ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Different line, different night, same result.
One night after Michigan rode to victory on the back of first line forwards Kevin Porter and T.J. Hensick, fourth line sophomore forwards Brandon Naurato and Danny Fardig were the offensive stalwarts for the Wolverines in a 5-1 win over Nebraska-Omaha Saturday night at Yost Arena.
Fardig set up Naurato for two scores and chipped in with solid penalty killing play in the second Wolverine victory in two nights over the Mavericks.
“That was what we talked about in the locker room — how important it can be if you’re a fourth line player,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “You do not get the quality ice time other players get, but you make your ice time count. They energized our team and picked up a couple of goals. That’s good for our team. You can’t be a one line or one player team.”
“It feels great,” said Naurato. “Danny and I were actually talking before the game with a few guys about how, not just our line, but the third line can contribute too.”
“It seems like the top two lines are doing all the scoring,” continued Naurato, “but whether we are getting points or just having an energy shift to get everyone going is huge for the team. To go far in the playoffs, you need all four lines going.”
“When we pop one in, it looks pretty good and gets the guys going a little bit,” said Fardig. “If they are having a rough game, then maybe it will give them a confidence or energy boost.”
Pleased with his team’s effort in Friday night’s 6-4 loss to Michigan, Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp’s sentiments were different on Saturday.
“We didn’t come out with the intensity and competitiveness we need to come out with to play against a team like Michigan on their home rink,” said Mike Kemp. “If you’re going to play Michigan here, you have to compete like there’s no tomorrow.
The win boosted Michigan into a second place tie with Alaska in the CCHA standings.
Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer kicked away 32 of the 33 Maverick shots he faced, though he lost his shutout bid at 6:17 of the third period on a drive by Nebraska-Omaha forward Adam Bartholomay that caromed in off the post to Sauer’s left.
“That is a goaltender’s challenge, to bring it every night,” said Berenson. “We got away with one last night and Sauer stepped up to the plate tonight. He was ready to make a difference.”
Michigan’s dominance of the first four minutes of the first period was a harbinger for the remainder of the stanza.
The Wolverine picked up goals from fourth-line left wing Naurato and third-line left wing Brian Lebler in the period in which they outshot the Mavericks, 16-8, to lead 2-0.
Naurato’s sweeping backhand barely trickled over the goal line past Maverick freshman goaltender Jeremie Dupont at 7:38 of the first.
On Lebler’s goal, Wolverine junior forward Chad Kolarik skated alone behind the net to Dupont’s right and banged a sharp angle shot off the Nebraska-Omaha netminder.
The rebound went straight out to Lebler in the slot. Lebler kicked the puck to his stick and rifled a bullet by Dupont to put the Wolverines up 2-0 at 10:17.
The only tally of the second period belonged to Wolverine David Rohlfs. While the teams played four-on-four, Rohlfs, standing with his back to the net, slid a shot from the face-off circle right between the legs of a surprised Dupont at 4:38.
Naurato and Tim Miller notched third period goals for the Wolverines sandwiched around Bartholomay’s lone Maverick score.
Both Michigan (7-3-0, 4-2-0 CCHA ) and Nebraska-Omaha (3-4-3, 2-3-1 CCHA ) hit the road next weekend. The Wolverines head cross-state to Ferris State for a two-game set. The Mavericks’ road travels continue with a trip to the new Goggin Ice Arena in Miami for a pair of games with the RedHawks.