ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Last night, the Alaska Nanooks kept pace with the Michigan Wolverines for almost the entire game. They held Michigan to just one goal through 54 minutes and even kept the Wolverines’ high-octane power play off the scoreboard.
Saturday was much different.
The second-highest scoring offense in the CCHA scored early, just five minutes into the contest, and kept the game out of reach, beating the Nanooks 4-2 at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. The sweep earned Michigan its eighth straight win this season and its best start since 1999-2000 (10-1-0).
“I’m guessing on Monday they’re going to be the number one team in the country,” Alaska coach Doc DelCastillo said.
Alaska took a hit before the game even started. Dustin Sather left last night’s game with a shoulder injury, and two players, defenseman Adam Naglich and goal-scoring leader Landon Notvotney, missed the bus this morning. DelCastillo sat both players for the first period.
“You take three key components out of our power play, our penalty kill, our first two lines,” DelCastillo said. “When you have 20 guys on time for the bus waiting for two other guys, there’s got be a statement sent that doesn’t happen. … We don’t have the depth to sustain three good players out of the lineup for a period.”
Michigan took the lead they’d never relinquish in the first. Senior Chad Kolarik cut through the slot and sent a backhand past Nanooks’ netminder Wylie Rogers at 4:57. Brandon Naurato added Michigan’s second goal on the power play late in the period.
Kolarik wasn’t finished. Just over a minute into the second , the senior beat Rogers high on the glove side. The power play tally ended up being his second straight game-winning goal.
“Chad Kolarik is very vocal with his teammates and he’s backing it up on the ice,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
At the time, the Wolverines were tripling the Nanooks in shots on net. However, Alaska’s Dion Knelsen ended Billy Sauer’s second consecutive shutout bid late in the second period, beating the Michigan netminder with a wrist shot, ending the longest shutout streak of Sauer’s career at 128 minutes 30 seconds.
Aaron Palushaj regained Michigan’s three-goal cushion at 1:48 of the third on a broken play in front of the Alaska net.
The game started getting sloppy at both ends, and even a little chippy. With both players skating through center, Tyler Eckford punched Kolarik in the head. Wolverines’ freshman Max Pacioretty came in to defend his teammate, resulting in four penalties between the teams.
Dion Knelsen added his second of the night on the ensuing four-on-three to cut the score to 4-2.
“I like the fact that we’re finding a way to maybe score the important goal or make the big save at the right time,” Berenson said. “I’m hoping our team will get better as the year goes on, that they’ll get confidence, but certainly not overconfidence. We can’t come out of that third period and say we are far and away the better team.”