Clarkson did its best to keep Michigan star forward Kevin Porter off the scoreboard in Saturday’s NCAA hockey tournament East Regional final at the Times Union Center.
But when the Wolverines needed their senior captain, he came through once again.
Porter’s goal 26 seconds into the third period gave the Wolverines the cushion they needed, and they earned a trip to the Frozen Four with a 2-0 victory over the Golden Knights.
The top-seeded and top-ranked Wolverines (33-5-4) are headed to their NCAA-best 23rd trip to the
Frozen Four, and their first since 2003. They have won an NCAA-best nine titles.
The Frozen Four will be held April 10-12 in Denver.
Michigan was clinging to a 1-0 lead, thanks to Aaron Palushaj’s first-period power-play goal. The third-seeded Knights (22-13-4) had the momentum heading into the third period, and had a 17-14 shot advantage.
“The second period, we were on our heels because we played in our zone,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We had to kill the better part of four penalties.”
Porter, who scored a regional-
record four goals in Friday’s 5-1 semifinal win over Niagara, was clutch again with his linemates, Chad
Kolarik and Max Pacioretty.
Kolarik kept a Clarkson clearing attempt in the Knights’ zone at the right point. He passed the puck to Pacioretty in the slot. Pacioretty then made a nice pass past Clarkson defenseman Grant Clitsome to Porter down low. Porter, who was named the regional’s most outstanding player, put the puck past goalie David Leggio for his national-leading 33rd goal of the season.
When Porter scores, the Wolverines are usually guaranteed a win. They are 21-1-2 when he scores a goal.
“Once we got momentum in the third period with the first shift, it was great scoring that goal,” said Porter, who is the odds-on favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award. “And then after that, we kept it rolling.”
Clarkson was looking to repeat what it did in Friday’s 2-1 semifinal win over St. Cloud State, when it shut down the Huskies’ top three scorers, sophomores Ryan Lasch and Andreas Nodl and freshman Garrett Roe.
The Knights almost did it again against Porter and his linemates.
“It’s a momentum-changer,” Clarkson coach George Roll said. “You’re 1-0 going into the third period against the No. 1 team in the nation. If you said that earlier in the season, you’d take that. It was unfortunate. We had a turnover. Those things happen against the line, and they counter so quick. Before you know it, it was in the back of the net.”
Michigan outshot Clarkson,
18-10, in the third. The Knights tried desperately for two goals in the final two minutes, and they had a two-man power play at one point. Leggio was pulled for an extra attacker, giving the Knights a six-on-three advantage at one point.
But Michigan goalie Billy Sauer stoned Clarkson, especially during one flurry when he made three saves while down on the ice to earn his four shutout of the season. On one of them, Sauer had his arm across the goal crease to keep the puck out.
Clarkson 000 — 0
Michigan 101 — 2
First Period — 1, Michigan, Palushaj 10 (Mintera, Porter), 14:23 (pp). Penalties — DeFazio, Cla (hitting from behind), 2:42; Rust, Mich (ob.-interference), 5:43; Paquet, Cla, double minor (ob.-interference, roughing), 13:01; Kolarik, Mich (embellishment), 13:01; Kampfer, Mich (tripping), 16:32; Kampfer, Mich (holding), 19:34.
Second Period — None. Penalties —Llewellyn, Mich (cross-checking), 6:17; Langlais, Mich (cross-checking), 10:51; Dodge, Cla (hitting from behind), 12:12; Llewellyn, Mich (hooking), 14:22.
Third Period — 2, Clarkson, Porter 33 (Kolarik, Pacioretty), :26. Penalties — D’Alvise, Cla (contact to head-high-sticking), 2:54; Naurato, Mich (slashing), 3:46; Beca, Cla (boarding), 5:02; DeFazio, Cla (interference), 10:44; D’Alvise, Cla (slashing), 11:31; Marks, Cla (slashing), 16:30; Kampfer, Mich (tripping), 16:59; Hagelin, Mich (ob.-interference), 17:54.
Shots on Goal — Clarkson 10-7-10 — 27. Michigan 10-4-18 — 32.
Power-play opportunities — Clarkson 0 of 8; Michigan 1 of 8.
Goalies — Clarkson, Leggio 22-12-4 (32 shots-30 saves). Michigan, Sauer 30-4-3 (27-27).
A — 4,301. T — 2:31.
Referee — Tim Benedetto. Assistant referees — Chris Frederico, Chris Aughe.