All season, members of the Michigan hockey team have said they expect to score by committee.
But don’t tell that to sophomore forwards Aaron Palushaj and Louie Caporusso.
Together, the duo has scored half of the team’s 18 total goals through the first five games.
“We’re just having fun out there,” Palushaj said with a shrug, downplaying his importance to the offense.
And as long as it’s enjoyable for the sophomores, the Wolverines will take all the goals they can get from them.
Palushaj and Caporusso each tallied a pair of goals last night, paving the way for Michigan’s 4-2 victory over Niagara (1-3) at Yost Ice Arena.
But the Wolverines (1-1 CCHA, 4-1 overall) didn’t have as much breathing room as the score indicated.
With just over five minutes remaining in the first period, a cluster of players scrambled for the puck in front of the Michigan goal. The puck slipped out from under sophomore goalie Bryan Hogan toward the left post, where Purple Eagle forward Dan Baco tipped it in for a 1-0 lead.
Hogan lay sprawled on the ice, looking at the flashing red light for an answer.
“I had no idea where that was,” Hogan said. “I thought it was out in front, then it ended up over there, and it was a mess.”
The Purple Eagles’ early lead held through most of the second period.
Then, the Wolverines turned around one of their most glaring weaknesses of the season thus far — the power play.
Entering the game 1-for-32 on the man advantage, Michigan converted twice last night. Both proved to be game-changing goals.
The first came with 6:43 left in the second as Palushaj slapped a one-timer from the left circle, connecting on a perfect pass from sophomore defenseman Chad Langlais.
And Caporusso followed suit shortly afterward with a wraparound goal after picking up the rebound from sophomore defenseman Scooter Vaughan’s wrist shot.
“If you have a shift right after you score and score again, that’s huge,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We were lucky.”
The Wolverines continued their habit of scoring goals in pairs. Just as in last Saturday’s second period against Northern Michigan, Michigan fed off the adrenaline rush.
But after Hogan let up a Niagara rebound goal late in the second, the Wolverines and Purple Eagles entered the game’s final period deadlocked at two.
Six minutes into the frame, Caporusso capitalized on a pass from senior forward Travis Turnbull a few feet in front of the net for a five-hole lamp-lighter. Later, Palushaj tacked on an empty-netter to put the game out of reach.
The game marked Hogan’s second consecutive start, something he didn’t do all last season. After tallying 23 saves in last Saturday’s victory over Northern Michigan, he saved another 23 shots last night. Hogan said he likes seeing more shots because it puts him in a rhythm and keeps him more focused.
Berenson said senior netminder Billy Sauer will start Saturday’s game at No. 6 Boston University because of his experience in road games.