With 1:34 remaining in the third period, the No. 18 Michigan hockey team led, 1-0, and No. 1 Notre Dame pulled its goaltender.
The Fighting Irish (16-5-1-1 Big Ten, 22-8-2 overall) fired a fury of shots, looking for the answer against sophomore goaltender Hayden Lavigne.
With a bouncing puck in the crease, Lavigne found himself out of position near the right post and forward Andrew Oglevie stared at an empty net. Oglevie slung a shot that slid past Lavigne — but right through the crease.
The host Wolverines (11-10-3-2, 16-13-3) blocked four more shots and Lavigne made four more dramatic saves against the extra man, sealing the 1-0 victory and a series sweep against the nation’s best team.
“Couldn’t be happier for Hayden,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “He’s gotten the job done. That last 1:34 though, he’s got some friends somewhere watching over him, protecting that net.”
Michigan began the game with the same intensity it showed early in Friday night’s 4-2 victory. In the first six minutes, the Wolverines outshot Notre Dame, 8-0, including a wrister by senior forward Tony Calderone that hit the goal post. Despite leaving quality chances on the doorstep for Michigan, Fighting Irish goaltender Cale Morris recovered with key saves to stifle the Wolverines’ early chances off loose rebounds.
Michigan subdued Notre Dame’s offense for the first half of the first period, with quick breakouts from the defensive zone, hard forechecks between the bluelines and seven blocked shots. Unable to mount a stable offensive attack, the Fighting Irish wouldn’t register a shot until almost eight minutes into the contest and were outshot, 15-2, through the first 15 minutes.
“We came out today, really limited their chances and kept it to the outside,” Lavigne said. “I thought we played a whole team game defensively. We managed the time much better in this game than the previous one. I think it just proved we improve night to night, and we’re a contender moving forward.”
However, as the clock wound down in the first, Notre Dame picked up the pace, recording six of the period’s last eight shots on net. With 22 seconds left in the period, sophomore forward Nick Pastujov was called for a slashing penalty and the Fighting Irish had their first power play opportunity.
But Lavigne stood tall between the pipes and squashed the late shot onslaught to keep the game scoreless heading into the first intermission.
“Their goalie is really good, there’s a reason why he’s a Hobey Baker candidate,” Pearson said. “But our guy’s pretty good, too.”
Entering the second period, the Wolverines killed the remainder of Notre Dame’s power play, only to find themselves with their own man advantage minutes later. Michigan wouldn’t find success on the power play, unable to accrue quality time in the zone and shots on goal — only posting one during the two minutes.
The second period continued with back-and-forth play and a bouncing puck, with neither team able to gain momentum or shots on the offensive rush.
With less than eight minutes left in the frame, the Fighting Irish had their second man advantage when junior forward Cooper Marody was assessed a penalty for interference. Notre Dame had five shots on goal on the power play, but timely stops by Lavigne — even with heavy traffic in the crease — kept the stalemate intact.
But with just 38 seconds remaining in the period, the Wolverines finally broke onto the scoresheet. Senior forward Dexter Dancs forced a turnover deep in the Fighting Irish zone and the puck found its way to Marody’s stick. The junior dropped a pass to a trailing Calderone, whose wrist shot deflected off Morris’ glove and into the back of the net for the game’s first — and only — goal.
“Very important goal,” Pearson said. “I thought whoever got that first goal could’ve been the only one of the game, just the way the game was going. The chances weren’t passing the goaltenders, the puck bouncing all around the net at both ends. It was a big momentum boost.”
Michigan returned for the third period with a renewed sense of energy, outshooting Notre Dame, 10-4, through the first half of the stanza. Though a surplus of shots from the home team, glove saves from Morris kept the Wolverine lead at one.
On the other end of the ice, the Fighting Irish struggled to sustain pressure in the Michigan zone. Lavigne continued to stand on his head, making countless saves, controlling rebounds and subsequently limiting second chances.
With Morris pulled for the last 90 seconds of the contest, Notre Dame would continue to throw its best at Lavigne. But even with 35 shot attempts in just the third period, the Fighting Irish couldn’t capitalize. Lavigne would make 35 saves, hold on for his third shutout of the season and secure the win — and sweep.
“I think everybody just took a whole new mindset that we had to get this done,” Lavigne said. “Everybody really wanted to win, we knew what was at stake and people were sacrificing their bodies.”
Added Calderone: “We just competed with the best team in the country. I think we can show that we can play with anyone. … We have all the pieces, we’re just starting to put them together.”