Wolverines Outlast Wildcats 6-4

No. 1-ranked Michigan advanced to the CCHA Championship Game with a 6-4 win over the Northern Michigan Wildcats on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The teams battled back and forth, each team taking the lead at least once, but ultimately a Tim Miller goal was the difference as Michigan edged ahead for the final time.

DETROIT -- I hope Ken Holland was in the building. If so, tell him to sign Tim Miller up. Into tonight's game, Miller had just two goals on the season, both coming at Joe Louis Arena against Michigan State in late February. He doubled that output with two more, including the game-winner, again at Joe Louis Arena, this time to help guide the top-ranked Wolverines past the Northern Michigan Wildcats by the score of 6-4 in the second CCHA semifinal contest of the day on Friday. Miller was also credited with an assist in the win.

"I always enjoy playing at Joe Louis," Miller, who tallied both markers in the third period, said. "I don't know what it is. The atmosphere, the ice, and every time I come here I feel like I'm on top of my game."

The No. 1 Wolverines needed Miller on the top of his game tonight. Battling a nothing if not resilient Northern Michigan team, the Wolverines saw leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-3 slip away before Miller's second goal with exactly four minutes left on the clock in the third period put Michigan ahead for good. Prior to his marker, it seemed as if the Wildcats had an answer for everything the Maize and Blue threw at them.

"Well, as you saw, it was a crazy game," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "If you look at shots and you look at the score you saw two different games. Northern battled back in the game and took the lead on a couple of great individual efforts. It was a tough game. We gave up goals we normally wouldn't give up. On the other end, give Northern credit. They battled; they took advantage of chances and easily could have won the game."

Michigan took the lead for the first time 7:19 into the contest when Chad Kolarik banked the puck off Northern Michigan goalie Brian Stewart's skate and into the net off his wraparound scoring chance to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead. Kolarik's goal gave him 28 markers on the season, thus tying Kolarik with Captain Kevin Porter for the team lead in goals.

Matt Butcher capitalized on a misplayed puck by defenseman Scooter Vaughan to knot the score at 1-1 with just less than five minutes left in the first period. Vaughan, pinching up to stop the puck along the boards, saw the rubber take a strange hop over his stick igniting a 2-on-1 rush for the Wildcats. Butcher eventually took a feed and slipped it past Michigan goalie Billy Sauer to even the score.

Those were the only goals of the period despite Michigan holding a 12-2 edge in shots through one.

Travis Turnbull made it 2-1 Michigan with the first of his two goals at 9:31 of the second. Grabbing the loose puck after center Louie Caporusso's shot was blocked; Turnbull flung the puck into the top netting to give Michigan the lead back.

Just moments after killing a Michigan power play, the Wildcats tied the score again with a Mark Olver goal at 14:54. Olver brought down Kevin Porter in the Wolverines own zone and grabbed the puck to skate in alone on Sauer. He calmly flipped the puck past him to make it 2-2.

Just under two minutes late the Wildcats took their only lead of the game at 3-2 when Matt Siddall roofed a shot into the top right corner of the net from the outside of the left circle.

Miller's first goal of the contest tied the score 1-1 just 1:11 into the final period. Miller capitalized on a little puck luck as he junior skater bounced the puck off a Northern Michigan skate and into the net to tie it 3-3.

Travis Turnbull's second goal of the game, and, like with Miller's, fourth goal of the season at Joe Louis, put Michigan on top 4-3 just over five minutes later. Skating on the power play, Turnbull found open ice in front of Brian Stewart and redirected a shot from the point to score.

"It's pretty funny, I was just talking to our sports information director about how I had 30 one-goal games, and the very next game I score two. But that's not really what it's about," Turnbull said.

Northern Michigan tied it with a goal in the final eight minutes of the contest, but Miller put Michigan on top for good with his second goal of the night, this one off his stick before finding the back of a Northern Michigan defenseman and makings its way into the net.

Ben Winnett then added an empty net goal to conclude the scoring.

With the win, the Wolverines clinched a spot in the CCHA Championship game against No. 3 Miami University on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. After the results of games across the nation on Friday night, both Michigan and Miami have secured the top two seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with FSN Detroit providing television coverage.

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