What a fricken hockey game! That was as good of an all-around game as I've seen in a long time.
Louie freaking Caporusso, give yourself a tongue. How clutch is that kid? He had a couple of missed opportunities in the first period, but he rebounds, wins the faceoff against Notre Dame's guy who was 9 and 1 on the night, then scores the winner with 20 seconds left. He's a player, and he has a knack for scoring BIG goals. That's a nice trait to have.
And how bout that little touch-pass from Naurato to Caporusso for the winner? Great play by a kid who I thought had a really good hockey game tonight. Actually both of our guys who have been in and out of the lineup, Naurato and Lebler, played well. We're reaping the benefits of competition for forward spots right now. Ciraulo steps in during the GLI and plays great, now these guys get their chance and played really well. I didn't realize, Naurato actually has points in five straight games.
Kolarik was quiet for most of the night, but he single-handedly ran the last 20 seconds off the clock, and didn't even give ND the chance to pull Pearce. And there aren't too many players in the country who are more dangerous short-handed.
I love having Rust and Hagelin together, because they're both excellent defensive players and they might be the two hardest workers on the team. They're a bitch to play against every time they're on the ice, and they've both got some skill offensively too. Pretty much any time tonight when I rewound the DVR to see who it was that just made that excellent back-check, it was either 19 or 12.
And Billy Sauer. He was a little off in the first period. It wasn't just that he gave up two, one of which was on the soft-side, one of which he couldn't be blamed for in any way...he seemed uncomfortable in net and he was fighting the puck somewhat. But he rebounded in a big way, absolutely robbing Notre Dame on a couple of occasions, most notably when he stoned Ridderwall. Honestly, I think the kid should be on the Hobey ballot for Michigan. It'd be hard to leave Kolarik off, with how great he's been this year (especially in a leadership role) but when a goalie is 19-2 and has the GAA and Save % he has, you gotta give him some love. If there was a Most Improved Player award, he'd be an absolute shoo-in.
The team as a whole did a nice job responding from a tough start. Notre Dame got the jump on them early in the game, got up a couple of goals, quieted the crowd a little bit (they were awesome tonight by the way). But Michigan responded...that goal they got early in the second period was huge for the remainder of the game.
I gotta give a call to Aaron Palushaj as well. That kid's stick-handling ability in tight quarters is as good as advertised. He had a play by the offensive blueline where I swear he deked himself around 3 guys to keep the play alive. He was strong all night. You'd actually be hard-pressed to find a Wolverine that didn't play well tonight.
Notre Dame is a darn good hockey team. That forecheck is relentless, and I respect a team that gets after it as much as they do. They aren't winning games by just sitting back and playing defense. And Jordan Pearce was every bit the equal to Sauer tonight. Both gave up one they'd like to have back, but both responded and made some unbelievable stops.
ND's power play sucks, but our PK did a fantastic job tonight. They had a lot of opportunities, including that five minute major, and on that opportunity, Kolarik actually had the best chance of anyone. All those guys can be really proud of themselves.
Overall a really impressive performance against a good hockey team in a tournament-like atmosphere. They sacked up and found a way to come from two goals down against a team that hadn't lost a game all year when they scored first (or led after one).
The crowd tonight was just 2 people short of the post-renovation attendance record at Yost. So if you were a no-show tonight, shame on you.
It's silly to keep referring to this as a "start" since the regular season is like 2/3rds of the way done, but with a win tomorrow night, this would officially be the best start in the history of the program. That's a huge accomplishment that they're playing for tomorrow night. Though I'm sure all they care about is two more points. That's the best thing about this team.
I'm not sure I'll have anything for you guys about tomorrow night's game. We're having people over so I probably won't get to listen and then I'm 99% sure I'm driving to Green Bay for the NFC Championship on Sunday. I'll post if I get a chance, but I might be in Packer-mode. Should be a good one though.
And yeah, GO PACK!