DETROIT – When Michigan coach Red Berenson exited the Wolverines lockerroom on Saturday night and saw the hoard of reporters and TV cameras waiting to greet him, he seemed a bit surprised.

The team’s 5-4 win over Michigan State on Saturday was the 500th victory of Berenson’s 19-year career in Ann Arbor. But Michigan’s leader on the bench doesn’t put much stock in individual accolades, especially in the crunch time of the Wolverines season. He would much rather talk about his team.

“I’m still lamenting the fact that we didn’t win last night, and it’s not because of the 500 business,” Berenson said of Michigan’s 4-0 loss on Friday. “It’s because these were big games and we lost a home game last night. We had to bounce back with a better game tonight and I thought we did that. If it’s 500, then you guys have made a pretty big thing of it and you know me, it’s not a big thing until it’s all over.”

Friday night had seemed like the perfect opportunity for Berenson to reach 500 – with a game at Yost Ice Arena and Michigan’s biggest rival in town. It was also Senior Night for the five graduating Wolverines. But all of the distractions proved to be too much. Michigan came out slowly and the Spartans took advantage.

“I think there was so much built up into (Friday) night’s game, I think that’s why we were so flat,” associate head coach Mel Pearson said. “There were so many distractions, and I think it showed in our play.”

But Saturday night, Michigan bounced back and got its coach a milestone victory. For the graduating seniors, it was a fitting tribute to the man who has led them to 106 victories in their college careers.

“It’s a very special thing for this program and for Coach Berenson,” senior captain Jed Ortmeyer said. “He puts his heart and his soul into this program and to be a part of something like this, it’s really why guys come to Michigan.”

“It’s a great feeling for us and for coach,” senior defenseman Mike Roemensky said. “Coach has always been there for us. He has taught us a lot. It means a great deal to us, as it does to him. Just to be a part of it, it’s just really something special.”

With the win, Berenson also moved within one victory of former Boston College coach John Kelley for 13th on the all-time NCAA win list. Berenson has been coaching in the college ranks for seven years less than any of the men ahead of him.

“Like I told our players, I can’t score goals and I can’t stop the puck,” Berenson said. “But we can at least try and bring good players into our program and mold them into good teams. And I think that’s why we’re standing here tonight.”

When Berenson arrived at Michigan for the 1984-85 season, he took over a struggling program. – the Wolverines had finished ninth in the CCHA for the previous two seasons, combining for just 23 wins in 63 games.

But with Berenson behind the bench, Michigan began a steady rise back to the top of the college hockey world. By 1992, the team had its first regular season conference title since joining the CCHA in 1981. By 1996, the Wolverines had their first national title since 1964 – they added a second title two years later. Over 18 plus seasons, he has compiled a 500-240-50 overall record.

After Saturday night’s game, Berenson didn’t want to dwell on that history.

“I think he was more relieved to get the two points in the standings, which is huge right now,” Pearson said. “But there’s no question I think he’s relieved, that’s behind him and there won’t be any focus on that, and that’s the way he likes it.”

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