SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The five Michigan hockey players on the ice at the time knew their personnel.
They knew what type of goaltender Cale Morris was. They knew each other’s strengths. And they knew the game plan heading into the power play seven minutes into the first period of the Notre Dame matchup.
The Wolverines knew getting behind early against a defensive team like the Fighting Irish would spell trouble, so when Michigan drew the man-advantage, the information began to process once again.
When Nick Pastujov skated onto the ice to take the first power play shift, the senior forward started to get a grasp of what to do. Take the faceoff. Position himself near the crease. Attack what Cale Morris would give him.
“It’s definitely a play I was thinking about in the back of my head,” Pastujov said. “When I saw the space I had in front of me I figured why not. It worked out.”
It came down to knowing the game plan and executing — which the Wolverines did to a point.
Jack Summers received the puck at the blue line, straight and centered. He dished it to the left point where, Eric Ciccolini waited. Ciccolini could have taken it down to draw the defense to him, but instead chose a cross-ice pass to junior forward Michael Pastujov waiting at the opposite point.
The movement of the puck spread the defense open, leaving Nick Pastujov open down low at the base of the net. Recognizing this, Michael sent the puck to his brother, who swiftly turned, pulled back and lifted the puck over the shoulder of Morris, converting the man-advantage in 18 seconds. Pinpoint execution for a goal that would give Michigan a decisive lead in an eventual 3-0 win over Notre Dame.
Going into the play, the players had discussed one of Morris’s weaknesses as a goaltender. He could make plays, but once he committed and got down, lifting the puck was all it would take to make something work.
The players also recognized one of Nick’s strengths was playing down low where he could play forceful. And that was the game plan — feeding him near the crease where he could make plays happen.
“We talked about it, that that pass was there down to the net and that Nick would be able to go to the net aggressive,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “Even if he doesn’t score, you’re gonna create a rebound for the other guys to the net there, so they did a real good job and took it to the net.”
But it didn’t take much to get Morris to bite. And once he did, Pastujov sent it to the back of the net.
“Nick’s dangerous down there,” Pearson said. “He’s always been able to score from down there, somehow, so good for him.”
Added Pastujov: “I saw a lot of movement on top. That’s usually what you try to do, just draw them out of movement. So I knew that if I could take some of that fast I might have a quick second to get across and get upstairs. It worked out nice.”
The goal proved to be vital to the win as both teams were held scoreless for the remainder of the period and the entire second. The Wolverines were able to cushion the lead in the third, but the decisive goal came down to early execution in the first period.
“We have different options, but that’s a real good one,” Pearson said of feeding Pastujov in the power play. “When things work, you tend to go back to it.