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January 24, 2009

Ugly scene overshadows season series sweep

Michigan's 5-3 victory over Michigan State Saturday, giving U-M wins in all five meetings this season, should have been the story of the night. But an ugly incident occurred late at Yost Ice Arena, casting a pall over the game …

With the Wolverines leading by two late, Spartans Andrew Conboy and Corey Tropp teamed up to assault (in this case the word is not hyperbole) U-M junior defenseman Steve Kampfer. The same Kampfer that was critically injured in an off-campus altercation Oct. 12. The same Kampfer that missed 16 games recovering from head and neck injuries. The same Kampfer that played brilliantly since his return eight games ago.

After Conboy sucked-punched Kampfer cutting across the ice, Tropp slashed at a motionless Kampfer on the ice, hitting him repeatedly in the head. The Maize and Blue responded but had they seen the jabbing they might have responded with much greater force than a bit of shoving and trash-talking.

"Something like that, at the end of the game, is uncalled for," senior forward Travis Turnbull said. "It's ridiculous and we're really not going to forget that."

"To be honest, that was a classless move on their part," junior captain Chris Summers said. "Whether it's an individual thing or a team thing, to be honest, I think it was embarrassing. With the game of hockey comes a lot of respect for one another. These matchups are going to get intense but for that team to do that, for those players to do that, is completely uncalled for and unnecessary."

After several minutes on the ice, Kampfer was able to skate off with the assistance of teammates. There was no immediate report on his condition following the game. Tropp was given a game disqualification and was ejected but Conboy was not. MSU head coach Rick Comley promised action in his post-game comments while both players could be suspended by the CCHA.

"It was an ugly ending," head coach Red Berenson said. "I am disappointed with what their player did on the ice and that shouldn't happen. You expect the games to be emotional - this is a serious rivalry - but you don't expect someone to get hurt. Whether it was an intent to injure, I think the league will have a good look at it."

Still, that might not be enough to satisfy the Wolverines and their fans, and wasn't enough in the immediate aftermath. Police were called to the south end of the arena when a U-M fan stormed the State locker room, hoping to teach the two Spartan players a lesson.

As for the game, Michigan dominated in the first and third periods and took it to its rival for most of the second, however a 25-second span early in the second wiped away U-M's 3-0 lead, bringing MSU within one. Matt Rust, Turnbull and Brandon Burlon had staked the Maize and Blue to their early advantage.

"It was a good first period but then we didn't have the best second period," Turnbull said. "When we go up 3-0 like that we have to keep it going and we have to bury a team. We let them back in the game."

Michigan traded goals with Michigan State in the first two minutes of the third - Carl Hagelin scored for U-M -- creating even more tension but Summers guaranteed a victory when he buried a point shot at 8:32 of the third period.

"Whether I scored it or whoever scored it, it's always a good feeling burying that team and getting the victory," he said.

With the win, U-M earned four points on the weekend, and coupled with Ohio State and Nebraska-Omaha losses, moved into a three-way tie for fourth place in the league standings (24 points), just two points back of second.

"It was huge to get all four points," Turnbull said. "We're trying to gain ground and we have to win out from here."

The victory also delivered a perfect 5-0 mark against the Green and White this season, marking the first time Michigan has ever accomplished that feat in the rivalry's 84-year history.

"I think it's been one of those things where we've had the upper hand but the games were not easy," Berenson said. "The scores might indicate that there was some separation in the teams but we had to come from behind in the first three games to win and then we had a good game at Joe Louis but tonight was a one-goal game for the better part of a period. And we finally found a way to go ahead. But every game has been a different scenario."

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