Notre Dame forward Erik Condra collected the loose puck at center ice and was off to the races. Condra and freshman defenseman Jack Johnson bumped and smacked into each other as the two came perilously close to Michigan senior goalie Noah Ruden. In the blink of an eye, Condra took a shot, Johnson tripped Condra and the puck slid past Ruden and into the back of the net, which had come off its moorings. The linesman signaled a goal and Ruden vehemently argued that the net had come loose before the puck crossed the goal line. The Bloomfield Hills native had to be restrained by another linesman and some of his fellow teammates.
“I wouldn’t say (Johnson and Ruden) lost their cool,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “They were excited about the fact that it was a controversial goal.”
Notre Dame’s final goal during Friday night’s game summarized a frustrating evening for the Wolverines. Aside from being on the receiving end of some tough calls, the team also committed 11 penalties for a total of 22 penalty minutes.
“Penalty killing and power plays hurt the flow of the game,” freshman forward Andrew Cogliano said.
Being forced to kill the penalty, Michigan couldn’t get into any offensive rhythm and was forced to play a physical game. As the penalties accumulated, the Wolverines looked visibly upset, pushing and shoving after the whistles and getting into small skirmishes with the Fighting Irish players. In one display of frustration, Johnson threw his broken stick into the offensive zone toward Notre Dame’s goaltender while play resumed.
The play of the defense was another source of frustration for the Wolverines.
Despite holding leads of 4-1, 5-2 and 6-3, Michigan had trouble putting the game away and allowed the Fighting Irish to pull within one after the Condra goal. The Wolverines couldn’t breathe easy until freshman forward Andrew Cogliano’s shot hit the back of an empty net at 19:06 to make the game 8-5.
“We got comfortable with the lead there and (got) a little too relaxed,” Johnson said. “Hopefully it won’t happen again, and, if we get a lead, we’ll keep them down.”
Slump? I ain’t in no stinking slump: Sophomore forward Chad Kolarik may have had the same number of points at the same juncture last season (4), but going into this weekend the Abington, Pa., native had yet to score a single goal. With the absence of Jeff Tambellini, Kolarik was expected to shoulder more of the scoring load this season.
But, after this weekend, Kolarik seemed to find his groove. He found the back of the net three times this weekend, including the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 4-2 win.
“After I scored my goal last night I did a little joke, monkey off my back” Kolarik said. “I was pressing way too hard (and) was thinking about it all the time. It was a big lift to get those first three goals.”
Kolarik’s first goal of the season came on Friday night. During a power play, Johnson held the puck at the point. As he shifted to his left toward the middle of the ice, Johnson kept faking shots to draw the defenders. Once he had the defenders right where he wanted them, Johnson slipped a pass toward the left circle to Kolarik, who punched the one-timer over the shoulder of Notre Dame goalie David Brown.
Kolarik’s game-winning goal on Saturday also came on a power-play goal. Junior defenseman Matt Hunwick swung the puck to Johnson on the right wing. Johnson passed the puck down the ice to Cogliano, who fired a pass across ice to Kolarik at the circle. Just like on his first goal, Kolarik easily slapped in the shot on a partially open net.
Will the real starting goalie please stand up: Berenson continued his trend of not officially naming a season-long starting goalie. For the second straight weekend the Wolverines started both Ruden and freshman Billy Sauer between the pipes. On Thursday afternoon, Berenson announced he would start Ruden on Friday night and Sauer on Saturday, regardless of performance. Ruden had a tough game against Notre Dame in the first game of the series. He allowed five goals, including three in the third period.
“I’m not happy with the game,” Ruden said. “I can’t give up three goals in the third period and five goals in the game – especially on the road.”
Berenson was quick to point out that the defense left Ruden out to dry on many occasions.
“It was a goalie’s nightmare,” Berenson said. “He made a game-saving save in the third period and the guy was all alone in front. And then another guy walks in on a breakaway and they end up scoring on that. We didn’t give him the type of support you need to give your goalie on the road.”
The defense did a better job defending the net for Sauer on Saturday. Only once did the Fighting Irish have a true breakaway opportunity, and they converted it for their first goal in Saturday’s game. But Sauer performed well through the rest of the game giving up just two goals on 29 shots.
There is no indication that Berenson will officially name a starting goalie until at least the mid-point of the season, but according to Sauer the uncertainty of who will be the week’s starting goalie keeps everyone on their toes and makes the goalies better.