Four opponents. Four weekends. Four sweeps.

Jessica Boullion
Senior Chad Kolarik started the Michigan scoring in a weekend sweep of Alaska. (ZACHARY MEISNER/Daily)

The Michigan hockey team’s 4-0 and 4-2 wins over Alaska this weekend are just the latest installments in the Wolverines’ best start since the turn of the century.

Though the four teams Michigan has faced had a combined two victories entering their respective series, the young Wolverines have outscored their opponents by more than two goals per game throughout the win streak.

“I think everyone’s excited,” said senior Chad Kolarik, who tallied three goals this weekend. “I think we’re too young to ride high. I think everyone’s got so much energy.

“It’s great. The youth on our team is unbelievable. I think it’s helping us stay level- headed.”

It’s that steady mindset, not necessarily the Wolverines’ overall play, that has satisfied Michigan coach Red Berenson.

“I’m really impressed with the consistency of this team at this point,” Berenson said. “Right now there’s good chemistry and good spirit on this team, so those are things to build on.”

At the same time, Berenson has aired some concerns regarding Michigan’s recent play, along with senior captain Kevin Porter, who has repeatedly stressed the need to play well for the game’s entire length without “couple-minute-long” lapses.

But that’s much easier said then done against a winless Alaska squad that was picked to finish second to last in the CCHA. Goalie Billy Sauer, who notched his first shutout of the season Friday, said he tried to exaggerate what he does when there’s a low level of play and do the “little things that you normally wouldn’t do.”

“I think we’re definitely riding high, and we really need to pick it up a little bit more,” Sauer said. “We haven’t had the best competition lately. . Sometimes against Alaska, you kind of take almost the games for granted, which obviously you don’t want to do.”

Berenson, recognizing how easily the Nanooks could’ve been overlooked, was pleased with the tallies in the win column even though Michigan didn’t play to its peak.

“I like the fact that we’re finding a way to score the important goal or make the big save at the right time,” Berenson said. “It was a tough weekend of hockey. Our team had to work hard, grind hard and I don’t know if we got rewarded for our hard work or not, but we got the victories.”

One of the main reasons the Wolverines (6-0 CCHA, 9-1 overall) have come out on top time and time again is the play of Sauer. He let just two pucks get past him all weekend – both glove side – and played smart and poised hockey from the top of the crease.

The Nanooks didn’t boast a dynamic offense, but Michigan’s eight-game win streak, a career-best for Sauer, is a tremendous confidence builder for him and the defense in front of him.

“Billy has been playing unbelievable for us,” junior defenseman Mark Mitera said. “(It’s) been huge for us when we get in those lulls where teams are in our zone. He’s been holding us in these games, really giving us a chance to win.”

But while prognosticators will attempt to predict when the streak will end, some more immediate results might surface today when the national rankings are released. Miami (Ohio)’s loss to Notre Dame could drop them from the nation’s top spot in the USCHO poll, leaving the second-ranked Wolverines as the likely replacement. It’s unlikely the Redhawks will lose all 49 of their first-place votes, but Michigan has a good chance of stealing some.

Then its encapsulating number wouldn’t be four. It’d be one.

Alaska 2
Michigan 4

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *