It’s been a long time since No. 9 Michigan last beat No. 11 Michigan State at Joe Louis Arena.

How long?

Try 1,476 days. March 1, 2003. Nineteen days before the Iraq War began.

And it’s not for lack of opportunities. In seven tries since then, Michigan is 0-4-3.

That means no current Wolverine player has defeated the Spartans in Hockeytown.

Once again, Michigan must get past Michigan State at Joe Louis Arena to continue its path toward a CCHA Tournament championship.

Despite recent history, you couldn’t find any disappointed faces at practice this week.

“If you’re going to win the CCHA playoffs, you’ve got to beat Michigan State,” sophomore Jack Johnson said. “There’s no better way to do it.”

Tonight’s semifinal matchup will be the sixth meeting between the intrastate rivals this season. The season-long bout is currently tied, each team with a 2-2-1 record.

With such an extensive history, it’s hard to keep any secrets.

“We know their team and they know our team,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson, who has led the Wolverines to 18 consecutive CCHA semifinals. “Each team knows the other team can beat them.”

The squads last met on Feb. 10. And while the final score was 3-3, Michigan came out looking like the better team.

Down by three midway through the second period, the Wolverines went on a tear. Freshman Chris Summers scored twice and then assisted on sophomore Andrew Cogliano’s game-tying goal with less than two minutes remaining.

There was little doubt that if the game could have continued past the five-minute overtime, Michigan (18-9-1 CCHA, 25-12-1 overall) would have broken its streak at the Joe.

“We had numerous chances to capitalize and win that game,” senior captain Matt Hunwick said. “We didn’t get it done. But (tonight) there will be no ties, so if it takes 80 minutes to play, we will.”

Whether tonight’s game goes the regulation 60 minutes or longer, the winner will play for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament against the winner of the other semifinal game (No. 1 Notre Dame vs. Lake Superior State), at 7 p.m Saturday.

Though both Michigan and Michigan State (15-10-3, 21-12-3) appear to have sewn up bids for the NCAA Tournament, the results of this weekend’s games will affect seeding and which region each is placed in.

While it’s comforting to know the season will probably continue past this weekend, the Wolverines don’t want to back into the NCAA Tournament.

“We have a chance of controlling our destiny by winning our games,” Berenson said.

Notes: Four Wolverines picked up hardware at last night’s CCHA Awards Ceremony. Defensemen Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick grabbed Best Offensive and Best Defensive Defensemen awards, respectively. It’s just the fourth time back liners from the same team have each won defensemen awards in the same season. … Tim Cook was the recipient of the Ilitch Humanitarian award. … T.J. Hensick officially won the CCHA’s scoring title, but came up short in the Player of the Year voting to Notre Dame goaltender David Brown.

Michigan at CCHA Tournament

Matchup: Michigan State 21-12-3; Michigan 25-12-1

When: 8:05 p.m.

Where: Joe Louis Arena

TV/Radio: FSN Detroit/WTKA 1050

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