Brian Mahoney-Wilson collapsed on the ice, his helmet-less head wedged in the corner of the net and his feet splayed across the crease.
The Lake Superior State goalie looked beaten and alone – and he was. All eyes were on Michigan senior Chad Kolarik as he skated past the mess of hats that littered the ice, pumping his fist after his first natural hat trick and second of the season. Kolarik’s four goals pushed Michigan past Lake Superior State 4-2 Friday in a game that featured flashy moves and bruising hits.
Lake Superior State scored first after Michigan goalie Billy Sauer fumbled a shot by Laker defenseman Simon Gysbers and the puck skidded into the back of the net. Early in the first period, Michigan looked off its game. The Wolverines’ puck control and skating were both less clean than last weekend against Miami (Ohio). And despite only having three penalties in the first period – all against Lake Superior State – the game was considerably slower-paced.
But with 3:09 left in the period, a hard hit on forward Louie Caporusso gave the Wolverines their third power-play opportunity of the game. A little less than a minute later, freshman Aaron Palushaj grabbed the puck on a breakaway. Mahoney-Wilson saved the shot but lost track of the puck, leaving it unattended behind him in the center of the crease. Senior Chad Kolarik skated past Mahoney-Wilson’s glove side and effortlessly tapped the puck into the net for Michigan’s first goal of the game.
At the end of the first period, the teams were tied 1-1 but Lake Superior State led 11-9 in shots – a performance solid enough for the Lakers to surround Mahoney-Wilson after the first-period buzzer in celebration as the Wolverines left the ice for intermission.
Defenseman Chris Summers landed in the penalty box twice in the second period, but his penalties were Michigan’s only through two stanzas. The low number of penalties marked a departure from the Wolverines’ two penalty-ridden games last weekend against Miami.
With four minutes left in the period and on the power play, Kolarik and Porter teamed up again to give Kolarik his second goal of the night and 22nd of the season. And a little less than two minutes later, Kolarik had a chance for a natural hat trick on a shorthanded breakaway – but his first shot was saved and his second, off the rebound, went wide of the net.
Early in the third period, Lake Superior State forward Zac MacVoy was called for a contact to the head/roughing penalty. But after the play ended, Gysbers targeted Kolarik, tackling the Wolverine forward and hitting him in the face. Both Lakers received penalties, giving Michigan a 5-on-3 advantage for two full minutes.
Michigan couldn’t capitalize with the two-man edge. But ten seconds after the Lakers returned to full strength, Kolarik’s shot bounced past Mahoney-Wilson’s pads for the senior forward’s third goal of the game and a 3-1 lead.
Lake Superior State narrowed the Wolverines’ margin to one with five minutes remaining in the game on a shot by forward Nathan Perkovich. And with 1:50 left, freshman Matt Rust’s interference penalty meant Michigan would have a 6-on-4 disadvantage with just a one-goal lead for the last minutes of the game.
The Yost Crowd was deafening during the Lakers’ timeout with less than a minute remaining, and the intimidation tactic seemed to work – Kolarik netted his fourth goal on an empty-netter with 37.2 seconds left. It was his second four-game goal of the season, with his other against Western Michigan in January.
The Wolverines and Lakers face off again Saturday at 7:35 p.m.