BY COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
Daily Sports Editor
Published February 22, 2008
Posted Feb. 23
DETROIT - Michigan State coach Rick Comley said after Friday's game the Wolverines would be desperate for a win.
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He was right - and Michigan wasted no time.
The Wolverines defeated the Spartans for the first time this season, 5-2, at Joe Louis Arena Saturday after losing by three last night at Munn Ice Arena.
Michigan first found offensive spark from an unlikely source. About five and a half minutes into the game, defenseman Chris Summers took the puck down the length of the ice, and his shot deflected off Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg. Junior forward Tim Miller grabbed the rebound and knocked it into the net for his first goal of the season.
"It feels great to get it off my back," Miller said. "I feel a lot lighter right now. ... I think my teammates were more excited than I was. They were going nuts on the bench."
Five minutes later, freshman Carl Hagelin tried to pass the puck from behind the Michigan State net. Michigan State defenseman Justin Johnson attempted to clear Hagelin's pass, but freshman Aaron Palushaj intercepted the clearance attempt and dumped the puck between Lerg's legs for Michigan's second goal of the game.
The Spartans had back-to-back goaltender interference penalties late in the first period. Michigan State forward Tim Crowder knocked Sauer over in the crease with three and a half minutes left. With seconds left in Crowder's penalty, Spartan forward Justin Abdelkader leveled Sauer as the Michigan goalie was clearing the puck behind the net.
And while Abdelkader was in the penalty box, Michigan capped its first-period romp. Mark Mitera shot hard from the point and Brandon Naurato, hovering near the crease, dumped in the rebound.
At the end of the first period, the Michigan fans - about half of the sellout crowd of 20,066 - stood and cheered as the Wolverines lingered on the ice, celebrating their first lead against Michigan State all weekend.
"Obviously, it was a big hole," Comley said. "To our credit, though, we fought back and made it a hockey game."
The Spartan started sneaking back nine minutes into the second period. Michigan had continued to control the pace of the game in the first half of the stanza, outpacing and outskating the Spartans, until Michigan State took the puck off the faceoff and forward Chris Mueller scored Michigan State's first goal.
Any momentum the Wolverines had, even after the first Spartan score, was shattered after Michigan State scored its second goal with 7:46 left in the third period. On the power play, Michigan State defenseman Jeff Petry shot from the right circle and the puck bounced off Sauer's upper chest. With Sauer out of position, forward Tim Kennedy's scorching wrister from the other side of the ice hit the top corner of the net and pushed Michigan State within one.
"We knew the momentum was going against us," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "We were turning the puck over, and we were starting to play the puck instead of the man."
But with the Spartan fans roaring, the Wolverines rediscovered their sense of urgency. Michigan controlled the play in Michigan State's zone for most of the stanza's last two minutes. And with 35 seconds left, Mitera shot again from the point. This time, it was freshman Max Pacioretty who tipped the puck past Lerg for the Wolverines' fourth goal. The goal boosted the Wolverines' confidence going into the third period after a stanza where the Spartans had started to take control of the game.
After both teams combined for six goals in two periods, the third period was offensively calm but still fast-paced. Though both teams had their share of big hits, neither team instigated fights after the whistle. Michigan continued to penetrate in the Spartan zone during the third period, keeping the intensity up after nearly losing it in the middle stanza.
Miller added to his goal total for the night by smacking in an empty-netter with 32.6 seconds remaining.
With the win, Michigan now needs just two points in two games to clinch the CCHA regular-season title.