By Matt Mackinder/Michigan & Michigan State Beat Writer
The epic power struggle between Michigan and Michigan State continued last weekend with each team getting a win in front of capacity crowds each night.
Saturday night’s game at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit drew 20,066 to the home of the Detroit Red Wings and the top-ranked Wolverines skated to a 5-2 win.
The Michigan offense was led by Tim Miller, who scored his first two goals of the season. Senior captain Kevin Porter and Mark Mitera both picked up two assists on the night. Aaron Palushaj, Brandon Naurato and Max Pacioretty also scored for the Wolverines.
Goalie Billy Sauer made 26 saves for U-M, while Jeff Lerg steered aside 39 shots for the Spartans.
Michigan head coach Red Berenson said after the game that there is more to Miller, an assistant captain, than putting points on the board.
"We wouldn't play him if we didn't think he was an honest player,” Berenson said. “It's not just about scoring goals. It's about playing a role and helping your team. He's playing with good players, and it's good to see him score. It's not like he can't score, it's just been a tough year for him offensively. But he plays physical, and he plays strong. He's a good penalty killer and a good two-way player for us."
Chris Mueller and Tim Kennedy scored for MSU.
"I thought they came out and were quick and physical and they were much better than us in the first period,” Spartans head coach Rick Comley said. “To our credit though, we fought back and made it a hockey game. The goal late in the first period really hurt and the goal late in the second period really hurt, but our kids really fought back."
Friday night at Munn Ice Arena, Jeff Petry had his first career three-point night and Michigan State had four other players with both a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win of their own.
Lerg made 31 saves for MSU.
“It just felt great playing throughout the night,” said Lerg. “I think that first goal really set the tone for getting our building into the game. It was kind of like what they did at Miami where they scored four goals in the first period and took their crowd out of the game. It was huge to get those two goals early and make them play from behind.”
Petry and Tim Crowder scored in the first period for the Spartans and Justin Abdelkader, senior captain Bryan Lerg and Kennedy added goals for MSU.
Pacioretty and Ben Winnett scored for U-M, who got 17 saves from Sauer.
“They defended well and they didn't give up much even though we might have carried the play,” added Berenson. “They're an opportunistic team and they get good goaltending and good special teams play. I thought we were looking for some momentum and then I thought when Max scored we got some momentum and we started to carry the play. You have to make those chances count, though.”
The Wolverines (26-4-4, 19-3-4 CCHA) have a home-and-home series with Ferris State starting Friday night in Ann Arbor. MSU (21-9-5, 17-6-3 CCHA) plays a home-and-home with Bowling Green with Friday night’s game at Munn.
This weekend is the final weekend of the regular season for the CCHA and the playoffs start the weekend of March 14.