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Christmas comes early for Notre Dame in sweep of Michigan

Patrick Barron/Daily
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By Matt Slovin, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 17, 2012

Though nobody expects beautiful hockey when gritty Michigan and Notre Dame get together, this weekend’s series was as ugly as they come.

But, as Michigan coach Red Berenson said in a familiar mantra after the Fighting Irish completed the sweep Friday night, hockey is a game of mistakes. And all weekend long, it was Notre Dame who capitalized on Michigan’s miscues, and the Wolverines came away empty handed.

Friday night, during the Fighting Irish’s 3-1 win at Yost Ice Arena, Notre Dame didn’t earn their goals — they came hand wrapped by the Wolverines like early Christmas presents.

The equalizer for the Fighting Irish after they trailed early came shorthanded after an over-eager Michigan forecheck. But the third period is when the Wolverines neatly tied the bow.

While a Notre Dame forward maneuvered behind the net with the puck, Michigan freshman goaltender Steve Racine became entangled with an opponent. Once he was freed, he couldn’t recover in time and Notre Dame finished into a nearly empty net.

But the most egregious error of the weekend came later in the period when Racine turned away a routine shot and didn’t recover, staying just outside of the crease. He could only watch in disbelief as the puck deflected off sophomore defenseman Mike Chiasson’s skate and redirected right into the net to make it 3-1.

Saturday night, the fates were cruel as can be once again. Michigan’s lapses in its own zone once again came in the final period, after the Wolverines had injected hope into the Yost Ice Arena crowd that a split was salvageable.

That flicker of optimism came after freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba lasered home a slapshot to tie the game at one apiece for the second straight night going into the second intermission.

But the wheels fell off in the decisive third frame once again.

Notre Dame dumped the puck into the Michigan zone where senior defenseman Lee Moffie awaited it. Instead of clearing the puck along the boards, Moffie opted to try and reverse it to junior defenseman Mac Bennett, skating nearby.

He failed to account for a Fighting Irish forechecker who intercepted the pass before Bennett could even come near it. A quick flick in front of the net, and the game-winning goal was passed Racine.

“We made a mistake on that go-ahead goal that was huge,” Berenson said. “It was a poor play, and they read it out front and it’s in the net. Not a good goal for us.”

After the game, senior forward Kevin Lynch, who was named an alternate captain by Berenson last week at practice, lamented not the defensive letdown, but how the team responded to it.

“We were playing pretty well up to that point,” Lynch said. “Both teams were fighting for that next goal. One of our defensemen made a mistake and turned the puck over, and they happened to capitalize. There’s no excuse for them to get another goal, and for us not to get back in the game. We should’ve come back out and got the next goal.”

Instead of equalizing, Michigan allowed two more goals: a rebound tally and an empty netter. But the Wolverines were hurt the most by the sloppy turnovers that allowed the Fighting Irish to pull away late both nights.

Hockey might be a game of mistakes, but the Wolverines played two of them this weekend against Notre Dame.