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Five minutes into the third period, the No. 1 Michigan hockey team looked in control. 

A power play goal by sophomore forward Matty Beniers put the Wolverines up 2-0, and their clean defense gave No. 14 Notre Dame fits throughout the contest. 

The goal, however, awoke the Fighting Irish, who surged in the final 15 minutes of the period and forced overtime. It was there — in a three-on-three overtime period — where it faltered under the weight of a costly penalty by senior forward Garrett Van Wyhe and allowed Notre Dame to slip away with a 3-2 victory

“Bad penalty,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “You can’t take that when you’re three-on-three, it reverts to a four-on-three power play. It just gives them a lot of ice.” 

Early in overtime, the Wolverines — who sport a high-powered attack and the second-highest scoring offense in the nation — were passive. They’d often set up their three-man offense, look for opportunities and then take the puck behind the blue line for a line change without firing a single shot. 

In fact, Michigan didn’t record a single shot in the overtime period. It was too concerned with giving up breakaway opportunities off a potential blocked shot, a common occurrence in three-on-three hockey. However, it wasn’t a breakaway, but a penalty that cost the Wolverines gravely. 

“I think for overtime, we’re just waiting,” explained dejected sophomore defenseman Owen Power. “Kind of not trying to force anything, and just waiting for the time to come and being patient.” 

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, their time never came. 

Van Wyhe’s penalty made sure of it. 

As defenseman Adam Karashik cradled the puck on his stick, hugging the left corner boards of his offensive zone with his back facing the ice, Van Wyhe came in hot. He crushed the defenseless Karashik into the boards, leading to a five-minute major misconduct penalty and ejection. It was actually Van Wyhe’s second such penalty of the season.

The penalty set up a 4-on-3 power play for Notre Dame. Michigan won the ensuing faceoff, but was unable to clear the puck, allowing the Fighting Irish to set up their offense. 

Notre Dame quickly went to work. Less than 30 seconds into the power play and with fewer than two minutes remaining in the frame, forward Ryder Rolston sniped the game winning goal past sophomore goaltender Erik Portillo from the left side. 

The Wolverine penalty kill was stellar in its two previous appearances of the contest. It allowed extremely limited opportunities and even generated a dangerous shorthanded opportunity, but the 4-on-3 event was a different story. 

“I thought we did a real good job killing penalties all night, but 4-on-3 is different,” Pearson said. “You don’t see many of them in the college game, or hockey in general, so give (Notre Dame) credit.” 

Added sophomore forward Matty Beniers: “4-on-3s are tough to kill, that’s all I’ll say about that.”

Prior to the latter half of the third period, Michigan’s defense was clean and sharp. 

It dazzled with an array of precise backchecks to stifle Notre Dame breakaways without being called for penalties, and an error such as Van Wyhe’s looked infeasible. The mental mistake was a far cry from the Wolverines’ earlier play, one that trusted its tactful stick work and strategic positioning to hold the Fighting Irish offense at bay for much of the night. 

Following the loss, Van Wyhe didn’t shy away from his mistake. He displayed senior leadership in acknowledging his mishap, a concession that could aid Michigan in putting the game behind them. 

“I give (Van Wyhe) credit,” Pearson said. “He stood up in the locker room after and said ‘Hey, that’s on me, that’s a bad, bad penalty.’ That’s all you can ask. He took responsibility and accountability for it … (but) you can’t do that … anywhere near the boards, you can’t blast somebody from behind.”