ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan senior captain Kevin Porter’s regular season home career ended in storybook fashion, as he led his Wolverines to a 5-3 win over Ferris State that clinched the CCHA conference championship for No. 1 Michigan at Yost Arena Friday night.
A top Hobey Baker Award candidate, Porter earned his post-game Senior Night tributes with his on-ice performance during the game, scoring the goal that put Michigan ahead for good in the second period and adding an assist. He narrowly missed a half dozen other scoring chances with a dominating offensive show. Porter’s capstone performance was the fifteenth multi-point game of his career.
“It was a great feeling,” said Porter. “You couldn’t ask for a better Senior Night.”
The Michigan win raised their CCHA leading point total to 44 points, an insurmountable lead over second place Miami, securing their first regular season conference title since the 2004-2005 season and their tenth such title overall.
Michigan coach Red Berenson acknowledged Porter’s contribution, but attributed the youthful team’s success to their ability to function as a team. Twelve freshmen entered the Michigan program last fall, and the team was a pre-season selection to finish fourth in the CCHA.
“It is a tribute to those guys in the locker room, the captains, the defensemen, the goalies and the freshmen ,and how well they have played,” said Berenson. “It has been a total team effort.
“Porter has been here four years and, since his freshman year, we’ve had some pretty good teams and the same coach, and we came up short one way or another, but this team found a way. It wasn’t like we had a simple schedule. It was a tough schedule right out of the gate; eight of our first 12 on the road and we only lost one, up at Minnesota. The year is not over, but I think that is a nice tribute to this young team.”
Wolverines’ netminder Billy Sauer turned back 28 Bulldogs’ shots.
While Michigan never trailed in the game, the Bulldogs fought back gamely using the power play to score all three of their goals.
The scoreless first period resulted in an 11-6 shots on goal edge for the Bulldogs, yet Michigan had a sizable edge in scoring opportunities.
Both teams found their scoring touch in the second period, trading goals until Michigan finally eked ahead 3-2 late in the stanza.
Junior Brandon Naurato grabbed a loose puck and slapped a missile at Bulldogs’ goaltender Pat Nagle from the top of the right circle. Nagle managed to get a piece of the shot, but the momentum of the puck carried it through to the back of the net at 3:20.
Ferris State replied just over three minutes later. Brendan Connolly banked a shot from the center of the ice at the blue line off the intersection of the goal post and the crossbar past a screened Sauer at 6:50, his fifth power-play goal of the season.
Less than a minute later, it was Michigan’s turn in the see-saw second period scoring order. Brian Lebler snapped a loose puck by Nagle, his first goal since November, at 7:11.
The Bulldogs’ Blair Riley found the top right corner of the net at 11:43 for Ferris State’s second power-play goal of the period.
A pretty power play passing combination from Aaron Palushaj to Porter gave the Wolverines the 3-2 lead they carried into the third period at 18:07. Palushaj carried the puck deep into the left corner and spotted Porter sneaking into the slot from his post at the right point. Porter one-timed Palushaj’s backhand centering pass past Nagle, giving the Wolverines a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Max Pacioretty increased the Michigan lead to 4-2 just 15 seconds into the final period with a sharp-angled blast past Nagle, and Louie Caporusso finished the Wolverines’ scoring at 2:56 of the third period, tipping in Steve Kampfer’s shot from the right point.
The Bulldogs’ Mike Fillinger added Ferris State’s third power-play goal of the game at 5:20, but the Bulldogs couldn’t solve Sauer during the remainder of the game.
Both teams close out the regular season Saturday night in Big Rapids. Ferris State (14-14-5, 11-12-4 CCHA) will enter the playoffs next weekend as one of four CCHA teams hosting a preliminary round series. Michigan (27-4-4, 20-3-4 CCHA) earns a weekend off with their top-four conference finish and will host a second round CCHA series in two weeks.