Yost Ice Arena isn’t known as a quiet place. But for a few seconds in the Michigan hockey team’s bout with No. 11 Notre Dame on Saturday, the capacity crowd stayed hushed. Most were looking for the puck. Others just didn’t want to give its location away.
Midway through the second period of the Wolverines’ 5-3 win Saturday, the puck disappeared like it was in a magician’s act from most of the 6,887 in attendance, including most of the players on the ice.
As Michigan tried to rebound from Friday’s 3-1 loss, freshman defenseman Jon Merrill ripped a slap shot from the point that seemed to get lost in freshman forward Luke Moffatt’s equipment in front. Eyes turned on Moffatt while he hacked at his feet, but the puck had actually deflected off of Moffatt and into the air, landing between the boards and faceoff circle.
Senior defenseman Chad Langlais, one of the few players if not the only one on the ice to know where the puck was, calmly skated down from the point and deposited it in the net as Notre Dame goaltender Mike Johnson continued to focus on Moffatt.
“(Sophomore Chris Brown) tipped it — Jon Merrill’s shot — and it hit me in the pant,” Moffatt said after the game. “Everyone was kind of looking at me, so I thought it was in my pant and it shot out to Langlais coming down the boards.”
The goal was the latest example of a phenomenon Michigan coach Red Berenson has coined “puck luck.” Basically, when Berenson’s teams are working hard and getting shots, they get the bounces. But continuing the trend of the past four weekends, the puck luck only showed up in the second game of the series.
Friday night, Langlais beat Johnson five-hole, only to have the puck roll past the far post. Saturday night, the final three Michigan goals came off deflections: the Langlais goal, one off a Notre Dame player and senior forward Carl Hagelin’s shin pad, and the final one off of two Notre Dame defensemen before it popped over Johnson’s head and dropped into the net.
“It’s the most puck luck I’ve seen in one game,” Berenson said of Saturday. “When you work hard, it’s amazing how lucky you might get, and we were lucky tonight, no question.”
Notre Dame, which entered the weekend atop the CCHA and retained the spot by winning one in Ann Arbor, took a 2-1 lead in both games. But while Michigan didn’t respond to Notre Dame’s second goal quickly (or at all) Friday night, senior forward Matt Rust tied the game less than three minutes after the Irish took the lead Saturday. Twenty-eight seconds later the puck luck — and offensive outburst — began to show up with Langlais’s goal.
“You earn your luck,” Hagelin said. “We worked hard all game, we got pucks to the net and I think we outplayed them.”
The weekend split pushed No. 9 Michigan to 5-0-2 on Saturdays and 1-3-1 on Fridays. Although the Wolverines (5-2-1-0 CCHA, 6-3-3 overall) played competitively all weekend and put nine more shots on Johnson Saturday than they did in the first game, they were outshot by the Irish in both games.
And with two and a half minutes left Saturday as Notre Dame (5-2-1-1, 7-3-1) tried to pull within one to have a chance at the tie with the extra attacker, Irish forward T.J. Tynan came into the zone with speed. He faked hard toward the net and then went out wide, causing senior goaltender Bryan Hogan to fall down. Tynan wrapped around the net and tried to stuff it in. The puck slid across the empty goal mouth and out the other side.
Some might call it the un-luck of the Irish. Berenson explains it from his side with two simple words: puck luck.