Kevin Porter for Hobey Baker? Not so fast.
For the last several weeks, the Yost Ice Arena crowd has showered the senior captain with “Hobey Baker” chants during pregame introductions. But he wasn’t the only one garnering such praise from the fans before Saturday night’s 4-2 win over Lake Superior State.
Senior Chad Kolarik, Porter’s linemate, skated to the blueline to cheers urging him to win the award, too.
The fans were obviously impressed with Kolarik’s Friday night performance. After all, scoring four goals and carrying your team through an otherwise lackluster performance is pretty noteworthy.
Kolarik notched his second four-goal game of the season, scoring all his team’s goals in the Wolverines’ 4-2 win Friday. With this weekend’s sweep, No. 1 Michigan has a firm five-point lead over Miami (Ohio) and Michigan State in the CCHA standings.
Kolarik’s stat line Friday night was enough to pull him within one goal and five points of Porter, who leads the nation in total points with 48. The Wolverines boast the only duo in the country with more than 40 points each.
“Good for Chad Kolarik that he was hot and making his chances count,” Michigan coach Red Berenson
“We were not sharp around the net, and obviously, that showed up in the game.”
The news wasn’t so great Saturday, when Kolarik went down with a groin injury in the third period. Berenson couldn’t speculate about how long Kolarik might be out, but said the injury “looks pretty serious.”
The Wolverines closed out the game without Kolarik, and used a good defensive effort to pull away from the Lakers.
Kolarik’s big night Friday was the only bright spot for Michigan in the sloppy, mistake-ridden game.
Lake Superior State plays a tough, physical style of hockey, and the Wolverines didn’t look ready to handle it at first.
The Lakers, with a hard-fought effort, jumped out to a 1-0 first period lead. It was the third straight game in which Lake Superior State (4-15-5 CCHA, 6-18-6 overall) took an early-game lead against Michigan.
“We thought they weren’t going to come out as hard as they did, which we should’ve,” freshman Aaron Palushaj said. “I mean, we talked about it all week. I think some of the guys just weren’t prepared.”
The Wolverines slowly became accustomed to the Lakers’ aggressive style and built a lead going into the final frame.
Early in the third period, Kolarik found a rebounded puck off the glass behind Lake Superior State goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson. The Abington, Pa., native circled back to the net and rattled a shot through Mahoney-Wilson’s five-hole, giving Kolarik his fourth career hat trick.
The alternate captain took an extra-long lap around the rink, allowing time for the Yost crowd to throw about 30 hats onto the ice. When Kolarik finally went back to the bench to take a seat, Porter used his stick to flip one of the hats at Kolarik’s facemask, a subtle congratulation from the soft-spoken captain.
Kolarik knocked in a late-game empty netter to put Michigan (18-2-4, 25-3-4) up for good.
“If you take away those four-goal games, I only have 16 goals,” said a humble Kolarik during Friday night’s press conference. “So I guess I’m not doing something right the rest of the games.”
The Lakers couldn’t keep up with Kolarik, who refused to acknowledge Hobey Baker praise after the game, saying this is Porter’s year and he deserves it much more.
When asked about his having to carry the team, Kolarik remained humble, giving Porter all the credit for the Wolverines’ success.
“Night in and night out, Porter is carrying me on his back,” Kolarik said. “So, I guess I owe him a couple massages or something.”