After taking Monday off, the No. 8 Michigan hockey team returned to the ice for practice yesterday afternoon with green in its eyes.
Saturday, the Wolverines will play No. 6 Michigan State for the first time since the two skated to a 3-3 tie at the “Cold War” in October. Although the event will be much less extravagant, the game will be just as intense and have much more riding on it, said Michigan coach Red Berenson.
“That game was a good experience for both teams with the environment and the crowd,” Berenson said. “But we have a much more simple event coming up. I don”t think we are looking back as much as we are looking ahead. We realized from that game that both these teams match up pretty well, and either team could have won that game.”
Well into the second half of the season, it seems appropriate that the Wolverines are looking to the future. But the memory of Michigan State freshman Jim Slater”s blast from the point that tied the game up with just 47 seconds left still lingers in the back of their minds.
“We had a chance to put it away, but they tied it up at the end,” senior Craig Murray said. “But it”s a one-game weekend for us, so we just have to put it all on the line.
“You come to Michigan to play against Michigan State. It”s a big attraction and you don”t ever want to lose. Bragging rights, first place everything is on the line.”
Even though the coaches gave the team a day off Monday, a players-only practice was held in order to prepare for this weekend. The intensity that comes out in practice this week will be a major indication of how the Wolverines will come out Saturday night.
“It”s important to have a good week of practice, because we know they”re going to be ready to play,” Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn said.
“Our emphasis will be on getting our team ready to play the kind of game it needs to play,” Berenson said. “We need to play with passion and discipline.”
Usually, the Michigan hockey team ends its first practice of the week with a light skate. But things were a little different yesterday.
Instead of a light skate, the Wolverines finished with sprints.
Fraser leaves team: Berenson announced yesterday that junior defenseman Brad Fraser has decided to leave the Michigan hockey team in order to focus on his academics at the University. Fraser joined the team as a walk-on when he came three years ago.
“He came and talked to me last Monday,” Berenson said. “He told me that he needed to concentrate on academics. I respect his decision. I am glad he recognizes that his academic future is more important than his hockey future, and I support him.”
Resting up: Junior Mike Cammalleri and freshman Eric Nystrom did not skate at practice yesterday. Nystrom is trying to recover from an ankle injury suffered in Friday night”s 7-0 win over Alaska-Fairbanks.
“The X-rays didn”t show anything, but he told me it was really sore on Sunday,” Berenson said. “It hurts for him to put a skate on, but he felt better Monday, and he felt better today, so we”ll see tomorrow.”
Cammalleri, who has been slightly under the weather the past few days, was given the day off.
State of alert: Michigan State defeated Ferris State 3-2 last night in a rare Tuesday night CCHA game.
The victory moved the Spartans conference record to 12-4-1, giving them a two-point lead over Michigan in the standings heading into Saturday night”s game.
Ferris State fell to 8-9-1 on the year and remained in sixth place.
Spartan forwards Steve Jackson and Lee Falardeau were injured during the game, and will miss Saturday”s battle with the Wolverines.