With a 3-1 home loss to Alaska-Fairbanks still fresh in its memory, the No. 8 Michigan hockey team began preparations for tomorrow night”s game against Michigan State with two hard practices on Tuesday and Wednesday.
But yesterday, all of the Wolverines” game plans began to take a new look.
That”s because Michigan coach Red Berenson announced yesterday that forward Mike Cammalleri will be out indefinitely due to mononucleosis.
The junior has been the Wolverines” offensive leader for most of the season, tallying 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists), which is good enough for second on the team, despite the fact that he missed five games to participate in the World Junior Championships.
The Wolverines have no time to linger on the loss, though, with the sixth-ranked Spartans heading into Ann Arbor for the teams” only meeting at Yost Ice Arena this season.
Michigan notched a point in the lone prior matchup between the teams this season, a 3-3 tie at the “Cold War” in Spartan Stadium. Michigan State currently holds a two-point lead over the Wolverines in the CCHA standings, a margin that Michigan could erase with a win.
“It”s a great opportunity for our team to get tied for first place and get even with them,” Michigan defenseman Jay Vancik said. “But we have to worry about ourselves more than we have to worry about them. (In the loss to Alaska-Fairbanks), we didn”t have a good effort at all. We have to go out and play our game, play hard-nosed, disciplined, physical hockey.”
In last year”s meeting in Ann Arbor, the Spartans relied on goalie Ryan Miller to stifle Michigan all night, holding on for a 1-0 win.
A similar contest tomorrow night would not be unexpected, as Michigan State currently boasts the conference”s best defense. In 17 conference games, the Spartans have given up just 28 goals. Conversely, Michigan has allowed 38 goals in the same number of games.
Michigan State has also flashed a strong offense this year, including a total of 21 goals from its defensemen.
“Obviously they”re dangerous and they join the rush, sometimes they lead the rush,” said Berenson of the Michigan State blueliners. “And we have to respect the fact that they are dangerous players. They just have that kind of a team, but I think our teams are pretty even offensively.”
The Wolverines had to adjust to an under-the-weather Cammalleri for the teams” first meeting as well. But after missing practice the week before the game in East Lansing, the Michigan star forward returned and played well.
This time, Michigan will have to deal without Cammalleri. That means that Michigan”s young corps of forwards will have to step up again, just as they had to over winter break when Cammalleri and three others were absent due to the World Junior Championships.
The “Cold War” experience has become invaluable to the young forwards.
“It was my first big taste of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry,” Michigan forward Michael Woodford said. “Now I know what people talk about, how big of a rivalry it is and how pumped up you”ve got to be. That”s why you come to Michigan, to play Michigan State and you”ve got to take advantage of those chances.”