As has been the trend for a few of our wins this year, it wasn't a perfect effort, but a decent win nonetheless.
Michigan got off to a good start, but Pagliero made some saves and outside of the first few minutes, the Wolverines kind of sleep-walked through the first period. Niagara got to the front of the net, a rebound squeaked out to the right of Hogan, and Caporusso slipped when he tried to tie up his man, so Baco had a tap-in.
In the first period, Michigan got next to nothing offensively from anyone not on the top line. Things were better in the second period. Wohlberg started jumping, Caporusso started jumping, and we were getting chances from all three of our scoring lines.
The big momentum shift came when Luke Glendening went all Chris Fragner and got kicked out for a hit from behind. The penalty kill was spectacular. In the first half of the penalty, Niagara didn't come near the Michigan net and the Wolverines had a pair of two-on-ones. Niagara took a penalty on the second one, and that about did it for the major penalty.
Another big play came when Chris Moran had Hogan dead to rights; he had a wide open net, but the rebound went into his skates. He golfed at it, but barely hit the puck and ended up flinging himself into the cage.
Shortly thereafter, Caporusso drew a penalty and Palushaj scored from the faceoff circle right off the bat on the PP. And as they did against NMU on a couple of occasions, Michigan struck again in quick succession. Caporusso and Vaughan passed it back and forth a couple times, Caporusso came in on the right wing, put a shot on net, grabbed his own rebound, took it behind the net and scored on the wrap-around.
Hogan robbed one of the Purple Eagles late in the period, but gave up a terrible goal a few seconds later. Niagara threw a shot on net, Hogie knocked it to the corner but was slow getting back to his post, and they were able to throw one in off of him from behind the goal line. Rough goal to give up late in the period when we had all the momentum. That was a power play tally. Michigan's PK was very strong in this game, but the hockey gods usually penalize you for stupid penalties, and Czarnik took one there. He popped a guy in the head after they fell to the ice. Needless, behind the play, and it's something he probably would have gotten away with if there was only one official.
I've gotta say, I was skeptical, but I don't really hate the two-ref system thusfar. They're calling more penalties, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The players will adjust. Then again, we're Michigan, so we're getting the bigger-name refs to do our games. I'm not sure how much I'd like it when it's two guys I've never heard of....
Caporusso struck again to put Michigan up for good, and it was another power play goal (!!!!!). He tried to stick-handle through the defense, it got knocked off his stick and went right to Naurato, who put it through his legs to absolutely no one. Luckily it hit off the Niagara defenseman and went right to Caporusso. Louie slid it underneath Pagliero and lit the lamp for the second time in the game.
Palushaj added an empty-netter and the Wolverines can head to Boston with a 4-1-0(-0) mark on the season. Both teams had some great chances down the stretch. Czarnik sprung Wohlberg and Wohlberg made a gorgeous deke, had Pagliero beat, but put it off the post. Then at the other end, Hogan tried to cover the puck on a harmless-looking play, but missed. Niagara had a wide-open net, but one of our defensemen turned the shot away. It might have been Vaughan.
The Niagara announcers bitched about the officiating constantly, but I thought both teams had some weak calls go against them, and some glaring ones were missed. One of their guys absolutely blasted our player into the boards--it was much worse than Glendening's hit from behind (which was rightly called a major)--and they didn't even call a minor. It was right in front of the ref. So whatever. I don't care that you think it's ok for a player to put his stick on someone streaking to the net, and that when he falls into the goalie it should be called goalie interference rather than a hook.
The guy who really deserves a call tonight is Tristin Llewellyn. I thought he was absolutely fantastic on the blueline. He had some really nice plays in our end, did a nice job on the PK for the most part...he was very good tonight. It might have been his best game as a Wolverine. He's really come on in the early-going this year.
Pateryn was panicking a little bit with the puck. He had a lot more time than he thought he did...he was too quick to just throw it around the boards. It led to a couple of turnovers in our own end.
Turnovers were a big reason we won this game though. Niagara had a lot of trouble getting the puck out of their own end. I bet it was double-digit times that they had a fairly good look at a clear and couldn't get it out.
Another completely random thought: I think Matt Rust is a very underrated passer. He's really good at finding guys streaking to the net when he's over by the side boards. I love that kid's game.
You gotta give Niagara credit. They played Michigan really tough tonight, without their best player. Ted Cook broke his hand and didn't make the trip. That's a huge loss for them, but they still gave us all we could handle. They've got some good players on that team. I really like that Baco kid.
We were really solid in the third period last year and they showed some of that again tonight. Michigan outshot Niagara 18-4 in the final stanza, turning a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 win. Hogan was decent in goal. He made some really good stops, gave up one really lousy goal, and scared the begeezus out of me on another occasion. He's just gotta get some consistency. He's been great in spurts and terrible in spurts. I like that we're getting him some time, but as I've said before, I still think Sauer is going to be the one who ultimately carries the load this season.