SOUTH BEND — Three players with a combined eight games of experience coming into the season helped rested Notre Dame get back into the upper division of the Big Ten hockey race.
Sophomore Pierce Crawford, the possessor of all the experience, and freshman Jake Pivonka scored their first career goals and freshman Michael Graham netted his ninth of the season as the No. 15 Irish skated to a 5-2 victory over Michigan before 3,913 at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.
The victory by Jeff Jackson’s Irish, 15-10-3 overall, moved them into third place in the Big Ten at 8-8-2-2 for 28 points, two behind the Wolverines (8-8-5-2 Big Ten, 12-12-6 overall) with two games in hand.
Jackson liked the offensive production from his four lines and was particularly happy that Crawford and Pivonka, the game’s Nos. 1 and 2 stars, scored their first goals.
“We need that,” Jackson said. “It’s been one of the biggest challenges for us — being consistent offensively. I’m happy for Pierce — he works as hard as anyone. It was nice to see him score that goal, not only for us but for him. Same with Jake — he’s been fighting all season to get that first goal. It makes a difference when you get some secondary scoring.”
Dylan Malmquist’s power-play goal got Notre Dame started and Colin Theisen’s power-play goal at 16:14 finished it for the Irish, who were 2-of-6 with the man-advantage. Junior goalie Cale Morris stopped 36 Michigan shots, 18 in the final period while allowing goals by Will Lockwood and Garrett Van Wyhe.
Notre Dame got five of its seven assists from its defense — two each by junior Tory Dello and sophomore Matt Hellickson, who has nine points in nine games against the Wolverines and 16 other points in 51 games.
“I liked our discipline tonight,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to get great goaltending and good special teams this time of year.”
Michigan coach Mel Pearson started junior Hayden Lavigne, who gave up four goals in two periods before being replaced by freshman Strauss Mann. The two goalies combined for 25 saves.
The special teams provided the Irish a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. Michigan’s Lockwood was off for cross checking 27 seconds into the contest when Malmquist was set up in the left faceoff circle by passes from Bobby Nardella and Hellickson and beat Lavigne over his right shoulder at 2:11.
Morris kept it at 1-0 as Michigan raced to a 7-2 edge in shots midway through the period. Then with Irish center Mike O’Leary off for high sticking at 12:03, sophomore penalty-killer Crawford poked the puck to center ice and chased it down for a breakaway. He moved the disc from his backhand to his forehand and beat Lavigne over his left shoulder at 13:18 for his first career goal and Notre Dame’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season.
It remained 2-0 past the halfway point of the second period when the teams responded with three even-strength goals in a span of 1:35.
Michigan cut into the lead when Lockwood caught the Irish on a line change, allowing him to stickhandle his way through the defense to beat Morris at 12:33.
But the Irish responded with two goals in 45 seconds. First, Pivonka used Michigan defenseman Nicholas Boka as a screen to beat Lavigne on his stick side at 13:23. Then Graham scored his eighth goal in the last four weekends when he wristed a quick shot into the net after O’Leary won a faceoff. That goal came at 14:08 and Notre Dame would lead 4-1 after two.
The goalie change seemed to invigorate Michigan, which peppered Morris with nine shots in the first 5½ minutes, including four on a Michigan power play. But the Irish net stayed empty until Van Wyhe scored a shorthanded goal at 15:49, 25 seconds before Theisen’s power-play goal.
First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Dylan Malmquist 9 (Bobby Nardella, Matt Hellickson) 2:11 (ppg); 2. Notre Dame, Pierce Crawford 1 (unassisted) 13:18 (shg). Penalties: Michigan 2-4, Notre Dame 1-2.
Second Period—Scoring: 3. Michigan, Will Lockwood 14 (unassisted) 12:33 (even); 4. Notre Dame, Jake Pivonka 1 (Graham Slaggert, Tory Dello) 13:23 (even); 5. Notre Dame, Michael Graham 9 (Mike O’Leary) 14:08 (even). Penalties (total): Michigan 0-0 (2-4), Notre Dame 0-0 (1-2).
Third Period—Scoring: 6. Michigan, Garrett Van Wyhe 4 (Dakota Raabe) 15:49 (shg); 7. Notre Dame, Colin Theisen 7 (Tory Dello, Matt Hellickson) 16:14 (ppg). Penalties: Michigan 4-8 (6-12), Notre Dame 1-2 (2-4).
Shots on goal—Michigan 7-12-19—38; Notre Dame 8-15-7—30.
Goalie saves—Michigan, Hayden Lavigne 6-13-0—19, Strauss Mann 0-0-6—6; Notre Dame, Cale Morris 7-11-18—36.
Power-play opportunities—Michigan 0 of 2; Notre Dame 2 of 6.
A: 3,913. Time: 2:26. Records: Michigan 12-12-6 (8-8-4-2 Big Ten for 30 points); Notre Dame 15-10-3 (8-8-2-2 Big Ten for 28 points).