Louie Caporusso sandwiched two goals between two Aaron Palushaj scores to push fifth-ranked Michigan past stubborn Niagara, 4-2, Thursday night at Yost Ice Arena.
Caporusso grabbed a loose puck in the slot on a deflected pass and slid the puck home for the eventual game-winner 5:21 into the final period.
Two of the four Michigan goals came off its previously sputtering power play. The Wolverines were 1-for-32 on the power play coming into the contest.
“You work on it,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson of the Wolverine power play. “You can’t make it happen, but I thought we were better tonight. Overall, I thought that was a hard-fought game. It was anyone’s game going into the third and the go-ahead goal was huge. It’s good to see your top players play well and Palushaj had another strong game for us.”
The Wolverines, who trailed early, bounced back to pepper Niagara goaltender Juliano Pagliero with 32 shots over the final two periods. Michigan’s Bryan Hogan was called to on make 23 saves to help preserve the Wolverine victory.
“I think it was good for him and his confidence that he has been in close games every night,” said Berenson of Hogan. “Sometimes you worry about the goals against, but the bottom line is whether you can battle hard enough when the game is on the line.”
In the first period, Niagara picked up right up where it left off five days earlier when the Purple Eagles upset then-No. 14 Clarkson, 4-3.
The Purple Eagles outshot Michigan in the opening period, 10-8, and scored the period’s lone goal when Dan Baco found a loose puck at the corner of the Michigan net from a goalmouth scramble, pulled it back and flipped it into the wide-open Wolverine cage at 14:48.
The Wolverines connected for two late second-period goals to take a short-lived lead before Niagara bounced back with a late-period goal of its own to knot the score at 2 after the second stanza.
Palushaj one-timed Chad Langlais’ cross-ice pass by Pagliero from just inside the left point at 13:26 of the second period to put the Wolverines on the scoreboard.
“It was nice to get a power-play goal right away in the second period, ” said Palushaj. “Obviously, our power play has been struggling quite a bit. We got that power-play goal, then we got one later in the game. I think it was a matter of just getting that first one.”
Caporusso notched the first of his two goals just over two minutes later at 15:57. The sophomore Wolverine forward from Toronto gathered his own rebound and swept around the net for the wrap-around goal.
Niagara fought right back when Brian Dowd banked a shot off Hogan’s back into the Michigan goal on the power play at 18:31.
Despite dominating a third period in which the Wolverines outshot the Purple Eagles 18-4, Michigan had to hold on at the end, riding Caporusso’s power-play marker earlier in the period until Palushaj clinched with an empty-netter at 19:19.
“I don’t think we had the greatest first period,” said Caporusso of his line’s play. “But in the third, Tim Miller was feeding me like crazy right in front of the net, so I was able to get a lot of opportunities. I think that helped out a lot. We put pressure on their defense and I think we played a better game than we did against Northern Michigan (last weekend).”
Michigan (4-1-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) travels to Boston Saturday night to take on the tough Terriers of Boston University while the Purple Eagles (1-3-1, 0-0-0 CHA) look to get back on the winning track in a home afternoon game Saturday against Merrimack.
“This will be a good test for us,” said Berenson of the Saturday tilt with Boston University. “They are definitely one of the top four or five teams in the country according to everything we’ve heard or seen. So, it will be a good test for us at their rink.”