ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A three-goal burst in the second period put the Michigan Wolverines on top of the Miami RedHawks, and the Wolverines held on at Yost Arena to take a tightly-contested 6-3 early season battle between two of the teams expected to vie for CCHA conference honors.
The game opened CCHA conference play for the two schools selected pre-season, along with Michigan State, to end up at the top of the conference.
“We had to put our best foot forward tonight,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson of the early showdown with Miami. “I think a lot of players did that, and we got the goals we needed,” he continued.
“They out chanced us and they capitalized on their opportunities,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi.
Chad Kolarik paced the Wolverine’s offensive attack with his second straight hat trick, the first such back-to-back effort by a Wolverine since Mike Knuble did it in 1995. All three of Kolarik’s goals came in the final period.
The three goals bring Kolarik’s season total to seven in just three games.
“I was pretty excited,” said Kolarik of his second straight hat trick. “I can’t believe I got (a hat trick) two nights in a row. My parents were here tonight and it was the first time they had ever seen me get a hat trick, so it was pretty nice.”
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” commented Berenson on the Kolarik effort. “He’s an opportunist. He’s in the right place at the right time. He’s good around the net.”
“You like to see a kid like that score now because there will be times where the puck doesn’t go in, but right now Chad Kolarik is giving us another line that is dangerous,” continued Berenson. “People look at T.J. Hensick’s line and that’s a big line, but Chad Kolarik and Andrew Cogliano give us a 1-2 punch.”
Seniors T.J. Hensick and David Rohlfs combined on a nifty passing play to start the Michigan second period scoring burst at 5:59 of the period. Hensick rifled a cross-ice pass to Rohlfs who one-timed a slap shot past Miami goaltender Charlie Effinger to knot the score at 1-1.
With Michigan skating shorthanded, Miami senior forward Geoff Smith stumbled at his own blue line on a broken stick. Wolverine sophomore forward Andrew Cogliano grabbed the puck from the falling Miami player, skated in alone, finally lifting the puck over a sprawled Effinger at 7:56 of the period after making several moves on the goaltender.
Miami got right back into the game late in the period. Sophomore right wing Bill Loupee rifled a shot over Michigan netminder Billy Sauer’s shoulder off a feed from freshman Gary Steffes to tie the game 2-2 with only 1:37 left in the period.
Junior left wing Kevin Porter grabbed the momentum right back for the Wolverines only 27 seconds later, roofing a pass from behind the net from Rohlfs past Effinger to send Michigan into the second intermission with the lead.
Kolarik then took over for the Wolverines in the final period with his hat trick.
RedHawk sophomore Justin Mercier kept Miami within two goals with a power play goal at 15:38 of the final stanza, but Kolarik’s third, an empty netter, iced the game for Michigan at 18:59.
In his first college appearance back in his home state of Michigan, Miami center Steffes had opened the game’s scoring late in the first period.
Breaking in on left wing with a pass from sophomore defenseman Alec Martinez, Steffes snapped a wrist shot from the top of the left circle over Michigan goaltender Sauer’s glove hand.
The RedHawks and the Wolverines get right back into action Friday night at Yost Arena in the second game of the weekend series.
Two Wolverines picked up CCHA weekly individual honors for their efforts over the previous weekend against Alabama-Huntsville and Connecticut. Four goals and three assists against the Chargers and the Huskies earned CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors for forward Chad Kolarik. Jack Johnson’s +6 rating combined with his two goals and two assists earned him the CCHA Defenseman of the Week nomination.
Miami’s regular season championship last season was the first time a team from outside of the state of Michigan had performed that feat in 12 years. Miami was also the last non-Michigan team to earn the title, winning the league crown in 1992-1993.
By earning the Spencer Penrose Award as national Coach of the Year award last season, Enrico Blasi become the second coach in Miami history to earn that honor, joining current Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who also won the award during his tenure at Miami.
Michigan’s two shorthanded goals against Connecticut this past Saturday was the first time the Wolverines had turned the trick twice in a game since March 11, 2000, when Scott Matzka had both goals on the penalty kill.