Some teams just want to kill penalties.
The Michigan hockey team came out last weekend looking to do more than that.
The Wolverines posted two game-changing shorthanded goals – one against Minnesota and the other against Wisconsin – that helped them post two quality wins over ranked opponents.
In the first period of Friday night’s contest, senior Chad Kolarik created a fast-break opportunity when he deflected and errant Wisconsin pass near the Badger blue line. Already behind the defense, Kolarik faked Badger goaltender Shane Connelly and snuck a top-shelf glove-sider behind him for the score.
The shorthanded tally put Michigan up 1-0 and gave the Wolverines enough momentum to power through Wisconsin for three straight goals.
By the time the Badgers picked up some momentum late in the game, there wasn’t enough time to stage a comeback.
“I think (Kolarik’s goal) was just hard work,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “If you watch the tape on Kolarik’s goal, he backchecked hard and he created the turnover, and then he took off and got the loose puck. Remember, the other team on the power play, they’re not thinking defense. They’re thinking offense. And they get a little cute. So, we want to be opportunistic, and that’s another arena that we can do it in, the (penalty kill).”
Saturday night was senior captain Kevin Porter’s turn to knock one in with a man disadvantage.
The Wolverines kicked the puck out of their zone, and netminder Jeff Frazee tried to gather it behind the net. He whiffed on his pass attempt, and Porter swooped around to steal the puck, giving himself a wide-open look at an empty netter.
“Frazee misplayed the puck a little bit, and I just happened to be there and throw it on net,” Porter said. “So it was kind of a lucky goal, but I’m glad to have it.”
Not-so-strong finish: Michigan held a comfortable three-goal lead against Wisconsin going into the final minutes Friday night.
That all changed in 18 seconds.
The Badgers squeaked a power-play goal in on junior goalie Billy Sauer with just more than two minutes to play.
“That penalty kill goal – that shot can’t get through,” Kolarik said. “That’s my fault. I’m a senior, and (Berenson) puts me out there to do a job the last two minutes of the game, and that’s my fault, and I take full responsibility for that.”
Eighteen seconds later, Michigan’s lead was cut to one. Wisconsin won the faceoff and stormed into the Wolverine zone. Junior Ben Street found the puck near the crease and punched it in to make things interesting.
But Michigan drained the final two minutes of the game to hold on for the victory.
“You saw what happens when we take those lapses we’ve been taking all year to a better team,” Porter said “They scored two goals on us.”
Yost sans students: While the “C-Ya!” chant may have been less colorful than in games that aren’t during a student break, the fans who filled Yost Ice Arena this weekend still created a fairly hostile environment.
But nothing will top Yost with a full student section.
“There’s no chant when they’re going to the box,” Kolarik said. “That’s always pretty exciting, but you can definitely feel the atmosphere when they’re here. And it’s a shame these games have to be over Thanksgiving break . where we can get them here and really give them the feel of Yost.”