By Kyle Whitney/NMU Beat Writer
In the first weekend of conference play this season, the Michigan Wolverines swept the Northern Michigan Wildcats in back-to-back games, 3-1 and 4-3.
After taking a 1-0 lead on a Nick Sirota goal in the first period of game one, the Wildcats committed six penalties in the second.
“You cannot be in the box that much. They had the puck and we took so many stupid penalties,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “They got total control of the game on power-plays.”
Chad Kolarik scored for Michigan during a 5-on-3 and at the second intermission, the game was squared at a goal apiece.
The Wildcats fired just two shots during the second period, both from beyond the top of the circle.
In the final period, Kolarik tacked on another power-play marker, this one the game-winner. The insurance goal came from Carl Hagelin at the 16:16 mark and put the Wildcats up 3-1.
"Right from the get-go we knew it would be a close game,” U-M head coach Red Berenson said. “They got the first goal, which was a big goal in the game. Fortunately, our power play finally connected because in the second period we had a lot of power plays. Kevin Porter finally scored and that kind of broke the ice - that was good. Then in the third period, I thought we played our best hockey. We really played hard. We killed a penalty we needed to kill. I thought we carried the play, especially the last half of the period. Our best period might have been our third period."
NMU goaltender Brian Stewart stopped 27 of 30 Wolverine shots in the loss, while Michigan tender Billy Sauer allowed one goal on 14 shots.
Saturday was opposite day in the Berry Events Center and the two teams switched roles in every aspect but the final score. Northern Michigan was the aggressor while the Wolverines committed penalty after penalty and spent the evening killing off those mistakes.
“We were killing too many penalties, just like Northern last night,” Berenson said. “You can’t get shots when you’re killing penalties in your zone.”
The PK unit stood tall, though, an when the game was over, Michigan had collected nine penalties, 37 minutes in the box and a short-handed, game-winning goal.
The Wolverines led 3-2 late in the contest. After Michigan freshman Matt Rust picked up a 5-minute major for checking from behind, NMU pulled the goalie and organized a 6-on-4 attack in the final minute.
With just 41 seconds remaining, Phil Fox tied the game at three. Stewart returned to the net and the Wildcats maintained a one-man advantage.
The Wildcats won the faceoff before turning the puck over in the neutral zone. A quick tip gave the puck to a streaking Chad Kolarik, who beat Stewart for the game-winning goal with 22 seconds remaining.
“We made a mistake,” Kyle said. “We pulled the goalie, were able to score a goal to tie it and we had a guy make a mistake.”
The goal was the only shot that Stewart faced all night after relieving starter Derek Janzen, who allowed three goals on 18 shots.
“I was really disappointed, honestly,” Kyle said. “[Janzen is] a great kid, I’m sure he will come up with a bigger effort at some point, but I didn’t like any of the three goals that went in on him.”
The third goal snuck past Janzen with just under five minutes remaining in the game and Stewart entered the game cold.
The Wolverines will stay home next weekend as they face off against Boston University. The Wildcats, on the other hand, will head south to take on the defending National Champion Michigan State Spartans .