ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Chad Kolarik’s second four-goal game of the season was all Michigan needed Friday night to eke out a 4-2 win over Lake Superior State at Yost Arena in a game that was much tighter than the final score indicates.
To hear Michigan coach Red Berenson describe it, Kolarik was just about all the top-ranked Wolverines had going for them on the night.
“We knew Lake State would play well,” said Berenson. “They play hard and they play together and, for the most part, they were the better team in this game. We were fortunate. The puck went in for us. But, are we happy with our game? No.
“I was impressed with Lake State. Was I surprised with them? No. I think our team was surprised. Were we ready? No. We said all the right things, but we didn’t believe that this would be that tough a game. It’s a fine line between being sharp and being not sharp, and we were not sharp. We have to be a better team tomorrow night.”
For all Berenson’s disappointment in his Wolverines’ play, he had to be pleased with the scoring barrage that came off Kolarik’s stick, two of which were set up by Kolarik’s fellow senior and top Hobey Baker candidate, Kevin Porter.
“Good for Chad Kolarik,” said Berenson. “He was hot and he’s making his chances count.”
Kolarik’s four goals brings his season total to 24, putting him only one goal behind Porter, the team leader with 25.
Although Michigan netminder Billy Sauer stopped 25 Lakers’ shots and Lake Superior goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson deflected away 30 Wolverine attempts, neither of the two were consistently sharp during the game.
The Michigan win, combined with a Miami loss to Ferris State, builds the Wolverines’ CCHA leading margin to three points over the RedHawks.
Carrying a 2-1 lead into the final period, Michigan extended their lead at 6:02 of the third stanza, only seconds after they had failed to connect on a full two-minute five-on-three power play opportunity.
Kolarik, standing just to Mahoney-Wilson’s right, corralled a loose puck and slid it between the Lakers’ goaltender’s pads.
“The puck popped up and I grabbed it off the glass,” said Kolarik. “The goal pads were open, five hole, and I just threw it off him.”
The two-goal lead stood up until 14:57 of the period when Lakers’ forward Troy Schwab bounced a shot from the point off the boards behind Sauer. Nathan Perkovich roofed the rebounding puck over Sauer to tighten the game at 3-2.
Making the contest’s finish even tighter, the Lakers went onto a power play with only 1:50 remaining in the game, but failed to pressure the Michigan goal before Kolarik added his fourth of the night into the empty Lake Superior goal with 37.2 second left.
Coming off an impressive weekend set against Miami, the Wolverines were fortunate to find themselves tied with the Lakers after the initial period.
Lake Superior outplayed the nation’s top-ranked team over the first twenty minutes, but a late Michigan power-play tally enabled the Wolverines to escape the period with a 1-1 tie.
Only 2:20 into the opening frame, Simon Gysbers’ shot from the point bounced off a Michigan defender and found its way past Sauer.
Michigan connected on the power play at 17:46. Aaron Palushaj tipped a pass ahead to himself streaking down the right wing and broke in alone on Mahoney-Wilson. The Lakers’ netminder stopped Palushaj’s scoring attempt, but Kolarik swooped by and tapped in the loose puck.
Outshot in the second period as in the first, Michigan found their late period scoring touch again. Porter controlled the puck in the Lakers’ zone and found a streaking Kolarik open in the slot. Kolarik’s shot deflected off Mahoney-Wilson into the back of the net.
The Lakers (6-17-6, 4-14-5 CCHA) get their shot at revenge Saturday night in a Yost Arena rematch with the Wolverines (24-3-4, 17-2-4 CCHA).