KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Behind Chad Kolarik’s four goals and 31 saves by Wolverines’ netminder Billy Sauer, the No. 1 University of Michigan battled to a 4-1 victory over the Western Michigan Broncos to earn four points in the weekend sweep.
“We knew coming in here that the fans were going to be fired up, and of course you can’t plan for something like that,” said Wolverines’ coach Red Berenson. “They started their lineup and we pretty much start the same lineup night in and night out, and I told [Tim] Miller laughing, don’t worry about who is on their team, just score a goal on the first shift. It hurt the fans, and it hurts the team obviously, but then it was a game.”
It looked like a similar start to Friday night’s matchup as the Wolverines jumped out to a hard fought 3-1 first period lead.
The first Wolverines’ goal came just 30 seconds into the opening period, when Broncos’ goalie Riley Gill collided with his own teammate and Kolarik picked up the loose puck inside the left circle and fired it home.
At the 11:25 mark of the first period, after Broncos’ defenseman Jordan Collins was whistled for hooking, Brandon Naurato and Kevin Porter got the puck up to Kolarik, who had two whacks at it as the puck was sitting on Gill’s pads, with the second shot getting past the Broncos’ goalie.
Holding the lead, the Wolverines were whistled for two penalties simultaneously on Brian Lebler and Travis Turnbull at the 15:47 mark. With the Broncos having a five-on-three advantage, the Broncos’ Max Campbell was whistled for tripping, reducing the power play to four-on-three. With just eight seconds left on the power play, Nathan Ansell saw an open crease from the top of the left circle and ripped WMU’s only goal of the night.
“Yeah, that is exactly what I saw,” Ansell said. “The guy went down for the block and he over-blocked it, I faked it and luckily it went in. [Jeff} Pierce was doing a nice job in front of the net screening.”
Only 19 seconds later on a power play, Wolverines’ freshman Kevin Quick received the puck from junior Travis Turnbull on the left side of the crease and was able to draw Gill out from the pipes, knocking it into the back of the net.
“Well, I think we got pucks to the net and we scored in different ways,” Berenson said. “It was good that our second unit was able to score, and their penalty kill was aggressive all weekend. I can’t tell you that we had a lot of scoring chances, but we made some of them count and they all weren’t pretty goals.”
“I thought that we completed really hard tonight, I thought we did a lot of good things in the hockey game,” said Broncos’ coach Jim Culhane. “I think that we are going to see on tape that we generated a lot of chances to score, but the difference is the play of Kolarik scoring four goals and Sauer in net for them. Those are two young men for Michigan that had really good games.
“I thought our team played very hard, and we showed a lot of grit and determination and played much better tonight than last night,” he said.
After four minutes in the middle period, Kolarik won a face off in the right circle and sent it bouncing past Gill to complete the third hat trick of his career.
“The first three goals tonight were rebounds and bad plays off the face off; I got some lucky bounces tonight,” Kolarik said.
“It definitely is a confidence booster for us being able to generate so many chances tonight,” Culhane said. “I told the guys that this is an example of the effort to be successful against any team we face, and I am really pleased with the way our team played tonight.”
Even trailing by three at the end of the second period, the Broncos fired a lot more shots on Sauer than they did last night.
“It was kind of like last night, they didn’t get a lot of shots early; for the first two periods, they didn’t have a shot for like five or six minutes,” Sauer said. “I guess I have been getting used to that this weekend, but I just tried to remain focused when they do have the puck in the zone, even if they don’t get anything.”
Over 10 minutes ran off the clock in the final period before Kolarik added his fourth goal of the night on a power play. The goal came right in front of the net as Naurato and Porter found Kolarik in front of Gill, and he was able to chip home the fifth goal of the night for the Wolverines.
“I thought we were just moving the puck better on the power play tonight,” Kolarik said. “We didn’t know they were going to be that aggressive last night, and tonight we made adjustments, and we just were able to put the puck home.”
The Wolverines will host a home-and-home series next weekend with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish; the Broncos host a home-and-home series with Bowling Green.