Michigan State was 3 for 3 on the power play when U-M forward Luke Glendening was sent to the box at 11:02 of the third period, with Michigan clinging to a 4-3 lead. The Wolverines killed the man-advantage and persevered to beat MSU 5-3, advancing to the CCHA semifinals March 19 …
"Every time we took a penalty it seemed like it was one of our best penalty killers, but we had guys pick up the slack," head coach Red Berenson said. "[Junior forward] Scooter Vaughan picked up the slack. [Junior forward] Ben Winnett had, maybe, his best game of the year, and so on. So it was a good team effort and that's really what it's all about this time of the year."
Like they had on Friday, when the Maize and Blue jumped out to a 4-0 lead, the Wolverines led 2-0 Saturday on a power-play goal from junior Matt Rust 8:25 into the game and rookie A.J. Treais' marker from the slot just 21 seconds later.
However, the momentum shifted significantly at 15:45 of the first period when junior defender Chad Langlais was sent to the penalty box for hooking and classmate Tristin Llewellyn joined him less than a minute later for elbowing. The Spartans scored twice in the next minute and then took the lead with only 00.7 seconds remaining in the first period on another man-advantage tally.
"Tonight's game, the way it started off it looked like it might be too easy," Berenson said. "And we knew that wouldn't happen. We had three penalties that cost us three goals, but our team bounced back and once we got that tying goal I really liked our team.
"We played well. We played a lot in their zone and this team played hard and then [junior goalie Shawn] Hunwick made some big saves as the game wore on."
Michigan tied the game at three 3:54 into the second period, taking advantage of its second power play when Winnett broke into the slot and wristed his shot past backup goaltender Bobby Jarosz, in for starter Drew Palmisano, who was pulled 10 minutes into the game.
After playing well in the first period, despite a 3-2 deficit, U-M dominated in the second period like at no other time this year, outshooting MSU 16-1. Winnett's goal was all the Wolverines had to show for it, though, and they entered the third tied 3-3.
Enter freshman forward Chris Brown. Positioned to the left of the net, he took a number of whacks at a loose puck and finally jammed it home at 2:40 of the third, giving Michigan a 4-3 lead and sending the fervent Maize and Blue fans into a frenzy.
"It was just hard work," Brown said of his 13th marker this year. "It was a great dump by [senior defender Steve] Kampfer into the corner where we could get it -- Treais behind the net to pick it up and then me and [senior forward Brian] Lebler were just hacking away and fortunately I hit it good enough and it went in.
"It was nice to get the game-winner and win the series."
U-M continued to control play for the next 10 minutes, but when Glendening went to the box, Hunwick was forced into the hero role, making four or five key stops to maintain the Wolverines' one-goal lead. He finished with 18 saves on 21 shots.
When the Spartans pulled Jarosz with a minute to go, Michigan sophomore forward David Wohlberg made a strong play at center ice to take possession and sealed the contest with his empty-net goal at 19:29.
"The thing was our season wasn't over if we lost; we had one more game tomorrow but we wanted to win tonight, put them away, get a sweep and sing 'The Victors' after the game," Brown said. "We came into the third period with some heart and got it done."
With the victory, Michigan will play in a CCHA semifinal next Friday, likely against Miami (though the RedHawks fell Saturday and must knock off Ohio State Sunday to advance).
The Wolverines still need to win the conference tournament to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, but what looked like a pipe dream two weeks ago is now suddenly much more realistic.
"Coming into this series, our season was over if we didn't emerge from this weekend … if we didn't make it to Joe Louis," Berenson said. "When I look back, I think we've been to Joe Louis maybe 20 consecutive years. We've never had to come into a situation like this and earn it this way. This is a real tribute to this team."