Sophomore forward Aaron Palushaj knew heading into the season that most of the offensive burden fell on his shoulders.
Making the transition to the top line was relatively easy for Palushaj, as he moved up with the two members of his line last year, sophomores Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin.
The trio accounted for a goal in each game of Michigan’s weekend series against St. Lawrence, but Palushaj alone made the difference in tonight’s contest.
Sophomore goaltender Bryan Hogan had been solid through two periods for the Wolverines, but he let up three goals late in the final period to bring the game to a tie with four minutes left in regulation.
Palushaj didn’t want to send the game into overtime.
He took the puck up the ice on a breakaway, struggled with a defenseman, and as he fell forward towards the net, Palushaj lifted the puck into the net.
Palushaj’s goal put Michigan ahead, and after a game-clinching, power-play goal by junior forward Brian Lebler, the Wolverines recorded a 5-3 victory over St. Lawrence tonight at Yost Ice Arena.
Two of the five Michigan goals go to Palushaj, and the other three came from a variety of sources — including some unlikely ones.
For the second night in a row, a sophomore defenseman scored his first career goal en route to a Michigan win.
Friday night, Chad Langlais tallied, at the time, a game-tying goal in the second period.
Tonight, it was Tristin Llewellyn, seeing his first game action after suffering concussion-like symptoms this week, who put Michigan on the board in the first period in its game against the Saints.
With 43.8 seconds left in a scoreless first period, Llewellyn hit a slap shot from left point, and the puck skipped into right corner of net, almost like a rock skips on the surface of water.
The Wolverines added to their lead less than five minutes into the second period with a tip-in goal from Palushaj.
The other two goals came from sophomore forward Louie Caporusso, who connected after a perfect set-up pass from senior Travis Turnbull in the middle of the third period, and Lebler, who scored Michigan’s first power-play goal of the year at the close of the game.
The Wolverines went 1-for-18 on power plays this weekend.
Senior captain Mark Mitera’s injury on Friday night left a gaping hole in the Michigan defense. Junior alternate captain Chris Summers, who had been playing left wing all preseason, moved back to the blue line, where he played most of the past two seasons.
Freshman defenseman Brandon Burlon injured his ankle in practice last week, and he was seen sporting a black walking cast on his foot. Without Mitera and Burlon, the depleted defense was forced to try out new pairings tonight, and most seemed to find some chemistry.
Hogan was solid early in net for the Wolverines, but loosened up in the final period, allowing three goals in the span of nine minutes. Before the weekend, Michigan coach Red Berenson said he would have Hogan and senior Billy Sauer each play one game in the series.
Sauer let up three goals Friday night, including a couple easy shots off rebounds.
For more coverage of Michigan’s weekend sweep of St. Lawrence, check out SportsMonday on Oct. 13.