Two years ago, Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik combined for 119 points in a surprising season for the Michigan hockey team. The Wolverines played with 12 inexperienced freshmen, minimal expectations and a steep learning curve.

But Porter and Kolarik — the 1-2 punch that posed matchup problems for nearly every opponent that season — led the Wolverines to first place in the CCHA and a Frozen Four appearance, the team’s first since 2003.

The following year, then-sophomores Aaron Palushaj and Louie Caporusso filled the void left by the two standout Michigan players (both now play in the Phoenix Coyote system). Despite the Wolverines’ early exit from the NCAA Tournament, both had breakout years. Palushaj soon departed for the American Hockey League to play for the Peoria Rivermen and Caporusso was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, for college hockey’s best player.

This year, so far, there has been a gaping vacancy.

There have been no prolific primary scorers on this year’s Wolverines. Michigan hasn’t seen that combination this season — until maybe, now with Caporusso and junior foward Carl Hagelin.

“We don’t want to be a one-line team, but on any given night, anyone can explode,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “That’s particularly what Michigan does. It might be one shift, one minute of the game that can decide the game. It might be one player.”

Those players that exploded for significant points on the stat sheet were Hagelin and Caporusso, the first-and third-leading scorers for Michigan (7-7 CCHA, 12-10 overall), respectively.

With just over five minutes left in the middle stanza Friday night, Caporusso weaved through the Western Michigan defense between the blue lines and rifled a wrist shot 10 feet inside the attacking zone, catching goaltender Riley Gill off-guard on his glove side.

Later in the third period, Caporusso drove around the net and fed a pass to wide-open senior defenseman Steve Kampfer. Kampfer deposited the puck in the far side of the net. Caporusso received First Star Honors for his two-point performance in Kalamazoo.

“He’s a scorer, an All-American,” assistant coach Mel Pearson said. “He hasn’t quite played up to that level but the last five or six games we’ve seen an improvement in his work ethic.”

It is certainly that type of hard work and commitment on the ice that the Wolverines lacked earlier in season, so it was definitely a positive when the two quality players put on good shows this past weekend.

The following night against Western Michigan, Hagelin stole the spotlight, registering a career-high four points. According to Pearson, his strengths lie in his footwork and ability to beat opposing players to the net.

On Saturday against the Broncos, his quickness was apparent to everyone at Yost Ice Arena.

Hagelin, this week’s CCHA Offensive Player of the Week, credited Porter and Kolarik with teaching him the importance of being a player that brought his ‘A’ game, day-in and day-out.

“There’s no easy games, there’s no easy team that you’re going to score against just because they’re not a Miami (Ohio),” Hagelin said. “Every team plays good defense. That’s the bottom line in the CCHA. … Everyone prides themselves on playing good ‘D,’ so definitely showing up every night helps out.”

And Michigan’s future success could depend on the dynamic playing styles between Caporusso and Hagelin — this year’s 1-2 combo. The duo has the ability to put this team on its shoulders, at least offensively, in hopes of leap-frogging a few teams in the conference standings.

“I like them both,” Pearson said. “Because when they get around the net, they like to score. Some guys shoot, but those guys shoot to score.”

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