For senior alternate captain Chad Kolarik, Saturday’s game against Western Michigan was a fantastic four-goal performance that almost wasn’t.
Kolarik was a little queasy before Saturday night’s game in Kalamzoo, but the senior alternate captain found the perfect cure for his upset stomach: Get absolutely leveled by an opponent’s check, stand up and score a goal just seconds into the game.
“I felt pretty nauseous,” Kolarik said. “Then I got hit and I felt great. It might have something to do with that goal I scored.”
Kolarik’s goal at the 30-second mark was his first of a whopping four in the game and set the tone for a 5-1 win over the Broncos to complete a weekend sweep.
It was the first four-goal game for a Wolverine since Dwight Helminen notched four against Ohio State exactly four years and two days earlier.
The scoring outburst was surprising, considering Kolarik couldn’t make it through Friday’s 6-1 home win over Western Michigan, leaving the ice with more than four minutes remaining in the game after being nicked up a few times.
“He had a Charlie horse, and it was stiff,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We wanted to get him off, out of the game so they could loosen it up, because you never know if they’re going to tighten up.”
Kolarik’s first goal might have gotten Michigan on the board, but it was his third goal that came as the biggest surprise.
Though normally a winger, Kolarik took the faceoff in the right circle of Michigan’s offensive zone. Rather than drawing the puck to one of his defenseman at the point, Kolarik shoved the puck toward the net just as it dropped. The shot completely fooled Bronco goalie Riley Gill.
“Coach told me to try and throw it to the net, and it worked out, and coach was loving it,” Kolarik said.
Aside from Kolarik’s four-goal night, Saturday’s game was a plodding and inconsistent affair because of constant penalties and TV timeouts.
The refs called 12 total penalties in the game, but eight were enforced in the first period, making it hard for the players to get into a rhythm early in the game.
“It’s hard,” Berenson said of the almost two-and-a-half hour game. “Some guys don’t get in the game enough, and you lose the momentum. You lose your sweat.”
Unlike Friday night, when it was doubled in shots, Western Michigan (6-15-1 overall, 2-12 CCHA) hung tough Saturday. The play was much closer than the score would suggest.
The Broncos put constant pressure on Michigan goalie Billy Sauer, but beat him just once, on a Nathan Ansell point shot during a power play late in the first period.
Still, Michigan (20-2, 13-1) couldn’t be too upset with any of the weekend’s small annoyances. With the sweep, the Wolverines achieved their second best start ever. The 1993-94 team went 20-1-1 in its first 22 games.
“It’s a great start,” Sauer said. “We have tough games coming up, and that’s going to be the biggest test for us this season when we have to play the toughest teams in our league.”
In three of the next four weekends, Michigan takes on Notre Dame, Michigan State and Miami (Ohio). All three squads were ranked in the Top 10 going into the weekend.
The Wolverines haven’t faced any of those teams yet this season, but Michigan sits atop the conference with 26 points.
Even with difficult tests ahead, at least now Michigan knows how to get past any pregame discomfort: Get lit up. Stand up. Score.