Galajda’s 28 saves help No. 8 Notre Dame end No. 2 Michigan’s eight-game win streak

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — No. 8 Notre Dame got another solid goaltending performance from graduate transfer Matthew Galajda, who hardly blinked Friday night when he faced a No. 2 Michigan hockey team playing with its full roster for the first time since the Beijing Winter Olympics began.

Galajda, a Cornell graduate, made 28 saves for his fourth straight victory – his 14th with Notre Dame and his 74th in four seasons – and the Fighting Irish rallied with four unanswered goals by four different players to beat the Wolverines, 4-1, for their fourth straight victory in the Big Ten Conference.

The victory moved coach Jeff Jackson’s Irish to 24-9 overall, and more importantly, to 16-7-0 in the Big Ten for 44 points, two ahead of idle Ohio State and giving Notre Dame third place for the regular season. 

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“You don’t win without great goaltending,” said Jackson, himself a former goalie at Michigan State in the 1970s. “(Galajda) has been playing great the last three weeks. We’ve gotten great goaltending all year, for the most part. Both of them (Galajda and junior Ryan Bischel) have played well. Matt’s had the hot hand recently.”

Galajda gave a lot of credit to his teammates, who also blocked another 24 shots, including six by defenseman Spencer Stastney. 

“They blocked a lot of shots, particularly on the P-K (penalty-kill),” Galajda said. “They made my job a lot easier.”

Notre Dame goaltender Matthew Galajda (35) during the Notre Dame-Michigan Big Ten  hockey game on Friday, February 25, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

After surrendering a pair of power-play goals in last weekend’s sweep at Michigan State, the Irish killed off four power-play opportunities by the Wolverines, who entered the game with the nation’s seventh-best power play. Galajda turned away seven shots on the four Michigan opportunities, and Notre Dame has allowed just 10 power-play goals in 122 penalty-kills (91.8 percent).

Coach Mel Pearson’s Wolverines, who entered the game on an eight-game winning streak, fell to 25-8-1 overall and 16-7 in the Big Ten for 51 points, one behind Minnesota, who beat Wisconsin 5-0 to take over first place with one game in the regular season remaining.

Notre Dame and Michigan closed out the regular season Saturday at 6 p.m. at Compton, after which the Irish will find out whether they will play Wisconsin or Penn State in the first round of the league playoffs. The best-of-three series begins next Friday at Compton. Michigan would need a victory over Notre Dame and help from Wisconsin to finish first and earn the first-round bye. 

Galajda shut down the Wolverines after allowing defenseman Nick Blankenburg’s goal 2:24 into the contest witnessed at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena by 4,775 fans, including new Irish football coach Marcus Freeman and his family. 

The Irish tied it on Graham Slaggert’s goal at 8:45 and Jesse Lansdell scored what proved to be the game-winner when he scored into an empty net at 3:03 during a five-minute Irish power play to start the second period.

Notre Dame forward Jack Adams (22) looks for the rebound on save made by Michigan goaltender Erik Portillo (1) during the Notre Dame-Michigan Big Ten  hockey game on Friday, February 25, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

Grad-transfer (from Union and Providence) right wing Jack Adams scored at 14:56 in the second period and defenseman Spencer Stastney was awarded the fourth goal without taking a shot when he was tripped up by Team USA Olympian Brendan Brisson while skating to the net vacated by 6-foot-6 goalie Erik Portillo late in the game. Portillo finished with 24 saves, 13 in the second period, during a valiant effort to keep his teammates in it.

The Irish got a pair of assists from both Trevor Janicke and defenseman Nick Leivermann.

Brisson and center Matty Beniers were playing for the first time for Michigan in three weeks, while Canadian Olympians Owen Power and Kent Johnson were back for the first time in a month.

The teams left the ice tied at 1-1 after the first period. But referees Tony Czech and Brett DesRosiers still had work to do after the teams went to their locker rooms after Notre Dame asked for a review of the faceoff at the 19:43 mark of the period. After looking at video, they determined that center Johnny Beecher had cross-checked Notre Dame’s Jake Pivonka to the throat after the puck was dropped, and Notre Dame started the second period with a 5-on-4 power play for five minutes.

The Irish came out and tested Portillo three times before the Michigan goalie got caught behind his net trying to play a loose puck. Cam Burke and Trevor Janicke got the puck to Lansdell, who put it into an empty net a 3:03 for a 2-1 Irish lead.

Portillo then made five saves over the final two minutes – and another Irish shot went off a post – to keep the Irish lead at 2-1. But Notre Dame clearly had the momentum.

Then at 14:56, Leivermann skated across the goal crease and backhanded a pass to the 6-foot-6 Adams, who put the puck into the net before it came dislodged for a 3-1 Irish lead. It was the second goal in as many games for Adams and his fourth of the season.

The Irish killed off successive Michigan power plays at the end of the second period and early into the third with four blocked shots and three Galajda saves. Notre Dame then killed off a third penalty with two more saves by Galajda, and at the media break at 11:55, the Irish were in control even with Portillo twice making saves on Irish breakaways by Max Ellis and Solag Bakich.

Landon Slaggert then was banished to the penalty box at 17:35, and Pearson elected to pull Portillo for an extra skater, giving Michigan a 6-on-4 power-play advantage. Ellis and Michigan’s Matty Beniers later were sent to the box with penalties at 18:52. 

A little under 30 seconds later, Stastney got control of the puck and skated toward the unguard Michigan net. As he prepared to shoot, Brisson tripped Stastney and the Irish defenseman was awarded his seventh goal to end the scoring.

NOTRE DAME 4, MICHIGAN 1

At Lefty Smith Rink in Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend

Michigan | 1 | 0 | 0—1

Notre Dame | 1 | 2 | 1—4

First Period—Scoring: 1. Michigan, Nick Blankenburg 13 (Mackie Samoskeich, Johnny Beecher) EV 2:24. 2. Notre Dame, Graham Slaggert 9 (Trevor Janicke, Nick Leivermann) EV 8:45. Penalties: Michigan 0-0, Notre Dame 0-0.

Second Period—Scoring: 3. Notre Dame, Jesse Lansdell 8 (TrevorJanicke, Cam Burke) PP 3:03. 4. Notre Dame, Jack Adams 4 (Nick Leivermann, Chase Blackmun) EV 14:56. Penalties (total): Michigan 2-15 (2-15), Notre Dame 2-4 (2-4).

Third Period—Scoring: 5. Notre Dame, Spencer Stastney 7 (Solag Bakich) SH/EN 19:23. Penalties (total): Michigan 2-4 (4-19), Notre Dame 3-6 (5-10).

Shots on goal: Michigan 29 (10-8-11), Notre Dame 28 (4-15-9).

Goalie saves: Michigan, Erik Portillo 24 (3-13-8), Notre Dame, Matthew Galajda 28  (9-8-11).

Power-play opportunities: Michigan 0 of 4, Notre Dame 1 of 3.

Faceoffs won: Michigan 23 (7-7-9), Notre Dame 25 (6-10-9).

Blocked shots: Michigan 5 (3-2-0), Notre Dame 24 (5-10-9).

Referees: Tony Czech and Brett DesRosiers. Linesmen: Dan Cohen and Pat Richardson. Attendance: 4,775 (4,850).

Records: Notre Dame 24-9-0 (16-7-0 Big Ten for third place with 44 points), Michigan 25-8-1 (16-7-0 Big Ten for second place with 51 points).

BIG TEN STANDINGS

(Conference)

Pts, GP, W-L-T, SOW, OW-OL, GF-GA

Minnesota 52, 23, 17-6-0, 0, 1-2, 82-50

Michigan 51, 23, 16-7-0, 0, 0-3, 90-57

Notre Dame 44, 23, 16-7-0, 0, 5-1, 72-54

Ohio State 42, 24, 13-9-2, 1, 1-1, 76-59

Wisconsin 20, 23, 6-16-1, 0, 1-2, 53-88

Penn State 20, 23, 6-16-1, 1, 1-1, 62-90

Michigan State 14, 23, 5-18-0, 0, 1-0, 49-86

(Overall, W-L-T, .Pct, GF-GA)

Minnesota 22-11-0, .667, 116-77; Michigan 25-8-1, .750, 134-77; Notre Dame 24-9-0, .727, 115-70; Ohio State 21-11-2, .647, 118-79; Wisconsin 9-21-3, .318, 69-116; Penn State 15-17-1, .470, 106-110; Michigan State 11-21-1, .348, 73-106.

Friday, Feb. 25

Notre Dame 4, Michigan 1

Penn State 5, Michigan State 3

Minnesota 5, Wisconsin 0

Saturday, Feb. 26

Michigan at Notre Dame, 6 p.m.

Penn State at Michigan State, 6 p.m.

Wisconsin at Minnesota, 8 p.m.