DENVER – It was far from the start Michigan was looking for. But it was pretty familiar.
The Wolverines fell behind 2-0 to Notre Dame in the Frozen Four semifinal tonight less than six minutes into the game. It was the exact same situation Michigan found itself in when the faced Notre Dame at Yost Ice Arena on Jan. 18. That night, the Wolverines came back to win 3-2 in the final minute.
The Wolverines gave themselves a tougher task tonight, falling behind 3-0 in the first period. After fighting all the way back, Michigan found itself down 4-3 with just over five minutes left. Then freshman Carl Hagelin scored the equalizer and put the game in to overtime.
But Notre Dame got the lucky bounce in overtime. Calle Ridderwall put a rebound past Bryan Hogan just over five minutes into the extra period. Just like that the Fighting Irish were moving on and Michigan was heading home.
Notre Dame’s first period goals were hauntingly familiar to the ones Michigan goalie Billy Sauer allowed too often in his first two seasons.
The Fighting Irish opened the scoring five minutes into the game when Calle Ridderwall turned an innocent looking 2-on-2 into a scoring chance with a move around defenseman Tristin Llewellyn. Once in the clear, Ridderwall’s wrister easily beat Sauer glove side.
It got worse for Michigan just 42 seconds later. Notre Dame captain Mark Van Guilder’s simple wrist shot from the left circle beat Sauer on the glove side again.
With less than a minute left in the first period, the Fighting Irish got that three-goal lead they never had in January.
During a Michigan power play, Ryan Thang took the puck up the ice 2-on-2. After swinging around the Michigan defenseman, Thang put a spectacular backhander past Sauer – this time on the stick side.
With a 3-0 lead going into the first intermission things didn’t look good for Michigan.
But the changes started before the puck dropped in the second period. Michigan coach Red Berenson pulled Sauer and put in freshman Bryan Hogan. The tide didn’t turn right away, but turn it did soon enough.
Michigan finally got on the board 8:48 into the second period. Kevin Porter skated into the Notre Dame zone on the left wing and found Chad Kolarik in the high slot, who fired a wrister over Jordan Pearce’s glove.
The momentum was starting to swing in Michigan’s favor. It went fully into the Wolverines’ corner 15 seconds later.
Aaron Palushaj found Matt Rust crashing to the net. Rust whiffed on his first shot but stayed with the play just long enough to tuck the puck inside the post.
Just like that, Michigan had life.
Notre Dame kept its one-goal lead for the remainder of the second period. But the Fighting Irish hadn’t seen the full brunt of Michigan’s offense.
Notre Dame took a too many men penalty 34 seconds into the third period. Michigan made them pay.
Max Pacioretty clanged a shot from the slot off the post, but Kolarik put the carom behind Pearce to tie the game just before the power play ended. With the score tied, Michigan could taste the comeback.
And while the Wolverines did eventually tie the score, the Irish had just enough left in them to get the game-winner in overtime.