The Spartans could have locked up a spot in the NCAA tournament with a win over Michigan and an appearance in the CCHA championship game, but now, MSU must hope for a win over Lake Superior State and then an at large bid in the tourney.
"This is a disappointing loss, but our season isn't over yet," Head Coach Rick Comley said. "If we can win tomorrow then we'll be in the national tournament for sure. Needless to say, tomorrow's game is huge."
Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer was stellar as was the Michigan defense in limiting the Spartans to just 20 shots, 18 of which Sauer stopped including a penalty shot by Detroit Red Wings draft pick Justin Abdelkader, who was stoned by Sauer.
"That's probably the most nervous I've ever been in a game like this. I came down, faked the shot and I kind of saw the five-hole open up. I went for the five-hole and it just got a little bit too high, otherwise it would have been in. Give Sauer credit on that though, he made a great save."
Michigan caught MSU on a defensive lapse and scored on a three-on-one break when Kevin Porter lit the lamp behind Lerg for the first of his two goals.
"I had thought about it for a long time," said Porter of his previous poor play against MSU. "And today, I felt like it was payback. We came out flying, and those couple goals felt great."
MSU finally got on board when Jim McKenzie's wrist shot beat Sauer to cut the Wolverine lead to 3-1, but UM answered when Chad Kolarik solved Lerg. Tim Kennedy made the Spartans believe they had a shot at the comeback when he beat Sauer to make the score 4-2 but Hensick got his third point of the night on an unassisted goal to give UM the final score.
"I think we played pretty physical, maybe we could have been a little more physical," admitted State captain Chris Lawrence.
"I think just our lack of respect with the puck burned us four times. We know that their strengths are their transition game and their speed. I also think that that was the best I've seen them play defensively, with the exception of the last five minutes, against us in the last couple of years. You got to give them credit but we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and it really hurt us," said Lawrence.
The Spartans try to keep their season alive when they face Lake Superior State in the consolation game.