SOUTH BEND — The Maize and Blue laughed longest. But just like it has so many times at Notre Dame Stadium next door, the magic of the Irish laughed last at the Joyce Center on Sunday.

After failing to gain a lead for the first 47 minutes of the game, No. 4 Notre Dame (14-3-1, 9-2-1 CCHA) found the back of No. 7 Michigan’s (12-7-0, 8-5-0 CCHA) net two times in a matter of 30 seconds, giving the Fighting Irish a 4-3 victory and helping them maintain the second place standing they earned with Friday night’s 7-3 victory at Yost Ice Arena.

With the Irish on the power play and the crowd more reminiscent of a library than a hockey game, Notre Dame set up a methodical power play, working the puck around Michigan’s zone. Fighting Irish forward Erik Condra slipped the puck deep into Michigan’s zone, where freshman Kevin Deeth passed the puck across Sauer’s goal crease. Waiting on the other side of the net was freshman Ryan Thang, who brought the crowd to life when he redirected it into the net and tied the game at 3.

The crowd was finally brought back to life. Notre Dame raced down the ice once more, as a flustered Michigan defense faltered once more. After mistakes by Wolverines’ defensemen Chris Summers and Mark Mitera, goalie Billy Sauer found himself with nothing to do but attempt to pokecheck oncoming Notre Dame wing Garrett Regan. With Sauer in a vulnerable position, Regan found the back of the net easily for the game-winning goal.

The goal gave the Fighting Irish a sweep of Michigan for the first time in three years – a sign of Notre Dame’s emergence as a national power. Berenson was impressed with the Irish play, and believes they deserve the respect they have been getting.

“The Irish are a better team now,” Berenson said. “They’re earning respect and they’re showing why. I think they have surprised everyone.”

Michigan seized the lead early on Sunday with help from an unlikely candidate.

Junior Chad Kolarik possessed the puck behind the Irish net, and passed it toward sophomore Travis Turnbull in front of the net. Turnbull, better known for his physicality than his shooting touch, took in the puck and slapped it past Fighting Irish goaltender David Brown just 42 seconds into the game.

But despite the early strike, the Fighting Irish seized the game’s momentum with a physical presence to which the Wolverines weren’t accustomed. After Michigan freshman Steve Kampfer was whistled for tripping with 8:18 remaining in the opening frame, Notre Dame tied the game with a power play rocket off the stick of Kyle Lawson less than a minute later. The goal was the first of three with a man advantage from Notre Dame, a key stat as the game went on.

“We wanted to get off to a good start and we did,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We did a lot of good things, but then it came down to that our power play couldn’t score and our penalty kill couldn’t defend.”

With the score knotted up at 1-1, the Fighting Irish maintained their tough forechecking, keeping Michigan from setting up any sustained possession in its offensive zone. As the Wolverines struggled to work the puck through the neutral zone, Turnbull once again found a hole in the Fighting Irish defense, slipping the puck to Kevin Porter just outside of the Notre Dame blue line. Porter walked the puck to the left side of the ice while holding off Noah Babin and Brock Sheahan before cutting back across Brown’s net and slipping the puck in with just under four minutes remaining in the period.

As the second period opened, Notre Dame’s power play again took advantage of a shorthanded Michigan team. A series of penalties by both teams culminated with a 4-on-3 Irish advantage after defenseman Mark Mitera was penalized for tripping with 12:30 remaining in the second period.

Michigan was able to clear their zone after 15 seconds, and an exhausted Kolarik, who had played an active role on the penalty kill, raced to the bench. But before his replacement, senior David Rohlfs, could reach the defensive zone the ensuing odd-man advantage ended with a game-tying goal by Garrett Regan.

With the opportunity to take its first lead of the game in the following minutes, Notre Dame generated several rushes on Michigan’s net, but goaltender Billy Sauer was up to the task.

As the second period wound to a close, the Wolverines again seized the lead with a shot from the left point by Mark Mitera – his first career marker. The sophomore slapped the puck towards the net, and it found a pinhole between Brown’s pads for the go-ahead goal.

Michigan held onto the lead for more than half of the final stanza, but it was then that the famed magic took over.

The Fighting Irish needed the magic in the late game comeback yesterday, but Friday’s victory was plain dominance from the start. Notre Dame jumped out a two-goal lead in the first period and never looked back. Michigan twice narrowed the deficit to one, but three consecutive goals by the Fighting Irish in the late second and early third period put the game away for good.

Having allowed five goals in two periods on Friday, Michigan coach Red Berenson elected to use freshman Steven Jakiel in the third period. But even a change in backstop couldn’t prevent Notre Dame from running away with a four-goal victory.

Michigan now has a 19-day break before returning to the ice for the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.