DETROIT – No. 1 in the Great Lakes Invitational. No. 1 in the nation. One goal.
The Michigan hockey team surrounded its first GLI championship trophy in 11 years Saturday, holding its index fingers to the sky – and rarely has the number one sign been so appropriate.
After rolling over Providence College 6-0 Friday in the tournament’s first game, Michigan defeated Michigan Tech 1-0 Saturday in a double-overtime, three-and-a-half-hour contest. The marathon victory sealed Michigan’s first GLI championship since 1996, snapped a six-game losing streak in the tournament’s title game and continued its extraordinary season.
“It’s about time,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “I know these players are tired of hearing about how many years we have lost. Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik are our only two seniors. They’ve been through this and they know the heartbreak that comes when you don’t win that championship game.”
Two minutes and thirty-two seconds into the second overtime, just moments after a Michigan Tech shot hit the post, junior forward Travis Turnbull tipped freshman defenseman Scooter Vaughan’s shot from the point past Michigan Tech goalie Rob Nolan for the game’s only goal.
Michigan goalie Billy Sauer had 37 saves in the game and added to his career-high 50 saves against Providence for a tournament MVP-worthy 87 stops on the weekend.
In a game in which the Wolverines (11-1-0 CCHA, 18-2-0 overall) had their lowest offensive output of the season – before Saturday, they had scored three or more times in all but one of 19 games – play was dominated by big hits and defensive stops. The teams combined for 19 penalties and 44 blocked shots.
“They’re a big team – they can skate, and they like to take the body out there and try to get us off our game,” Kolarik said. “It was just a mess out there. Everyone was laying on the ice.”
The Huskies (5-6-1 WCHA, 7-9-2 overall) had a few chances to take the lead, most notably on a one-timer by captain Jimmy Kerr in the first overtime that hit Sauer’s outstretched leg.
“It’s frustrating,” Kerr said. “There’s not much you can do in that situation. We banged and banged away. . Sometimes, you don’t get the bounces.”
Michigan Tech goalie Rob Nolan finished with 45 saves and allowed just two goals on 74 shots for the weekend, which included a 4-1 win over No. 5 Michigan State Friday to earn a spot in the championship game.
The Wolverines played without freshmen Carl Hagelin, Max Pacioretty and Matt Rust and sophomore Chris Summers, who are playing in the World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic. Before this weekend, Hagelin, Pacioretty and Summers had played in every game, and Rust had missed just one. But Michigan adjusted nicely – junior Brandon Naurato moved up to the first line in both games and notched an assist on Turnbull’s game-winner. Freshman Louie Caporusso returned to the lineup after missing six weeks with a knee injury and tallied two points against Providence.
Michigan’s GLI win is the second tournament streak the Wolverines have snapped this year. In November, Michigan completed its first College Hockey Showcase sweep since 2002. Porter and Kolarik will leave the team as the first senior class since 1996 to win both the Showcase and GLI in their final season.
But the Wolverines need to avoid repeating their post-Showcase complacency, manifested in a 3-2 loss to CCHA bottom-feeder Ohio State the next weekend.
“We got a little comfortable and we were satisfied with what we did (in the Showcase),” Sauer said. “I think we have to learn from that situation. There are no games off.”