The seniors’ career record in the College Hockey Showcase, heading into this weekend.
Michigan’s biggest victory of the season, a 5-1 win over No. 15 Minnesota Saturday, snapped both a six-game losing streak to the Gophers and a recent tradition of Showcase disappointment.
“There’s one team that I really hate, and that’d be Minnesota,” Michigan goalie Billy Sauer said. “It was really good to get out there and get a win.”
The second-ranked Wolverines (8-0 CCHA, 12-1 overall) swept both games of the College Hockey Showcase this weekend, knocking off No. 14 Wisconsin 3-2 Friday and No. 15 Minnesota Saturday in their first games against ranked teams since the first weekend of the season.
Entering the game, Minnesota (7-6-1) was 7-0-2 in the last five years at the Showcase.
Last season, the Gophers gave Michigan an 8-2 drubbing that included three shorthanded goals and five scores in the third period. And at the Ice Breaker Invitational in October, Minnesota handed Michigan a 4-3 loss for its lone defeat of the season.
But the Wolverines were ready for payback Saturday.
“I just think we came out flying, we came out ready,” senior Chad Kolarik said. “We shook their hands at the end of the last game (in October) and they were all bloodied up, and I think they were pretty intimidated tonight. We came out and we started banging again and it was huge.”
With about two minutes left in the first period, captain Kevin Porter went in on a breakaway, but a Minnesota player poked the puck away before he could get off a shot. Kolarik was right behind his linemate and drilled the loose puck in for Michigan’s first goal.
A Porter-to-Kolarik power-play goal 2:43 into the second period gave Michigan a 2-0 lead and extended the Wolverines’ power-play scoring streak to five games.
Michigan gained full control of the game two-and-a-half minutes later after its second shorthanded goal of the weekend and third of the season. Porter capitalized on a failed clearance attempt by Minnesota goalie Jeff Frazee by dumping the puck in the net while Frazee was still out of the crease.
In all, Kolarik and captain Kevin Porter combined for seven of the game’s 13 points.
Michigan and Minnesota were evenly matched in both speed and physicality, a change from the previous night against Wisconsin, where the Wolverines outskated the Badgers.
But Michigan coach Red Berenson said the difference against the Gophers came in being “opportunistic” and taking advantage of breaks – most obvious in the second period, when the Wolverines notched three goals on just seven shots.
The night before, it was Wisconsin who took advantage of chance opportunities. After Michigan’s first line put the Wolverines ahead 3-0 after two periods, Wisconsin scored its first goal with fewer than three minutes remaining. On the next shift, the Badgers scored again to narrow the Wolverines’ lead to one and temporarily silenced the Yost crowd.
And after allowing two goals in 18 seconds to spoil an otherwise stellar showing in net, Sauer had to refocus the next night for a team that’s consistently shaken him. Besides shouldering the brunt of the 8-2 loss last year, Sauer also played in the 6-3 loss against Minnesota in the Showcase his freshman year.
But the junior showed Saturday that the last minutes of the previous night’s game were a fluke – and the win helped drop his goals-against-average an even 2.00.
The Yost crowd gave Michigan a standing ovation for the last 10 seconds of the game. The team celebrated around Sauer after the final buzzer.
And with that, revenge was taken.
“It’s not that we don’t like Minnesota,” Berenson said. “We respect Minnesota. But it’s time. We’ve lost six in a row to that team. This was our time.”