After 58 minutes of scoreless play, the Michigan hockey team gave up the first goal.
With just over two minutes left, Notre Dame defenseman Spencer Stastney took a long shot from the left face-off circle. With a clear path to junior goaltender Strauss Mann, Notre Dame took the first lead of the game, a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Wolverines dropped their second match-up against the Fighting Irish, 2-1, on Saturday night.
The teams were evenly matched throughout the game, neither able to light the lamp until well into the third period.
Despite its inability to get on the board, Michigan had no problem holding on to the puck as the game began. Possession was split just about equally in the first period with 18 Michigan shots to the Fighting Irish’s 13.
With two-and-a-half minutes left in the frame, the Wolverines went on the power play. Notre Dame cleared the puck from the zone three times before Michigan set up its power play unit, giving the Wolverines just over a minute of effective shooting. Freshman forward Matty Beniers tried to poke one in on the right side just after junior forward Nick Blankenburg had fired one from deep in the slot though both shots were saved by Notre Dame goaltender Ryan Bischel.
Five minutes into the second period, Michigan drew another penalty. The Irish’s penalty kill was just as effective the second time around. They set up their defensemen in the corners, leaving the Wolverines chasing the puck for the first thirty seconds of the penalty and drawing a penalty of their own.
Playing four-on-four, Notre Dame drove the puck down the center of the ice, three-on-one. With a pass to the left of the goal, Mann made a quick read of the developing play and shifted to the right to make one of the best saves of the game. Throughout the game, Mann proved once again what an asset he is to the Wolverines with 29 saves overall.
The second period was full of offensive opportunities for the Wolverines, but again and again they failed to capitalize.
With a slashing call on junior forward Garrett Van Wyhe, Michigan was still able to get to the goal shorthanded. Skating through the zone unobstructed, Raabe sent the puck to the net but Bischel made the save.
A few minutes later, freshman forward Thomas Bordeleau carried the puck through empty ice and took a shot. Senior forward Michael Pastujov got the rebound and sent the puck floating just inches beyond the right post.
As time wound down, Michigan kept bringing the puck to the net to no avail. With 1.7 seconds left, sophomore forward Johnny Beecher won a face-off in Notre Dame’s zone. He sent the puck across the ice to sophomore defenseman Keaton Pehrson on the left circle. As Bischel moved left in anticipation of the shot, Pehrson sent the puck into the top right corner of the net.
Just as it looked like the Wolverines would enter the third period with the lead, a replay review showed that the puck came into the net one-tenth of a second after the timer expired, wiping the goal off the board.
In the start of the third period, Michigan’s offense seemed to stall. By halfway through the frame, the Irish had 14 shots to the Wolverines’ seven.
“Notre Dame did a good job, they made it tough,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “We were OK (in possession) in spurts, but against a team like this, they just stack it up and you have to lay it in and try to get it back. It’s hard to possess the puck.”
As the game remained scoreless into the last several minutes of the game, both teams started to show signs of fatigue, making sloppy passes and quick shots.
By the final buzzer, the Fighting Irish bested the Wolverines in shots on goal, 31-24. This was the first time Michigan has been outshot all season. With two minutes left, Stastney turned one of those attempts into a goal.
The Wolverines’ pulled Mann from the crease and almost immediately let up an empty-net goal.
Seconds later, freshman defenseman Jacob Truscott responded with his own long shot from just inside the blue line which put the Wolverines on the board for their first and only goal of the game.
With the seconds ticking down, Michigan drew a penalty and pulled Mann again, giving them a two-man advantage. They were only down by one but couldn’t manage the equalizing goal in the final seconds.
“We worked hard,” Pearson said. “We have to work smarter at times.”