DETROIT — Billy Sauer’s 50-save shutout performance and Aaron Palushaj’s three-point effort paced Michigan to a 6-0 win over Providence in the opening game of the Great Lakes Invitational tourney Friday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
With a lineup depleted by four players currently participating in the World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic, the Wolverines capitalized on a pair of early breaks and built momentum as the game progressed despite being outshot by a wide margin the whole contest. The final shot tally favored Providence, 50-21.
“We got the timely goals,” said Michigan Head Coach Red Berenson. “We had four new lines and never really seemed to get going at the start. All our young kids continue to impress me.”
Sauer’s performance level was considered crucial to the Wolverines’ success this season with a roster that includes 12 freshmen. The junior goaltender’s solid play has boosted the young Wolverines to the top echelon of the national rankings.
“I really didn’t fell like I had all that many tough shots,” said Sauer of the barrage of rubber he faced from Providence. “I feel like I played solid, though. There were a couple of shots on the five on three (penalty kill) that I thought were really tough.”
“He takes away a lot of net,” said Providence Head Coach Tim Army of the Michigan netminder. “He did a great job directing rebounds and he tracked the puck really well when he was scrambling.”
Despite a dominating first period offensive performance by the Friars, Michigan capitalized on two deflections off Providence defender’s skates to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Only 62 seconds into the contest, Wolverine forward Louie Caporusso jumped on a loose puck in front of the Providence net and twirled around centering the puck off Friar Ian O’Connor’s skate into the empty side of the Providence net.
Providence dominated the next eighteen minutes, outshooting Michigan 16-3 in the period. Yet, it was Michigan again capitalizing on a break to go up 2-0 with just 30 seconds left in the period. Wolverines Brian Lebler and Palushaj broke down the ice two-on-one. Lebler’s crossing pass hit the lone Friar defender and sat at the edge of the empty Providence net. Palushaj’s swipe at the puck as he skated by the net just barely tipped it past Providence goaltender Tyler Sims giving Michigan two goals on only three shots in the period.
Three more Wolverine goals in the second period gave Michigan a comfortable 5-0 cushion even though Sauer had to turn aside 16 shots during the period.
Playing shorthanded, Kevin Porter tipped a loose puck by a Providence defender into the center ice zone. Breaking in with Porter, Anthony Ciraulo took the Wolverine captain’s pass and fired a laser over Sims’ shoulder high into the upper corner of the net at 11:03. The assist was Porter’s 150th career point.
Porter increased the Michigan margin to 4-0 with career point 151 at 13:19 on a shot from the right point during a Wolverine power play.
Michigan closed out the middle stanza at 17:38 on Ben Winnett’s solo effort after stealing the puck in the slot and whistling the puck by Sims.
Travis Travis Turnbull added Michigan’s final tally early in the third period.
Sauer held down the fort the rest of the distance for the Wolverines to post the shutout.
Michigan (17-2-0, 11-1-0 CCHA) moves on to the GLI tourney final on Saturday night while Providence (6-7-2, 4-3-2 Hockey East) will play will take the ice in the Saturday’s preliminary offering.