ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Kevin Porter’s second career hat trick helped bring Michigan back from two separate two-goal deficits in the Wolverines 6-4 comeback victory over Nebraska-Omaha Friday night at Yost Arena.
Fellow Wolverine T.J. Hensick assisted on all three Porter goals bringing the combined point total for the Wolverine duo to 14 points over the last two games.
“We are feeling it,” said Hensick of the combined efforts of his linemates Porter and senior David Rohlfs. “We are having fun. I think that’s the big thing right now. Before the game, during the game, after the game, the three of us are having a good time. We’re feeding off each other.”
“Rohlfs is a big part of it,” said Porter. “He is a big man. When he gets out there, two guys have to take him, so it leaves one of us open.”
Porter’s snapped Hensick’s pass from behind the net past Maverick netminder Jerad Kaufman to give the Wolverines a 5-4 lead they wouldn’t relinquish at 13:58 of the final period.
Jack Johnson iced the victory for Michigan at 18:36 with a wrap-around effort beating Kaufman from behind the goal line on the empty right side of the net.
Michigan had taken a 4-3 lead early in the third period when Brian Lebler grabbed a bouncing rebound in front of Kaufman and banged the puck by the Maverick goaltender at 5:36.
Maverick left wing Dan Charleston fought right back at 7:42 of the third for Nebraska-Omaha with a shot from just inside the Michigan blueline that caromed off Michigan defenseman Mark Mitera’s stick and flew over Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer’s shoulder.
“He is hot right now,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson of Porter. “He is playing with one of the best players in college hockey (Hensick). He is making his chances count. He’s in the right place at the right time and is putting the puck where it belongs.”
“It felt like it was a close game,” continued Berenson. “It felt like a game that could get away from either team. I think either team was capable of putting the other team away, and it didn’t happen until late in the game.”
“It’s frustrating to give up two two-goal leads,” said Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp.
“You can’t give Michigan the kind of opportunities we gave them close in. Who killed us tonight? Hensick and Porter.”
A flurry of offense followed a game-opening twelve-minute feeling-out period by both teams.
Nebraska-Omaha initiated the scoring on the power play with Adam Bartholomay converting on a nice individual effort at 12:19 of the first period.
The Maverick sophomore right wing broke into the Michigan zone, beat Wolverine defenseman Matt Hunwick and fired the puck past Michigan netminder Billy Sauer’s outstretched glove hand.
Just over a minute later, Scott Parse came right back with an unusual goal for the Mavericks. After breaking his stick inside the Michigan offensive zone, Parse sprinted back to the bench for a new stick while his teammates killed time in the offensive zone.
Parse headed straight back from the bench into the Michigan zone at full speed, new stick in hand, and one-timed a centering pass from Brian Marshall by Sauer from the slot.
At 15:40, Michigan’s Hensick used a burst of skating speed to create a two-on-one Michigan break with linemate Porter, who took Hensick’s feed and beat Maverick goaltender Kaufman to bring the Wolverines within one goal, 2-1 at the end of the first period.
Three straight Wolverine minor penalties, one a carryover from the first period, finally caught up with Michigan early in the second period.
With Michigan defenseman Mitera off for roughing, Maverick senior forward Alex Nikiforuk took a feed from Tomas Klempa and found room between Sauer’s legs from the high slot to put Nebraska-Omaha up, 3-1.
The Wolverines battled back to knot the score at 3-3 after two periods on goals by Porter and Andrew Cogliano.
Porter got the Wolverine back in reach of Nebraska-Omaha, 3-2 at 9:00 of the second period.
Hensick’s face-off win came back to Porter at the top of the face-off circle. Porter took a first shot, which was blocked by Maverick defenseman Phil Angell. Porter then fired the rebound high over Kaufman’s shoulder.
Sophomore forward Cogliano sped by Nebraska-Omaha defenseman Ed Del Grosso and, while holding off Del Grosso with one hand, flipped the puck past Kaufman
to tie the game, 3-3, at 16:21.
Michigan (6-3-0, 3-2-0 CCHA) and Nebraska-Omaha (3-3-3, 2-2-1 CCHA) renew the battle Saturday night in a second weekend tilt at Yost Arena.