It’s been a long time – 731 days, to be exact.
The game on Nov. 20, 2004, accomplished something the current Michigan roster might be a little unfamiliar with: a win over Michigan State.
It’s not like the Wolverines haven’t had their chances. Almost every time they’ve matched up against their intrastate rival, the game has gone down to the wire.
Six of the last eight games against the Spartans went into overtime. Five of those ended in a tie.
Michigan’s record in those contests is a disappointing 0-3-5.
This season, there’s a whole group of Wolverines who don’t want that trend to continue.
“I hate green and white, and I know everybody in the locker room does, too,” sophomore forward Danny Fardig said. “We tied enough last year. We need a win.”
The opportunity to do what they haven’t done in almost two years will come tonight, when the ninth-ranked Wolverines take on No. 5 Michigan State at Munn Ice Arena in the opener of the home-and-home series.
It’s the first road game in Michigan’s (1-1-0 CCHA, 4-2-0 overall) home-heavy schedule.
Each team has one blemish on its CCHA record. Michigan’s comes from a 4-1 loss to defending CCHA champion Miami (Ohio). The Spartans (1-1-0, 3-1-0) lost to CCHA bottom-feeder Western Michigan.
Entering the season, the Wolverines were picked to finish first in the CCHA by the media and second in the coaches’ poll. Michigan State was slotted first by the coaches and second by the media.
Similar records, polls and standings in the CCHA (both are part of a five-way tie for sixth) suggest that another tie might be inevitable. But coaches and players alike insist that Michigan is stepping it up for the rivalry – and that should make a difference.
“Last year, a couple of the games we tied we should have won,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We have something to prove. . There’s some pride on the line.”
Said senior forward David Rohlfs: “It’s our rival, right across town. Every time we play them, the intensity’s a little more the week before. Getting ready for it every day, you’re just getting more and more into it and wanting to play that game on Friday.”
A complete weekend of intense play is a bit foreign to Michigan. After the first two weekends of play, both of the Wolverines’ series have ended in splits.
Michigan tends to come out blazing one night, then sit back as a vengeful team takes away any chance of a weekend sweep. It happened the first week of the season with the RedHawks, then last weekend with unranked Northeastern.
“We’ve got to continue for two games instead of just the one,” Fardig said. “That’s what we’re looking to do: find some consistency and find some persistence.”
One constant in Michigan’s lineup, standout defenseman Jack Johnson, won’t be on the ice tonight in East Lansing. The sophomore received a game disqualification after confronting a Husky forward who charged Wolverine netminder Billy Sauer. Johnson threw several punches and was escorted off the ice.
“I just told Jack, ‘I think you did the right thing. I just wish that we didn’t lose you,’ ” Berenson said. “We have to overcome that.”
Johnson often leads Michigan in ice time. Last Friday’s game against Northeastern, he saw a team-high 30:06 of play.
Senior Tim Cook will attempt to fill that void, returning to his natural position on the blue line. He has played forward all season because of a wealth of defensemen. Senior Morgan Ward will occupy Cook’s vacancy up front.
The Johnson-less Wolverines want to stop that 731-day drought tonight – and a weekend sweep wouldn’t be too bad, either.
“We haven’t done as well as we want to do against Michigan State,” Berenson said. “We’ve got to take a step forward.”
Matchup: Michigan State (1-1-0, 3-1-0); Michigan (1-1-0, 4-2-0)
When: Tonight, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, 7:35 p.m.
Where: East Lansing,