It would be natural to assume that after a two-goal performance
against Miami (Ohio) over the weekend, freshman Chad Kolarik would
be thrilled with his recent success. But the forward, who has four
goals and two assists in his first 10 games as a Wolverine,
evaluates his play under an extremely critical lens.

Ice Hockey
Michigan freshman Chad Kolarik leads the team in power play goals with three, but he still modest about his performance so far this season. (RYAN WEINER/Daily)

“I’m really inconsistent,” Kolarik said before
practice yesterday. “I have six (points), but that’s
not as much as I want. Hopefully, I’ll become more consistent
as I progress.”

Michigan coach Red Berenson sings a different tune when speaking
of Kolarik’s game.

“I’m not disappointed in him,” Berenson said.
“I like the contribution, I like the way he’s fit in
with our team off the ice, I like the way he’s competing. I
think he’s getting better, and I think the best part of his
season will be the second half of the year.”

Kolarik currently leads the No. 2 Michigan hockey team (5-1-0
CCHA, 7-2-1 overall) in power play goals with three. His goals over
the weekend — both of which came with a man advantage —
marked the first time in his brief collegiate career that Kolarik
has put the puck in the net in back-to-back games.

The goals weren’t just run-of-the-mill, either. On Friday
night, Kolarik bounced the puck off Miami goalie Brandon
Crawford-West from behind the net for the game-winner. On Saturday,
the freshman scored on a wide-angle, wraparound shot, beating
Crawford-West between the legs to give the Wolverines an
insurmountable three-goal lead. Berenson credits Kolarik’s
“hockey sense” for his ability to make something out of
nothing.

“I don’t think people realize the skill that
(Kolarik) possesses right now,” said junior forward Jeff
Tambellini, who leads Michigan in scoring. “He’s
dangerous any time he touches the puck, especially around the net.
He’s really slick.”

The Miami series proved to be a breakout weekend of sorts for
both Kolarik and Tambellini. Kolarik hadn’t scored a goal
since Oct. 23, while Tambellini’s five goals in two days
ended an even longer drought. Tambellini — who has definitely
experienced the ups and downs of scoring during his years in Ann
Arbor — made sure that Kolarik didn’t lose his poise in
the days leading up to the games against the RedHawks.

“We’d been talking all week, keeping each other
going and pushing each other,” Tambellini said. “When
you do that and you have a real positive mindset, things usually
turn around and the puck starts going in for you.”

Kolarik, who has played with a variety of players so far this
season, spent the Miami series on a line with senior captain Eric
Nystrom and senior Jason Ryznar. The freshman found it easy to
skate with the two seasoned veterans.

“(Nystrom and Ryznar) are tremendous,” Kolarik said.
“They’re big guys, so they’re working in the
corners. I’m not the biggest guy, so I stand out in front in
the slot.”

Berenson was happy with the new trio’s play, making
particular note of Kolarik’s confidence around the net and
play without the puck.

“I think Nystrom and Ryznar will tell Chad things he needs
to do better or how they need him to play,” Berenson said.
“On the other hand, (Kolarik) will bring an element of
offense and puckhandling skills to the line. I’m comfortable
with him. I trust him on the ice.”

Still, the quest for consistency remains a problem area for the
maturing youngster. Berenson recognizes that there is often a major
adjustment period for a talented player upon taking the step up to
the Division-I level.

“You have to play hard every shift,” Berenson said.
“You have to play hard every night.”

Tambellini can relate to Kolarik’s streakiness. After all,
it’s something the junior feels almost every player is
constantly searching for, including himself.

“(Consistency) is what makes the good players great and
the average players just average players,” Tambellini said.
“It’s a tough thing to get. Not many people can be
totally consistent. You just have to ingrain hard work and
determination into your game. Every day in practice, you play as
hard as you do on Friday and Saturday night, and hopefully that
pays off.”

Despite having his work cut out for him, Kolarik is finally
settling down and realizing that he can do great things at
Michigan.

“I’m gaining some confidence now,” he said.
“I can definitely make a difference here.”

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