Chad Kolarik is an opportunist.
So when he had the chance to record a second consecutive hat trick against Miami (Ohio) last Thursday, he took it.
With 1:15 to go in the game and the Wolverines holding a 5-3 lead, Miami pulled its goalie in favor of an extra attacker. Seconds later, Kolarik gathered the puck off a deflection and headed up ice. Though his teammate T.J. Hensick was further up the ice, Kolarik fired at the empty cage from just outside his own blue line for his third goal of the game.
“T.J. was ahead of me there, I should have passed it up,” Kolarik said after the game. “I said I’m sorry, I think he’s a little upset at me.”
Apologies aside, Kolarik had a spectacular third period, recording three goals as his parents looked on from the Yost Ice Arena stands.
After struggling for two periods, it looked as if the third period wouldn’t go Kolarik’s way either. Early in the frame he and Andrew Cogliano skated towards the Miami goalie on a 2-on-1. The Miami defenseman seemed to be playing the shot, but Kolarik fired the puck anyway, which flew well above the net and off the glass.
But when a second chance came just minutes later, Kolarik didn’t let it pass.
Near the halfway point of the period, Kolarik and Cogliano had another odd-man rush. Kolarik shot again, this time putting it past Miami goalie Charlie Effinger to give Michigan a 4-2 lead.
“We talked about the first (2-on-1 opportunity), and he knows he should have passed it,” Cogliano said. “But he’s got the hot hand right now. He’s looking to shoot, and you have to respect that.”
There’s no doubt Kolarik has been on fire thus far in the season. In just four games, the Abington, Pa., native has seven goals and 10 points total.
Now the question is: Will the junior forward be able to keep up the torrid pace?
Coach Red Berenson doesn’t expect Kolarik to get a hat trick every contest, but he would like the junior to continue working on his entire game, not just goal scoring.
“If a skill player competes hard in all the parts of the game then his skill will show up,” said Berenson, who once tallied six goals in a single game as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
For Kolarik to maintain his current level of play he needs to remain focused on preparation and work ethic, Berenson said.
Kolarik has also been working on gelling with his linemates, Cogliano and freshman Brian Lebler.
All three members of Michigan’s second line took extra time at yesterday’s practice to work on their communication and offensive strategy.
Playing alongside departed seniors Brandon Kaleniecki and Andrew Ebbett last season, Kolarik scored 12 goals and added 26 assists.
With such good hands and offensive skill, Kolarik can only improve as the chemistry with his linemates increases.
Cogliano, for one, is counting on it.
“He’s won a couple games for us so far, and we need that from guys like him.”