ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For the second time in two nights, Lake Superior had a shot at knocking off No. 1 Michigan, trailing by only a goal late into the third period.
However, the Wolverines followed the same script both nights, again holding off the pesky Lakers, 4-2, at Yost Arena on Saturday, capping each game with a late empty-net goal.
The Michigan win extended their hold on the top spot in the CCHA, as Miami suffered a second straight weekend loss at Ferris State. The RedHawks tough weekend dropped them back into a tie with Michigan State at 35 points, five back of the Wolverines.
Michigan now sports a 10-1-1 record in games played this season while holding the nation’s No. 1 ranking.
“There was some good hockey in parts and there was some ugly hockey,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Any time you have a sweep in a weekend in this league, this time of the year, you have to do a lot of things right. You’ve got to get some breaks. They made it tough on us. Their goalie played well. Our team was not at the top of our game this weekend.”
Louie Caporusso was the offensive stalwart for the Wolverines on Saturday with a pair of goals, giving him a total of 10 on the season. His second goal of the game was his fourth game-winner of the year
“I really like the direction that Louie’s going,” said Berenson of the freshman from Toronto. “Our young players have been contributing in a pretty consistent fashion. Louie, in particular since he’s come back (from injury), has given us a dose of offense.”
“It was definitely great to get the two wins at Yost,” said Caporusso. “We haven’t swept a series in about four weeks now. It was important that we got the two wins. They weren’t pretty, but we’ll take them.”
“You kind of feel it after awhile when Chad (Kolarik) and (Kevin) Porter keep putting it in,” continued Caporusso on his chance to contribute. “You definitely feel a sense of urgency on the second, third and fourth lines.”
The game looked well in hand for Michigan late in the third period until the Lakers capitalized on an innocent looking play to draw within one goal, 3-2. Rick Schofield notched the Lake Superior goal at 14:23 to put the Lakers within striking distance.
The Wolverines had killed off 1:11 of a five-on-three disadvantage earlier in the third period, during which high-scoring Michigan forward Kolarik had to be helped from the ice with an apparently serious leg injury.
Travis Turnbull’s empty-netter with only 16 seconds sealed the weekend sweep for the Wolverines.
Avenging their slow start of the previous night, the Wolverines jumped to a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by freshmen Caporusso and Matt Rust.
At 14:44, Caporusso picked up a loose puck on his off wing at the right point, swept across the front of the net, slot high, and beat a screened Pat Inglis, in goal for the Lakers, just over a minute into a Wolverines’ power play.
Rust wasted no time doubling the Michigan lead only 41 seconds later on a similar play from the right point. Instead of imitating Caporusso’s move to the left, Rust snapped a quick shot between Inglis’ pads from the right circle.
The scoring matched the balance of play in the second period, as both teams notched a goal.
Lake Superior tightened things up, 2-1, at 10:05 on the power play. Former Wolverine Zac MacVoy threw a backhand pass across the net to Dan Eves waiting at the corner of the goal to bang the puck by Michigan netminder Bryan Hogan, making only his fourth appearance of the season.
Caporusso struck again for Michigan with only 23.3 seconds left in the second period. Turnbull’s pass from behind the net found Caporusso waiting alone in front to beat Inglis and re-establish the Wolverines’ two-goal lead.
The Wolverines (25-3-4, 18-2-4 CCHA) have a two-game weekend set with Michigan State next on their agenda while Lake Superior (6-18-6, 4-15-5 CCHA) hosts Alaska next weekend.