points) leads third-place Ohio State by three points in the standings and fourth-place Michigan State by six points.
The Spartans started the game where they left off in Ann Arbor. Defenseman John-Michael Liles scored a power-play goal on the best penalty kill unit in the nation less than four minutes into the contest.
Michigan responded at the 14:53 mark on a goal by Jason Ryznar, but the Spartans jumped back out to the lead with less than five minutes left in the period on a shorthanded goal by Lee Falardeau. Falardeau skated circles around Danny Richmond on a one-on-one and then put a backhander by Michigan goaltender Al Montoya for the score.
Michigan State center Brock Radunske put an exclamation point on the period for the Spartans by leveling defenseman Andy Burnes with just minutes remaining in the period, forcing Burnes to leave the game temporarily.
The hit served as a wakeup call, as the Wolverines came out of the intermission firing. Ortmeyer scored just 23 seconds into the stanza to knot the score at two. Two and a half minutes later, Mike Roemensky put Michigan up 3-2 on a straightaway shot after a nice pass from John Shouneyia.
Michigan outshot Michigan State 10-2 in the first eight minutes of the second period but at the 10:56 mark, the Spartans tied the score at three apiece after another shorthanded goal, this time by Troy Ferguson.
Michigan had more success on its fourth power play of the night, as Shouneyia scored five seconds into the man advantage with 2:20 left in the second period.
Michigan took a 5-3 lead in the third period on a goal by forward Brandon Kaleniecki with 15:42 remaining but, two minutes later, Michigan State’s Ash Goldie responded with a goal that deflected off Montoya’s glove and the crossbar before finding the net.
The Spartans never seriously threatened the rest of the game, giving Berenson the historic victory in his 19th season as Michigan’s coach. But the game also caused him concern about his defense, which didn’t improve from the night before.
Berenson admitted that Montoya’s confidence might be shaken in goal after this weekend and added that the defensive unit must improve before next weekend.
As for win number 500, Michigan’s players say they don’t have anything special planned to honor their legendary coach.
“I don’t think he’ll let us,” Ortmeyer said.
Said Berenson: “I hope not, because we aren’t done yet.”
Notes: Michigan has finished first or second in the CCHA every year since the 1989-90 season, when the Wolverines finished fourth in the conference … 59 of Berenson’s 500 wins at the helm for Michigan have come at Joe Louis Arena … One of Michigan State’s top offensive players, Jim Slater, did not play Friday or Saturday due to a shoulder injury.