DETROIT – With two of the nation’s top offenses and a combined 16 tallies in their last weekend series, a Michigan-Miami rematch should have turned into a parade of goals.

But instead, Michigan took advantage of lucky bounces and close saves to defeat the RedHawks 2-1 Saturday in the CCHA Tournament title game at Joe Louis Arena.

After barraging Northern Michigan with shots in yesterday’s semifinal matchup, the Wolverines only managed four shots to Miami’s eight in the first period. The first stanza was marked by near-goals by both teams, but bad bounces and sloppy passes prevented either team from getting on the board.

The Wolverines had two near-perfect scoring opportunities in the first six minutes of play. Four minutes into the game, Winnett took a long pass deep in the RedHawk zone and found himself alone with Zatkoff, but the junior made a quick glove save.

Two minutes later, while shorthanded, junior Tim Miller’s slick stickhandling helped him to fake out a Miami defender before his shot hit the left post.

And with less than two minutes left in the period, Miami captain Ryan Jones’s wraparound shot left the puck just short of the goal. Michigan goalie Billy Sauer, in his save attempt, knocked the puck millimeters over the goal line with his pads. But the referees ruled the play had happened after the whistle, keeping Miami scoreless.

With 6:24 left in the first period, alternate captain Chad Kolarik seemed to have a near-flashback of his Feb. 16 hamstring injury. The senior forward took a hit while going for the puck behind the net and fell to the ice, laying there in front of a near-silent Joe Louis Arena crowd. He limped off the ice and into the locker room in obvious pain but came back into the game two minutes later.

Though the RedHawks continued to dominate the offensive pace of the game, Michigan capitalized eight minutes into the period on a one-timer by freshman Aaron Palushaj. Freshman Matt Rust had the puck in the right circle and quickly passed it to Palushaj, who was hovering near the net. Palushaj made contact with the edge of his stick blade, but the force was still enough for the puck to fly past Zatkoff for the Wolverines’ first goal.

Sauer was the star of the second period, making 13 saves against the aggressive RedHawks offense. After a Winnett hooking penalty left the Wolverines shorthanded with eight minutes left in the stanza, Sauer withstood the Miami onslaught by making two close saves in less than a minute. Miami tried to knock in a rebound off a shot by forward Pat Cannone, but the puck hit the post before lodging between the post and Sauer’s pads.

But after 40 minutes of lagging behind in nearly every column but goals, Michigan found new offensive life in the third period. Halfway through the period, Miller won a faceoff in the Miami zone and pushed the puck to junior Brandon Naurato, who was directly in front of the crease. Naurato knocked in the pass for Michigan’s second goal of the game.

Kolarik was sent to the box for tripping with one minute and 38 seconds left in the game, leaving the Wolverines down two men after Zatkoff was pulled. And Miami used the 6-on-4 to their advantage. In a goal reminiscent of his overtime winner the previous night against Notre Dame, defenseman Alec Martinez launched a slapshot from the blue line to give Miami its first tally of the game with 38.6 seconds remaining.

But the RedHawks could do no more damage. As the buzzer sounded, Michigan equipment littered the ice as the Wolverines threw their gloves and sticks onto the ice while mobbing goalie Billy Sauer behind the net. Wearing backward CCHA championship hats, the Wolverines danced on the ice in celebration of their tournament title.

Miller was one of three forwards and the only Michigan player named to the CCHA All-Tournament team, and the junior forward was also named Most Valuable Player. In Berenson’s postgame speech to the Joe Louis crowd, he lauded Sauer and seniors Kevin Porter and Kolarik.

Check SportsMonday for more coverage of this weekend’s tournament.

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