SOUTH BEND — On the penalty kill, a shot. On the power play, a shot. On even-strength, a shot.
No matter if it played with a man-advantage, man disadvantage or at even strength, the Michigan hockey team couldn’t prevent Notre Dame from getting a shot off. And four times, Hayden Lavigne couldn’t prevent those shots from becoming a goal.
The junior goaltender saw 23 shots at him in a 5-2 loss. He saved just 19 for a save percentage of .826.
The first shot Lavigne faced set the tone for the night. On a power play mere seconds into the game, the Fighting Irish relentlessly pursued an early lead. They were met with airtight defense from the Wolverines that prevented any shots until the penalty neared a close. The first shot Michigan allowed — a slapshot from the faceoff point — found the back of the net.
Looking for an answer, the Wolverines saw their chance to retaliate when Notre Dame’s forward Mike O’Leary was called for high-sticking.
Michigan, though, failed to exploit the one-man advantage. Freshman defenseman Jack Summers couldn’t contain a pass to the blue line, which leaked for a Notre Dame breakaway. The Fighting Irish’s Pierce Crawford raced down the ice and was met by senior Nicholas Boka at his side. Taking it strong to the slot, Crawford finished the chance given to him with a simple over the shoulder wrister that extended the Notre Dame lead to two.
“You need your goalies to step up and make a save here and there for you,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “… We left him in after it was 2-0. They had two goals on four shots. One was a breakaway and they had a good look on a power play.”
It’s hard to put all the fault on the goaltender when he has to defend against a power play and a breakaway — situations that inherently put netminders at a disadvantage.
Instead of pulling Lavigne from the game, Pearson gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“I wanted to let him battle through it,” Pearson said. “It wasn’t all on him. I just wanted to give him some confidence and see what he would do.”
Lavigne, in turn, “gave the team a chance to get back into the game.”
“But he made some good saves at the start of the second period to give us a chance,” Pearson said. “And we did, we made it 2-1.”
That was the end of the chance. Lavigne subsequently let in two goals, one on a push immediately after the Wolverines’ first goal. It was a drive down the ice that gave Jake Pivonka a one-on-one situation with Boka. Setting an unintentional screen on Lavigne, Boka could only watch as the puck sailed past him and Lavigne to return the deficit to two.
Lavigne’s failures to stop standard shots continued to increase once Notre Dame tacked on another, a goal that was deflected in immediately after a faceoff win.
“They’re just going in easy,” Pearson said. “And we were just starting to play well and they found the back of the net, and you’re just going to need that goaltending. You can’t give up four goals in a period and a half and expect to win on the road.”
Power play, breakaway, off a screen and deflected in — encompass all the ways in which the Fighting Irish scored on Lavigne. He saved the shots he should have saved but ultimately failed to save the ones that mattered.