It”s a playground fight, really.

Paul Wong
Brad Fast and the Spartans” defense made quick work of Michigan”s offense for the fourth time this season, Saturday<br><br>DAVID KATZ/Daily

It makes no difference where on the playground the monkey bars at Munn Arena, the jungle gym at Yost, the slide at Joe Louis Arena the bully, Michigan State, stares little Michigan down and pounds its fist in anticipation.

Time for the inevitable.

Sometimes, Michigan scrappily battles back, occasionally managing to get a few licks in. It even won once, 4-3 Jan. 27 at Joe Louis Arena in what might have been Michigan”s best game of the year. When Andy Hilbert scored the overtime winner, it was for the underdogs the smaller kid can come out on top sometimes.

But that only got the bully more worked up.

On Mar. 1, the bully handed Michigan a little payback to the tune of a 3-1 score. Afterward, the ever-graceful-in-victory Ryan Miller called Mike Cammalleri”s goal “a gift” and made fun of the sophomore center”s fall during player introductions.

Michigan came out to meet its nemesis on Saturday night, prepared to go down swinging the chance to bounce Michigan State for the CCHA playoff title could never fail to bring about Michigan”s best effort, and it didn”t.

Problem was, Michigan was looking for the haymaker the play that would open the floodgates on a seemingly impenetrable goalie. Michigan State stuck to dancing and quick jabs.

“We couldn”t generate that goal we needed early in the game,” coach Red Berenson said.

Michigan is such a loaded team, strong in every area, it”s easy to blame losses on poor effort against Michigan State, this wasn”t the case.

Twice, Cammalleri weaved to the front of the Michigan State crease for tip-shots, only to be denied by the flawless Miller.

At one point, Hilbert whistled a blue line drive up high on Miller the netminder froze gingerly, unaware of where the puck ended up. The Spartans” defense, steady as usual, quickly cleared it away.

Afterwards, Berenson expressed a sincere belief in the closeness between the two teams

That might ring true, except on the scoreboard. Sad as it is, over the past four years, the Wolverines are 4-11-2 against Michigan State.

The heart goes out to a team like Michigan the discouragement of losing to such a hated rival regularly only stokes the coals of frustration.

But Michigan will bear the scars of the Spartans” abuse going into the NCAA tournament, and who knows? Maybe the bully and bullied will meet again, this time on a special playground Albany.

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