MARQUETTE – This streak is a rough one for Michigan.
Freshman Matt Rust’s five-minute checking from behind penalty with 2:02 left in the third period on Saturday marked the third straight time that the Wolverines have had to be shorthanded for the remainder of a game.
Rust was called for holding with 2:01 left in last weekend’s game against Minnesota, which left the Wolverines fighting a 6-on-4 while down by one goal. The late-game trend had been extended Friday with sophomore Brian Lebler’s roughing penalty with 1:37 left.
“You have to battle through,” senior Chad Kolarik said. “We took a lot of stupid penalties tonight, and we got to get through that. We have a lot of freshmen, a lot of young guys.”
But when the Wolverines weren’t taking penalties, they were capitalizing on them. Michigan went 4-for-13 on the power play and notched its first power-play point of the season on a Kevin Porter goal in the second period of Friday’s game.
“Chad (Kolarik) tried stuffing it in and then slid it over – it was kind of bobbling a bit and I was just standing there, so that was a bit lucky,” Porter said Friday. “We were struggling a bit before that. They were taking a lot of penalties, so we needed to capitalize on a power play sooner or later.”
Kolarik said Michigan will need to work on moving the puck better during power plays and added too many shots were blocked by the Northern defense.
With two power-play goals each game this weekend, Michigan can hardly complain – its power-play unit has started to provide concrete results.
“It’s not that we weren’t playing well on the power play, we just couldn’t finish it,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson about Porter’s goal. “You need to get a goal to get a little bit of confidence. . You’re hoping you’ll collect, but you don’t always collect right away.”
Another first for freshmen: Michigan’s 12 freshmen got their first taste of CCHA fans with this weekend’s energetic crowd at the Berry Events Center.
Before both games, Northern Michigan skated through the mouth of a giant, inflatable Wildcat head, complete with spotlights and billowing smoke. The Wildcat student section, the Puckheads, was clad in neon-yellow vests and construction helmets with hockey pucks drilled into the top.
In the first intermission of Friday’s game, Northern Michigan fans went human bowling. A Puckhead was slingshot in a tube across the ice at larger-than-life, foam bowling pins.
Though veterans like captain Kevin Porter said the crowd “wasn’t too big of a distraction,” freshman Matt Rust felt the opposite in Northern’s loud, hostile arena.
“The (students) were pretty rowdy, sitting behind Billy (Sauer),” Rust said. “You can hear it loud and clear, especially when you’re sitting on the bench. I mean, you can’t help but look over a couple of times and see the fans with their ensembles on and everything, going nuts and banging on the glass.”
Looking back: Just nine players on the current Wolverine roster remember Michigan’s last game in Marquette on November 12, 2005.
And to them, Saturday’s game felt familiar.
Michigan won both games in the series, 4-3, in the final seconds.
Junior Travis Turnbull received a 10-minute misconduct in the second period of Saturday’s game, a penalty similar to the 5-minute misconduct/checking-from-behind penalty that he received as a freshman in the second period of the 2005 meeting.
And Kolarik’s shorthanded game-winner Saturday with 22 seconds remaining saved the game for the Wolverines, similar to now-junior Brandon Naurato’s overtime winner two years ago.
“Actually, we were just talking about that in the locker room,” junior Mark Mitera said. “(In 2005,) Naurato just kind of got that break and shot it from the blue line, and (it was) an overtime win for the sweep.”
The Wolverines haven’t lost to the Wildcats in Marquette since 2002.
Note: Through four games, 10 different players have scored at least one goal and just three players (Porter, Rust and freshman Carl Hagelin) have notched multiple goals for the Wolverines.