After two weeks off and two injuries, the Michigan hockey team could have come out sluggish or a step behind.
Instead, the Wolverines scored a season-high 10 goals.
Alternate captain Chad Kolarik, sidelined for a month with a hamstring injury, netted his third hat trick of the season and helped Michigan build an insurmountable 3-0 lead after the first period with two of his own scores.
But Kolarik’s three-goal night was just a small part of the Wolverines’ 10-1 thrashing of Nebraska-Omaha in the first game of the CCHA quarterfinals.
Brandon Naurato, Carl Hagelin, Travis Turnbull, Louie Caporusso, Mark Mitera, Kevin Porter and Danny Fardig all scored goals as well.
Welcomed back with louder cheers than Hobey-Baker favorite Porter, Kolarik lit the lamp for the first time halfway through the opening frame. The senior skated right to left across the circles before rocketing a wrist shot top shelf. Chris Summers jumped onto the huddled forwards in jubilation as once again, the Yost faithful cheers reached a crescendo for Kolarik.
Before the period reached a close, Kolarik found the back of the net one more time. Porter hit the right post before rebounding his own shot as he fell to the ice and hitting Kolarik with a cross-crease pass to put Michigan up three before the break.
But his third goal pushed the crowd over the edge. Aside from the normal selection of Michigan hats on the ice, there was a penguin costume and water buffalo hat thrown out to show the crowd’s appreciation.
Porter and Kolarik are the first Wolverine due with 25-plus goals in a season since the 2001-2002 season.
Though the game was dominated by offense – the Mavericks used all three of their goalies – the Wolverines were not short on defense.
Michigan limited Nebraska-Omaha to 15 shots (two in the first) and kept the nation’s top power-play unit to just one score.
But the Wolverines’ crushing does anything but assure a sweep of the best-of-three series. When Michigan beat Notre Dame 10-1 Kolarik and Porter’s freshman year, the next night’s overtime contest yielded just one goal between the two.
The Wolverines face the Mavericks again tomorrow night for the series’ second game.