The first five minutes of Saturday’s game at Yost Ice Arena summed up Michigan’s weekend series against Notre Dame. One minute into the action, Michigan forward Tim Miller was whistled for high sticking. The penalty gave the Fighting Irish a two minute power play, but it was hard to tell which team had the advantage.

Wolverine captain Andrew Ebbett combined with alternate captain Brandon Kaleniecki to stifle Notre Dame by keeping the Fighting Irish bottled up in their own zone. The duo even created a short-handed scoring chance. When Notre Dame finally got the puck into the Michigan zone, Wolverine forward Chad Kolarik slid on the ice to block a Fighting Irish shot. Michigan successfully killed the penalty, and more impressively, they held Notre Dame without a shot on goal.

“We’re doing a great job of not letting them in the zone and forechecking,” Ebbett said. “If they do get in the zone, we are pressuring them and doing a great job blocking shots. If they’re not getting shots through, then they’re not getting any chances.”

Three minutes later, Notre Dame center Jason Paige was sent to the penalty box for tripping. On the ensuing power play, Ebbett dropped the puck off in the right slot where center Andrew Cogliano was waiting. Cogliano one-timed the puck though the traffic in front of the net and beat Notre Dame goalie Jordan Pearce through the five-hole, giving the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.

“We’re moving the puck well on the power play,” Ebbett said. “We’re making the right plays, and it’s going in for us. On the power play, you’re either hot or you’re cold, and right now we are on fire.”

The Wolverines dominated special teams play all weekend long, which was the main reason they came away with a sweep in the home-and-home series against the Fighting Irish. Michigan was a combined 7-of-13 on the power play in the two games against Notre Dame, and they killed off 14-of-15 Fighting Irish power plays, including all five on Saturday night.

“Their skill level shows up a lot more on special teams,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. “They have some dynamic players, and we’re short a few of them.”

After falling behind 2-1 Saturday, Michigan climbed back into the game thanks to the power play. With time winding down in the first period, defenseman Jack Johnson showed good patience and waited for a lane to open up in front of the net. Once he got it, Johnson rocketed a slap shot on net that Pearce saved. But the rebound came right to Kolarik, who banged the puck past Pearce to tie the game.

“I got lucky on all three of my goals this weekend,” Kolarik said. “Pretty much, you can put all 23 guys out there on the power play, and we all can do something.”

The second period was a replay of the first. Midway through it, Michigan forward Jason Bailey was called for hooking, but the Wolverines’ penalty kill was too tough for the Fighting Irish to figure out. Again, Michigan killed the penalty without allowing a single shot on net.

Two minutes later, the Wolverines displayed great passing to take the lead with another power-play goal. Johnson dropped the puck to Cogliano in the right slot. Cogliano immediately sent the puck cross-ice to Kolarik who one-timed a shot into the empty net before Pearce could slide over to make the save.

Due to its great execution on special teams, the large number of penalties called in Friday night’s game favored Michigan. In an 8-5 win, the Wolverines scored half their goals on the power play, while killing off nine-of-10 Notre Dame extra-man advantages. Although Michigan had the edge in special teams, Michigan coach Red Berenson was not pleased with the amount of penalties called.

“Thirty-eight of the 60 minutes were spent on either the power play or the penalty kill,” Berenson said. “So there wasn’t a chance to develop a flow of the game.”

As expected, Jackson also wasn’t too pleased with Friday night’s officiating.

“I liked the game (Saturday night) because (referee) Matt Shegos didn’t blow the whistle every two seconds,” Jackson said. “Power plays slow the game down. I like the way he called the game (Saturday night).”

While the Michigan power play and penalty kill have been terrific this season, the Wolverines are a little concerned about their lack of even-strength production. In five-on-five play, Notre Dame outscored Michigan 6-4 on the weekend, with Michigan’s other goal coming off an empty net situation at the end of Friday’s game.

“I know and our team knows that we didn’t play as well in certain parts of the game,” Berenson said. “Obviously, we have to improve on our five-on-five.”

 

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