DETROIT – The superstitious among Michigan fans may have been a little worried. With coach Red Berenson perched at 499 wins, the Wolverines suffered an uncharacteristic home loss – just their second all season – Friday night, they were shutout for the first time this year and they were headed to Joe Louis Arena – home rink of Brett Hull, the Detroit Red Wing who was stuck at 699 career goals for seven games.
Michigan couldn’t afford to wait that long for another win. The Wolverines responded to Friday’s 4-0 shellacking at the hands of Michigan State by sqeaking by the Spartans 5-4 in a back-and-forth game to give Berenson his 500th career victory behind the bench.
The loss the night before probably had more to do with Michigan’s lethargic start and multiple turnovers than with a “curse of the milestone,” although John Shouneyia did admit Michigan might have been distracted. The Wolverines said they weren’t prepared for that game and made sure they were ready for Saturday.
“I think as a whole we really had to come together mentally,” Shouneyia said. “Tonight we put everything aside. We had to come out and execute as a team and that’s what we did.”
The Wolverines fell behind early for the second night in a row after Michigan State’s John-Michael Liles scored at 3:43, but Michigan knotted it with a Jason Ryznar goal shortly after.
The Spartans left the period with a 2-1 lead, but the Wolverines took control in the second, as they often have this season. Shouneyia fed Jed Ortmeyer to tie it 2-2, just 23 seconds in and minutes later sailed a pass to Mike Roemensky, who blew one by Michigan State goaltender Matt Migliaccio.
“The game really came down to momentum swings throughout the night,” Shouneyia said. “They had a lead, we had a lead, just going back and forth. Every shift was just a momentum swing, every powerplay. “
Michigan State snatched the momentum back on a powerplay – a Michigan powerplay. Brad Fast stole the puck in the neutral zone and sent it to Tim Hearon, who dished to Lee Falardeau. He beat Al Montoya from the slot to tie the game at three with 9:04 left in the period. It was the Spartans’ second short-handed goal of the night.
After setting up his teammates for most of the night, Shouneyia, who finished with three points, drilled a shot from the left side to put Michigan back on top – this time for good.
Freshman Brandon Kaleniecki added an insurance goal early in the third period that turned into the game-winner after Michigan State’s Ash Goldie scored at 6:22.
“We knew we had to bounce back and salvage the weekend,” Shouneyia said. “We let State come into our house and for us that was embarrasing, so I think we had a lot of guys who were stepping up tonight.”
The game was especially sweet for the five Wolverines who had their Senior Night ruined Friday and may have played their last game against their biggest rivals.
“Coach always said you’re either a Michigan kid or a Michigan State kid, and us Michigan boys are really proud of our team and coach and the effort that we had tonight,” Roemensky said. “It’s the last time for us seniors that we’re going to play these guys (in the) regular season and I think it’s really important for us to go out with a win and keep it rolling on throughout the rest of the regular season.”
The turnaround victory also kept Michigan’s CCHA championship hopes alive, abate barely. A second loss to Michigan State would have mathematically eliminated Michigan from the conference title race. The Wolverines, who remain four points behind Ferris State, still cling to the faint hope of tying for the title. For that to happen, Michigan would have to sweep Ohio State in Columbus next weekend, and Ferris State would have to fall twice to 11th-place Bowling Green.