SOUTH BEND — The Michigan hockey team entered its third period with nothing to show for its impressive offensive showing against the nation’s second-ranked team. Notre Dame on the other hand — which played in a largely similar fashion as the Wolverines — had already found the net twice.
Forward Josh Norris then provided Michigan with a glimpse of hope. The freshman scored off a rebound to cut the deficit to one with eleven minutes to spare in the game. However, though the Wolverines have seen many successful late-game rallies throughout the season, this time, it wouldn’t be enough.
Despite demonstrating an ability to keep up with the Fighting Irish, Michigan suffered the same fate as it did in its game Friday. The Wolverines (3-7-2-1 Big Ten, 8-10-2 overall) fell, 2-1, and were swept in their home-and-home series against the third-best defensive team in the nation.
“I thought we saw a lot of really good things this weekend,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “I didn’t like the results, I’m not happy with the results, but you can’t complain about the effort.”
Right out of the gate, high energy and forceful offenses were on display at Compton Family Ice Arena — a noticeably amplified performance from both sides of the puck in comparison to Friday’s showing.
Just over two minutes into play, Notre Dame created the first dangerous scoring opportunity of the game, forcing sophomore goaltender Hayden Lavigne to extend himself to make five saves over a minute and a half.
Lavigne continued to play a crucial role for Michigan throughout the game, making 34 saves, and appears to have tentatively earned the starting spot in goal.
“He made some big time saves, and I thought he’s established himself this weekend as our guy,” Pearson said. “It’s just two games but we haven’t had a guy put back to back games like that, and good for him. We’re going to need that going forward … so I thought he was excellent, and that’s all we need.”
The Fighting Irish pressed again a minute later, finding the net this time. However, after further review, the goal became nullified due to a hand pass.
Notre Dame received the first man-advantage at 6:44 in the game, when senior forward Tony Calderone was given a penalty for hooking. Though the Fighting Irish again saw many close attempts, they could not get the puck past Lavigne.
The remainder of the period was characterized by back-and-forth, gritty play from both Michigan and Notre Dame. The Wolverines saw their most viable scoring opportunity with five minutes remaining in the period, when they fired five shots at Fighting Irish goaltender Cale Morris. However, their efforts remained fruitless, and both teams entered the first intermission with the scoreboard still blank.
Though Notre Dame’s potent offense was not fully visible in Friday’s game, this was not the case in Sunday’s first period. While the Wolverines outshot the Fighting Irish in every period Friday, Notre Dame nearly doubled Michigan’s shot count in the first period of the game on Sunday. This highlighted Lavigne’s standout showing over the period, as he stopped all fifteen of the Fighting Irish’s on-target shots.
The Wolverines came out hot to begin the second period, keeping the puck mostly within Notre Dame’s defensive zone for the first four minutes of play. Over this period, Michigan blasted seven shots at Morris, and the netminder was able to keep the puck from passing him.
Despite unevenly dominating the start of the period, the Wolverines were unable to get on the scoreboard first. 6:10 into the period, Michigan turned the puck over in the neutral zone, creating an odd-man rush for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame forward Andrew Oglevie capitalized on the change in possession, sending the puck into the upper right corner of Michigan’s net to give the Fighting Irish the first lead of the game.
The Wolverines did not let up on pressure, firing numerous on-target shots at Morris over the next few minutes. Halfway through the period, Notre Dame received a penalty for slashing, giving Michigan a power play. The Fighting Irish were able to kill the penalty and drew a man-advantage of their own right after their penalty ended.
A minute into the power play, Notre Dame defenseman Matt Hellickson — who also scored with a man-advantage in Friday’s game — beat Lavigne, increasing his team’s lead to two.
With just over two minutes remaining in the period, Notre Dame had the opportunity to capitalize on another man-advantage, but this time the Wolverines stood their ground. Michigan killed the penalty, keeping its deficit at two goals heading into the final period of regulation.
Both teams entered the third period showing no signs of energy loss, with the Fighting Irish coming full force and continuously challenging Lavigne in the first half of the period.
Though Michigan was able to get on the board 8:44 into the period with Norris’ goal, Notre Dame’s sturdy defense was able to limit the Wolverines’ offensive opportunities for a majority of the period, while the Fighting Irish kept up offensive intensity.
With a minute to spare, Michigan took out Lavigne in exchange for an extra man, but was unable to come up with a goal before time ran out.
Despite walking away from the weekend with two losses, which could be taken negatively, the Wolverines understood that their hard work and intensity did not necessarily line up with the outcomes they received.
“We just played the whole weekend, I thought, these were two of our best games all year,” Lavigne said. “We worked hard, we blocked shots, we were physical, we were fast. I think against any other team those are probably two different games … a lot of good things were happening.”