SOUTH BEND — While on a power play in the third period, Michigan looked like it would get caught in a line change.
Defenseman Jason Dest was coming off the ice, and Notre Dame started pushing the puck up the right side out of the zone. The Michigan defender who was replacing Dest came flying in off the bench, dove across the ice and kept the puck in the zone. That defender was Reilly Olson — a senior who hadn’t played since his sophomore season.
Until this weekend, the defensive pairings of the Michigan hockey team had remained stagnant this season. With Olson as the team’s only nonplaying defenseman, there wasn’t much pressure on the others to play well enough to keep their spots.
But for the second straight weekend, Michigan coach Red Berenson made a lineup switch. Last weekend, Berenson sat his leading scorer, sophomore T.J. Hensick, on Saturday against then-No. 2 Wisconsin. Hensick played against Notre Dame, scoring two goals and registering one assist.
This weekend, Berenson gave Olson an opportunity in place of senior Nick Martens. Berenson said on Thursday that Olson looked prepared all week in practice. And this weekend against Notre Dame, he showed that he was ready to be a contributor for the Wolverines.
“Reilly came in and did an admirable job for a kid who’s only played 12 or 13 games in his career,” Berenson said. “He’s going to give us some depth on defense.”
For the Wolverines, it’s important to know that they can count on Olson to perform well. He will apparently replace defenseman Matt Hunwick for the Great Lakes Invitational over winter break because Hunwick will be playing with the U.S. National Junior Team.
“It was really good for him,” said Dest of Olson’s play this weekend. “He really came out. He hadn’t played in a while, and he really came out this weekend and showed us — his coaches, his teammates and everybody else — that he can play. So, we can rely on him to be a solid defenseman.”
Olson didn’t put up spectacular numbers. He had no points on one shot and had four penalty minutes. But he was plus-four for the weekend — one of the better lines among Michigan defensemen. The appearance was Olson’s first since his sophomore year when he played against Ohio State.
Special night: Last weekend against Wisconsin, Michigan gave up both a power play goal and a short-handed tally. The Wolverines occasionally tried playing five forwards on the power play, but nothing worked.
But the Michigan hockey machine was working on all levels throughout the weekend against Notre Dame, and even the special teams decided to show up. Seven of the team’s 14 goals over the weekend came on the power play — more than this season’s Wolverines scored in all of November.
“Overall, (special teams) was good,” Berenson said. “Our power play was good, and our penalty killing had to be good. We were two men short out there (four times), and we did a good job. So good for us.”
Notes: The last time that Michigan swept Notre Dame was Oct. 7-8, 1999. Notre Dame swept the Wolverines last year in South Bend … Saturday’s eight-goal win was the largest margin of victory for the Wolverines since November of 2000 when they beat Alaska-Fairbanks 8-0 … Saturday’s victory was also Berenson’s 544th of his career, moving into sole possession of ninth place all-time among Division I coaches. He is currently 11 wins behind former Michigan Tech coach John MacInnes for eighth.