For 17 seconds on Saturday, the crowd at Yost Ice Arena went nuts. Milan Gajic had evened the score at three in the third period.
But before public address announcer Scott Spooner could finish recognizing Gajic for tying the game with less than four minutes remaining, Notre Dame reclaimed the lead and split the weekend series.
“This was a setback today, losing this game at home,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “And we know we’re not going to go through the season unbeaten. But this was still a disappointing loss because we put ourselves in position to win this game.”
The Wolverines entered the last period leading 2-1. But just 5:26 into the final period, the Fighting Irish tied things up on a high shot from the right side of the crease by junior Tom Galvin. Nine minutes later, they took a 3-2 lead on a rebound shot by Cory McLean.
“We had them down after two (periods) and we couldn’t hold that lead,” Berenson said. “It was going to be a one-goal game, and you had to defend that lead, and we didn’t do a good job of defending it.”
Suddenly trailing with just 5:40 left, the Wolverines generated a number of good scoring chances. Freshman Brandon Kaleniecki had a slap shot from the right faceoff circle stopped by Fighting Irish goalie Morgan Cey. Two minutes later, Gajic took a pass from Michigan goalie Al Montoya during a Notre Dame line change and skated in for another good look. But Cey was there again.
Finally, with 3:55 left, the Wolverines were able to capitalize on an opportunity. Defenseman Eric Werner held off Notre Dame’s pressure and kept the puck in its zone. It caromed forward to center Dwight Helminen, who skated in on the one Irish defender still back. Just as it appeared he might be forced aside, Helminen whipped a pass across the ice to Gajic, who slammed it in.
The crowd erupted into a frenzy, but the celebration was short-lived.
On their first possession after Michigan’s tying goal, the Fighting Irish put a lot of pressure on Montoya. The Glenview, Ill. native stopped the initial shot, but four loose rebounds in front of the net proved to be too much. Notre Dame’s Rob Globke finally forced the puck home for his second goal of the night to lead his team to an upset.
“I kicked the puck out on the third shot,” Montoya said. “But I didn’t even have time for the (next shot).”
It was Notre Dame’s first regular-season win at Yost Ice Arena since Oct. 22, 1982. Since rejoining the CCHA in 1992-93, the Fighting Irish had compiled a 0-14-1 record in Ann Arbor before Saturday night.
“They just kept working,” said Gajic of Notre Dame. “They never gave up. They never laid back. We knew it was going to happen, but for some reason we decided not to pay attention.”