East Regional | Regional Final
Billing Suits Michigan Just Fine
Nation's No. 1 team and tournament top
seed cherishes target
2, Clarkson 0
Porter, M. Mitera
Kolarik, M. Pacioretty
Billy Sauer, 59:55, 27 saves, 0 GA
David Leggio, 57:52, 30 saves, 2 GA
MI 10/20; CLK 9/18
Plays: MI 1-8; CLK 0-9
Billy Sauer, Michigan
D: Mark Mitera, Michigan
D: Grant Clitsome, Clarkson
F: Kevin Porter, Michigan
F: Shea Guthrie, Clarkson
F: Chad Kolarik, Michigan
Most Outstanding Player: Porter
ALBANY, N.Y. — Contrary to what the
lyric in Michigan's famous fight song suggests, these 2008
hockey Wolverines are champions of the East. The top-seeded
Michigan Wolverines rolled to the Frozen Four with a 2-0
win over Clarkson in the East Regional final on Saturday
night at the Times Union Center.
The victory featured a late first-period power-play
goal by Aaron Palushaj and a goal in the first minute of
the third period by, who else, Kevin Porter. Billy Sauer
made 27 saves to earn the shutout.
It was the 33rd victory of the season for
Michigan, a team that has rarely stumbled all season long.
They've rightfully earned the nation's top ranking in most
major polls and the No. 1 overall seed for this championship
tournament. They're the team to beat, and they come to the
rink every day knowing that. The swagger and confidence
is apparent. It comes in public comments such as Chad Kolarik's
Friday night declaration that it is going to be nice to
pick up Kevin Porter's Hobey Baker Award when they go to
the Frozen Four, made 20 hours prior to their regional final
game against Clarkson.
It's seen on the ice with flashy, skilled
plays in tight space and the knowledge that a teammate will
be there in support of the pass or shot attempt. The Wolverines
don't always initiate post-whistle collisions and discussions,
but if engaged, they never back down.
So it was in Albany. The Wolverines dispatched
of Niagara by a 5-1 score on Friday before blanking Clarkson
2-0 on Saturday. Strong performances on back-to-back nights
are what they expect of themselves, and they delivered.
|Billy Sauer denied
all of Clarkson's scoring chances, including one by
Clarkson's Brandon DeFazio.
"Our goal all year was to be the No.
1 team in the nation, and so far we've done a good job protecting
it," Kolarik said. "But it doesn't matter, the
rankings and the seeds. You can throw them all away when
you get to Denver."
Praise also comes from the opposition. Clarkson's
forwards have good size and speed and attack defenses in
straight lines. All game long, Michigan's defenders shut
down Clarkson on line rushes and limited the Golden Knights'
"They're the best defense we've faced
this year," Clarkson's Nick Dodge said. "They
have size and quickness, and that's a great combination.
They definitely kept us out of the middle and did a good
job of coming back and keeping the center of the ice clogged
Kolarik and Porter have carried this team
to the Frozen Four and set an example that the rest of the
team follows. They're at the top of the college hockey world
right now, and will remain atop that perch until someone
knocks them from it.
"It's nice being the team to beat,"
Kevin Porter said.
They're hoping that's the case for two more
SEEN AND HEARD AT TIMES UNION CENTER
Tribute to the coaching staff:
Clarkson seniors Grant Clitsome and Nick Dodge, two players
who earned numerous ECAC Hockey accolades and were key members
of an outstanding senior class for the Golden Knights, paid
tribute to the Clarkson coaching staff during the postgame
They complimented head coach George Roll,
associate head coach Greg Drechsel, and assistant coach
J-F Houle for their energy, work ethic, and leadership of
the Golden Knights. Clitsome said, "I am a better player
for having played under this staff," and Dodge said
that the staff does an excellent job of watching video and
preparing scouting reports on the opponents that Clarkson
faces on a weekly basis.
The compliments weren't one-sided. Roll saluted
the Clarkson senior class for four excellent years, and
their leadership of the program back to national prominence
after falling into the middle-to-lower portion of the ECAC
Hockey standings for a period of time four to five years
Bitter taste gets better:
Chad Kolarik's older brother, Tyler, was a very good player
for Harvard earlier this decade, a Crimson team that played
a number of games in the Albany building in ECAC Hockey
championship weekends and in NCAA regionals. Chad had been
to the Times Union Center at least twice previously as a
spectator. This time, he participated and had six assists
over two games to earn a spot on the All-Regional Team.
The Kolarik family memories aren't particularly
good from that building. Chad cited one game that he remembers
watching, an NCAA Tournament game in 2004 that Harvard lost
to Maine 5-4. The Black Bears scored four goals in the third
period of that game, including the game-winner on a turnover
by Tyler Kolarik.
"I was at the game that they lost to
Maine," Chad Kolarik said. "Tyler threw the puck
right into (Maine forward Greg) Moore's chest and he scored.
It left a bitter taste in our family's mouths, but this
weekend was much better."
Tyler Kolarik was in attendance for Saturday's
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
INCH's Three Stars of the Night
Kevin Porter, Michigan
Among many well-developed skills, Porter's
best and most beneficial is the knack for being in
the right place at the right time. Awareness, anticipation,
and hockey sense pay off for the likely Hobey Winner.
2. David Leggio, Clarkson
The senior goalie closed his career with two outstanding
seasons and was exceptional in the final game of his
collegiate career. Back-to-back stops on Chad Kolarik
late in the second period were especially memorable.
1. Billy Sauer, Michigan
He admitted that he didn't have a ton of work until
Clarkson's late flurry on the power play with a two-man
advantage, but he made those spectacular saves to
preserve the shutout. More importantly, he answered
any naysayers about his playoff toughness and has
been mentally strong all year.
• Michigan's top line of Porter, Kolarik,
and Max Pacioretty has now combined for 154 points.
• Clarkson's power play went offsides
three times during a man-advantage approximately seven minutes
into the second period. They were trailing 1-0 at the time
and recorded no shots during that two-minute window.
• Throughout the weekend, promotional
activities between periods included "sumo" competitions
between participants dressed in heavily padded and weighted
sumo costumes along with t-shirts being thrown into the
crowd. A video highlighting the 10 Hobey Baker finalists
was also shown on the scoreboard, as usual.
• Among the sweaters spotted in the
crowd in addition to a number of Michigan and Clarkson jerseys,
were some of the professional variety (Blackhawks and Capitals)
and two noteworthy college sweaters – North Dakota
• The last Clarkson shutout loss ended
their season one year ago. It was a 1-0 overtime defeat
against Massachusetts in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
One fan was spotted wearing a Michigan jersey, a Boston
Red Sox jacket, and an Atlanta Braves cap. All at the same
time. His New York Giants apparel was probably in the wash.
• As part of the fan fest inside of
the building, a balloon sculpture artist tied balloon swords
including several in green and yellow. They made useful
toys for many in the Clarkson section and also symbolized
the school's Golden Knights moniker.
PLUSSES AND MINUSES
a relatively small number of fans in attendance, the Times
Union Center had good atmosphere for the Regional Final.
Having pep bands from both schools certainly helped, and
you got the feeling that not many neutrals were in attendance.
Those who were there had a rooting interest and voiced their
support throughout the game.
the reported attendance for the regional final was just
4,301. Black curtains were lowered from the ceiling to hide
most of the upper sections of the arena as the majority
of fans chose to sit in the lower bowl. The curtains were
not lowered during Friday's opening rounds.
Michigan is back in the Frozen Four and will
go into that weekend as the favorites to win the National
Championship. Kolarik and Porter have provided veteran leadership
and talent, and a stable of young studs has been effective
on the ice while keeping the team loose and fun off the
ice. A semifinal matchup against CCHA foe Notre Dame looms
on April 10. Michigan won both regular-season meetings between
the teams, which took place in mid-January. Michigan got
a 3-2 win at home, and a 5-1 victory at The Palace in suburban
Clarkson must replace a senior class that
meant so much to its recent success, but the foundation
of success has been established. In the last two seasons
Clarkson has won an ECAC Hockey regular season title, and
ECAC Hockey playoff title, advanced to two NCAA Tournaments,
and this season advanced to the second round for the first
time in 12 years.