Ice Hockey: Kolarik lifts Wolverines

The No. 5-ranked Michigan ice hockey team opened CCHA play with a 6-3 victory over the ninth-ranked RedHawks from Miami University at Yost Ice Arena on Thursday night. Chad Kolarik scored three times in the final period of play for the Wolverines who improved to 3-0-0 on the season after overcoming a 1-0 Miami lead after one period of play.

It was just 10 months ago that Miami University ended the Wolverines hopes for a three-peat regular season title with a dominating sweep of the Wolverines in Oxford, Ohio. Now, at the start of the 2006-07 regular season, the RedHawks made the return trip to Ann Arbor as the Wolverines tried to learn from the mistakes of last season.

It looked like déjà vu early on, however, as the RedHawks struck with just under four minutes left in the opening frame for the only goal of the first period. Gary Steffes fired the puck over the glove of Billy Sauer from along the left boards to make it 1-0 RedHawks after the first period of play.

The Wolverines finally lit the lamp for the first time of the game at the 7:56 mark of the middle frame by taking advantage of an odd man rush for the first time. David Rohlfs scored his third goal of the season with a hard shot from along the right boards that trickled under Miami goalie Charlie Effinger and into the net to tie it 1-1.

"We knew they'd be a good forechecking team, and they were. There were times we couldn't get out of our zone. When we did come out, we created some out numbered rushes and opportunities and were able to capitalize on them," said Michigan coach Red Berenson after the game.

Michigan took its first lead of the game just two minutes later. Andrew Cogliano capitalized on a bad bounce for the RedHawks to put the Wolverines on top 2-1.

"The one defenseman trips on a broken stick laying on the ice and Cogliano get a breakaway. You've got to get some breaks, but when you work hard you get those breaks and we did get some breaks tonight."

Miami knotted the game 2-2 with just 1:37 left in the second period. Forward Bill Loupee beat Sauer high over the blocker side from just inside the top of the right circle.

Just 32 seconds later, Kevin Porter put Michigan back on top with his first goal of the season. Porter fired a rebound past Effinger from just in front of the Miami crease after a David Rohlfs shot from the right corner kicked off Effinger's left leg pad right in front of the net.

Miami held a 16-14 shot edge after two periods.

In the third period, Kolarik took over.

"It all fell into place. It was so weird. I played a terrible first two periods and it just came to my stick all three times in the third period," Kolarik said after the Wolverines conference opening victory. "I actually should have passed the third one up. T.J. was ahead of me there and I should have passed it up."

Kolarik struck for the first time at the 10:58 mark. Pressuring along the Miami blue line, Kolarik tipped a cross-ice pass into the Miami zone where he coasted in for an unassisted goal.

Minutes later at 14:35, Kolarik netted his second goal of the contest on a two-on-one rush with Cogliano. Kolarik picked the puck up inside the neutral zone along the left-side boards and coasted into the offensive zone with Cogliano flanked to his right hand side. Effinger started cheating toward the cross-ice pass and Kolarik made him pay with a rocket into the top-right corner of the Miami net.

Kolarik's "third one", an empty net goal with 1:01 left on the clock, sealed the 6-3 Michigan victory.

"He's playing with a lot of confidence when he gets his chances. He missed the net with two more real good chances. He's an opportunist. He's in the right place at the right time and he's good around the net. He's got confidence right now and you like to see a kid like that because there are times when maybe the puck isn't going to go in. Right now Chad Kolarik is giving us another line that is dangerous."

Miami trimmed the lead to two goals between Kolarik's final two goals with a power-play marker from Justin Mercier. Mercier fired the puck into the Michigan net from just off the left post with a crowd in front of the Michigan crease.

Michigan returns to Yost Ice Arena tomorrow night to complete the weekend series with Miami University. Game time is set for 8:05.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories