No. 8 Wolverines finish road sweep of No. 16 Irish with 3-1 victory

COLLEGE HOCKEY

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — You would think a pair of road victories over the No. 1 hockey team last weekend at Minnesota would give No. 16 Notre Dame all the momentum it would need facing No. 8 Michigan in a Big Ten hockey series this weekend at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Instead, it’s Mel Pearson’s Wolverines who are going home happy after Friday’s 3-1 victory at the Lefty Smith Rink that leaves Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish looking for answers going on the road the next two weekends.

“Maybe going on the road for the next four games is a good thing for us right now,” Jackson said after the Irish (7-8-1 overall, 5-6-1-0-1-1 for 18 points and fourth place in the Big Ten) surrendered a pair of third-period goals to Michigan (10-6-0, 8-6-0-1-0-0 Big Ten) in losing for the second straight night. Michigan, which won 5-1 Thursday, moved into second place with 23 points, one ahead of Wisconsin and four behind the Gophers.

“I think we’re more dialed in for whatever reason on the road,” Jackson continued. “I can’t explain it. I’ve never had to give any motivational speech prior to playing Michigan, but I thought I needed to today. Yesterday, I thought we got out-competed.”

The Irish, who surrendered four goals on Thursday in the second period to trail 4-0 heading into the third, and Wolverines were tied 1-1 after 40 minutes Friday before mistakes in their own defensive zone did in the Irish.

A poor clearing effort allowed Michigan defenseman Jay Keranen to score the game-winning goal at 12:05 with a shot from the point through a maze of players in front of Irish goalie Dylan St. Cyr.

Then four minutes later, Notre Dame’s inability to keep Michigan’s talented forwards away from the net allowed Brendan Brisson to score the insurance goal on St. Cyr’s doorstep.

Along with Michael Pastujov’s first-period goal and 35 saves from junior goalie Strauss Mann, the Wolverines managed to pay back the Irish for their 3-2 and 2-1 sweep on Thanksgiving weekend in Ann Arbor.

Alex Steeves had Notre Dame’s only goal of the game in the second period and St. Cyr, starting for the second straight night with sophomore goalie Ryan Bischel out with a day-to-day injury, made 32 saves.

“For us, it’s really a matter of where they want to end up,” Jackson said. “It’s got to be on our leadership and our upperclassmen in these situations to say enough is enough. The toughest part for us was, after beating Minnesota twice, we were playing the next best team in the conference. And Michigan may be the best team in the conference. They are certainly as skilled and talented as Minnesota but just younger.”

The victory was the fourth in a row for Michigan and fifth in six games since the Christmas break. The Wolverines, who have outscored their opposition 28-7 during that span, are idle until they begin a two-game series at home against Penn State Feb. 3. The Irish, meanwhile, travel to Penn State Thursday and Friday and then play at Ohio State Feb. 5-6 before returning to the Smith Rink to play Minnesota Feb. 12-13.

Michigan and Notre Dame each had 12 shots on goal in a up-and-down first period but the Wolverines cashed in on their first one when senior left wing Pastujov beat St. Cyr from the left faceoff circle after getting a cross-ice feed from 6-foot-5 defenseman Owen Power, who had three assists Friday. Freshman Thomas Bordeleau, who had two assists Friday, got the first one on Pastujov’s seventh goal of the season.

The Irish thought they had tied it at 8:58 off a scramble in front of Mann. Freshman defenseman Zach Plucinski put the puck behind the Michigan goalie, but after a review by the referees, an Irish player was detected in the crease.

Notre Dame outshot Michigan 15-13 in the second period and was able to tie the game at 4:39 when Steeves redirected a shot by Graham Slaggert from the blue past Mann. Spencer Stastney also received an assist.

But Mann made 14 saves in the period and finished with nine more in the third period to thwart the Irish.

Michigan 1 0 2—3

Notre Dame 0 1 0—1

First Period—Scoring: 1. Michigan, Michael Pastujov 7 (Owen Power, Thomas Bordeleau) EV 1:21. Penalties: Michigan 0-0, Notre Dame 0-0.

Second Period—Scoring: 2. Notre Dame, Alex Steeves 7 (Graham Slaggert, Spencer Stastney) EV 4:39. Penalties (total): Michigan 1-2 (1-2), Notre Dame 1-2 (1-2).

Third Period—Scoring: 3. Michigan, Jay Keranen 2 (Johnny Beecher, Eric Ciccolini) EV 12:05. 4. Michigan, Brendan Brisson 5 (Nolan Moyle, Thomas Bordeleau) EV 16:05. Penalties (total): Michigan 1-2 (2-4), Notre Dame 1-2 (2-4).

Shots on goal—Michigan 35 (12-13-10), Notre Dame 36 (12-15-9). Goalie saves—Michigan, Strauss Mann 35 (12-14-9), Notre Dame, Dylan St. Cyr 32 (11-13-8). Power-play opportunities—Michigan 0 of 1, Notre Dame 0 of 1. Faceoffs won—Michigan 31 (8-13-10), Notre Dame 20 (5-11-4). Blocked shots—Michigan 15 (2-6-7), Notre Dame 14 (1-9-4). Referees—David Marcotte and Brett DesRosiers. Linesmen—Jonathan Sladek and Pat Richardson. Records—Michigan 10-6-0 (8-6-0-1-0-0 for 23 points Big Ten), Notre Dame 7-8-1 (5-6-1-0-1-1 for 18 points Big Ten).

Michigan’s Jimmy Lambert (23) and Nolan Moyle (27) try to stop Notre Dame’s Michael Graham (15) during the Michigan at Notre Dame NCAA hockey game Thursday at the Compton Family Ice arena in South Bend. The Wolverines completed a sweep of the Irish with a victory Friday at the Compton.