On a night where Irish fans did their duty wearing white in the stands on White Out Night, the No. 1 hockey team (22-7-2, 15-4-1-1 B1G) in college hockey found life on the ice tough against an opportunistic No. 18 Michigan Wolverines (15-13-3, 10-10-3-2 B1G) team, losing 4-2 Friday night at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
The first period was mostly controlled by a Wolverines attack that kept the puck not just in the Notre Dame zone, but kept Morris busy with shots. On their 11th shot, their effort would be rewarded when sophomore center Adam Winborg put one by goaltender Cale Morris with about 7:30 left in the 1st period. Three minutes later, senior winger Dexter Dancs would beat Morris to make it 2-0 Wolverines. By the time the period ended, Michigan pumped 17 shots on Morris, compared to just six shots the Irish were able to muster against Michigan goaltender Hayden Lavigne.
For Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson, the big issue was turnovers and defensive lapses in the 1st period.
“We just made some bad plays defensively,” Jackson said after the game. “Our defense got trapped up the ice a few times and a few turnovers that led to goals. Just plays you can’t make against a team like Michigan.”
After Michigan’s Winborg whiffed on a golden point-blank chance, the Irish would generate a run going the other way, resulting in Joe Wegwerth ripping a slap shot past Lavigne to cut the Wolverine lead in half. Exactly three minutes later, though, Michigan’s Tony Calderone was at the right place at the right time as a flying puck settles behind Morris in the crease and Calderone was there to bank it home to give Michigan a two-goal lead once again.
Notre Dame would have a response near the end of the period, when immediately after starting a power play, Bobby Nardella would hammer it past Lavigne with just over a minute left to draw the game to 3-2. The Irish still trailed in shots for the period 15-14.
“Michigan puts a lot of pressure with their speed and you have less time to make a play,” Jackson said when talking about his players indecision with the puck and the turnovers that would ensue. “They’re on you right away and in order to do that, you have to have good puck support. You’ve gotta be able to handle the speed of the game, which creates turnovers. We just have to be smart with the puck.
Even though the Irish would have plenty of chances, Wolverines goalie Hayden Lavigne stood tall every time. Late in the period, it appeared Jack Jenkins tipped in a shot to pull the Irish to within a goal, but it was later called back on a video review because he hit the puck with a high-stick.
Earlier in the period, the Pastujov brothers connected on a 1-2 play as Nick slid the puck past the front of the goal to his brother Michael, who tipped it by a helpless Morris to give the Wolverines a 4-2 cushion to ride out the rest of the way.
Lavigne, who was named the First Star of the Game, stopped 34 of 36 Irish shots. Cale Morris stopped 32 of Michigan’s 36 shots for Notre Dame, which Jackson definitely took notice of.
“He made some big saves for us. One of my biggest concerns as we head to the playoffs is giving up odd man situations. The last few games, we’ve given up our share. We’ve gotta clean that up, that way he doesn’t have to be spectacular all the time. It affects his game if we’re not doing the job defensively.”
One reason that Michigan was motivated to topple the Irish Friday night was that they’re fighting for a spot in the NCAA hockey playoffs, where the six conference champions are automatically granted spots. The remaining 10 slots are picked at-large by the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee.
“That’s how it’s going to be the rest of the way,” Jackson noted. “We’re playing teams that are desperate. We’re playing playoff hockey, but we’re not playing the way we were playing. We’ve got to get back to that.”
The Irish, who have lost two straight, hope to right the momentum Sunday, when they travel to Ann Arbor, Mich. to take on the Wolverines in the second of the home-and-home set. Next week, the Irish wrap up the regular season with two home games Friday and Saturday against Michigan State.
•MICHIGAN 4, NOTRE DAME 2
At South Bend
M – Adam Winborg (2) [Quinn Hughes (16), Joseph Cecconi (13)], 12:34 1st
M – Dexter Dancs (8) [Cooper Marody (24), Sam Piazza (11)], 15:40 1st
ND – Joe Wegwerth (4) [Matt Hellickson (8), Jake Evans (24)], 1:27 2nd
M – Tony Calderone (16) [Unassisted], 4:27 2nd
ND – Bobby Nardella (5) [Unassisted], 18:47 2nd (PP)
M – Michael Pastujov (3) [Nick Pastujov (7), Luke Martin (5)], 8:08 3rd
Shots: Michigan 36, Notre Dame 36; Saves: Michigan 34 (Lavigne), Notre Dame 32; Power plays: Michigan 0-1, Notre Dame 2-5; Penalties-Minutes: Michigan 6-12, Notre Dame 3-6; Faceoffs: Michigan 31, Notre Dame 29; Shots blocked: Michigan 21, Notre Dame 4; Records: Michigan 15-13-3 (10-10-3-2 B1G), Notre Dame 22-6-2 (15-3-1-1 B1G).