SOUTH BEND — It was a reccurring theme for the Michigan hockey team — and in no way, shape or form did it generate a positive outcome Saturday night against Notre Dame.
Every time the Wolverines went into a power play against the Fighting Irish, they would get called for a penalty of their own, negating any chance at tallying a goal with the man-advantage and doing little to help junior backup goaltender Shawn Hunwick, who took the ice for his first career start in place of Bryan Hogan, who was out of the contest with a groin injury.
During the penalty filled second period, which included 38 penalty minutes, that exact scenario unfolded for Michigan not once, not twice, but three times in its 5-3 loss at the Joyce Center.
“It seemed like every time they called a penalty on them, they called one on us before the power play even started,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It didn’t help our team, and then we took ourselves out of the game.”
But after heading into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead, the Wolverines looked to be in perfect shape.
Heading into tonight’s game, Michigan was 15-3 when scoring first. It had won consecutive games for the first time in almost a month and also had its leading goal-scorer from last year, junior Louie Caporusso, on a tear as of late. Coming into tonight’s game, he had seven points in his last six games. He added two goals tonight.
So, all signs pointed toward a successful outcome for Michigan.
But the second period was a nightmare for the Wolverines, who surrendered four unanswered goals to Notre Dame (9-12-7-2 CCHA, 13-15-8 overall). Michigan didn’t have an answer defensively for the Fighting Irish.
But despite the defensive breakdowns, the 1-9 power play conversion rate and starting an inexperienced goalie, Michigan had its chances.
“Was the game winnable? Absolutely,” Berenson said.
With the score at 2-1, Wolverine Chris Brown darted down the right side of the ice toward the Notre Dame end. Brown lifted a wrist shot toward goaltender Mike Johnson that clanged off one of the bars. There was some controversy over which bar the puck hit — whether it was the back bar or the crossbar. The referees eventually reviewed the play, and issued a “no goal” ruling.
“I think the team was a little upset they didn’t count that as a goal, but you have to let those things go,” Caporusso said. “That’s part of the game. … I don’t think it affected us too much.”
Minutes later, Caporusso, along with sophomore David Wohlberg, had back-to-back breakaway opportunities, only to come away empty-handed. Berenson cited the team’s inability to capitalize on its scoring opportunities throughout the game as one of the reasons for failing to come away with a win.
With the loss, Michigan (14-13-1-0, 19-17-1) will retain the seventh-place position in the CCHA and will host a first-round playoff matchup with Lake Superior State.
Berenson hopes the team buries its chances sooner, rather than later.
“We are not in as good a place as we should be,” Berenson said. “We’re not in a bad place. Defensively, we’ll talk. … We’ve got some work to do.”