SPORTS

Michigan explodes for four goals in second as Notre Dame winless skid reaches four

John Fineran
Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — There have been low moments in his 18 years as head coach of Notre Dame but not many for Irish hockey coach Jeff Jackson.

Friday night’s 5-1 Big Ten loss to No. 3 Michigan before a sellout crowd of 5,103 watching at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena was one of them. Now winless in four straight games, the last three of them losses, Jackson and his team, predicted to finish second in the preseason in the Big Ten, are now looking for answers to many questions.

“We all have to take a look in the mirror — the players, the coaches, everyone,” Jackson said after the Irish surrendered four unanswered goals during a disastrous second period against the high-flying Wolverines. “It’s a far cry from what we should be able to do. We have more talent than what we’re showing.”

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Since their 5-0 shutout of Michigan State at the Compton on Oct. 28, the Irish (4-5-2 overall, 1-3-1-0-0-0 in the Big Ten) have managed just one point in their last four games — a 1-1 tie and shootout loss to the Spartans on Oct. 29. Last weekend they lost 4-1 and 3-0 at Minnesota, a sweep that propelled the Gophers to No. 1 in the nation.

Friday they were outshot 18-4 in the second period and 44-24 in the game by first-year coach Brandon Naurato’s Wolverines, now 9-2 overall and 2-1-0-1-0-0 for five points in the Big Ten.

“Very frustrating, disappointing,” Jackson said. “I thought we did all right in the first period. But we beat ourselves in the second period. We made some bad plays with the puck — turned pucks over — and you can’t do that against a highly skilled team like Michigan. The second period wasn’t good. That was the difference in the game.”

The Irish and Wolverines ended the first period tied at 1-1 after trading power-play goals. Michigan sophomore right wing Mackie Samoskevich scored at 3:02 with Irish captain Nick Leivermann in the penalty box for cross checking. Leivermann then answered at 13:06 with Notre Dame’s first power-play goal in seven games.

Then things got out of hand early in the second after the Irish turned the puck over in their defensive zone and Michigan’s Eric Ciccolini converted a pass from TJ Hughes at 54 seconds to give Michigan the lead for good at 2-1.

Dylan Duke and Jackson Hallum scored goals within 21 seconds of each other beginning at 11:11 and TJ Hughes scored on a power play at 18:01 of the period to conclude the four-goal outburst against helpless Irish goaltender Ryan Bischel, who finished with 39 saves. His Michigan counterpart, junior Erik Portillo, turned aside 23 of the 24 Irish shots.

TJ Hughes, one of seven freshmen in Naurato’s lineup, had a goal and two assists to lead Michigan. Samoskevich, who had a goal and assist, and fellow sophomore defenseman Luke Hughes (no relation to TJ) had two assists. Luke Hughes and Samoskevich were first-round picks in the 2021 NHL Draft, and freshman center Adam Fantilli, who led the nation entering Friday’s game with 20 points and added an assist, is expected to be a high No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft next summer.

Senior right wing Solag Bakich, whose brother Boomer, a West Point graduate, was honored during the game played on Veterans Day, and junior right wing Ryder Rolston had few post-game answers to what they’ve encountered over the past four games.

“We have it in our locker room, but people haven’t shown it,” Bakich said. “It’s just a matter of making the choice every shift.”

“We have to find a way to score,” said Rolston, who leads the Irish in scoring with four goals and nine points but has been held scoreless in the last four games. “We have three goals in the last four games. Obviously, you’re not going to win hockey games if you don’t score.”

Or if you’re spending too much time in the penalty box. As painful as the inconsistency on puck possession and the turnovers were Friday, Jackson again was bothered by the penalties his team took. Both the Irish and Michigan had 10 penalties amounting to 39 minutes each.

“I don’t want us playing stupid,” Jackson said. “I thought we took some bad penalties tonight. We got out of control tonight — I’ll deal with that. I’ve got to start benching guys for some of the penalties we’re taking. We start the game with a penalty, and we get put on our heels. That’s not the way to beat good hockey teams. There’s only one way to deal with that — sit guys out or punish them on the ice. I haven’t had to do that in a long time here. But it’s coming.”

Perhaps as early as Saturday evening when the teams conclude their series at 6 p.m.

MICHIGAN 5, NOTRE DAME 1

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

Michigan        1-4-0—5 

Notre Dame  1-0-0—1 

First Period—Scoring: 1. Michigan, Mackie Samoskevich 9 (Luke Hughes, TJ Hughes) PP 3:02. 2. Notre Dame, Nick Leivermann 4 (Chayse Primeau, Trevor Janicke) PP 13:06. Penalties: Michigan 2-7, Notre Dame 4-19.

Second Period—Scoring: 3. Michigan, Eric Ciccolini 2 (TJ Hughes) EV 0:54. 4. Michigan, Dylan Duke 5 (Adam Fantilli, Jacob Truscott) EV 11:11. 5. Michigan, Jackson Hallum 3 (Keaton Pehrson) EV 11:32. 6. Michigan, TJ Hughes 7 (Mackie Samoskevich, Luke Hughes) PP 18:01. Penalties (total): Michigan 0-0 (2-7), Notre Dame 1-2 (5-21).

 Third Period—Scoring: None. Penalties (total): Michigan 8-32 (10-39), Notre Dame 5-18 (10-39).

Shots on goal: Michigan 44 (13-18-13), Notre Dame 24 (11-4-9). Goalie saves: Michigan, Erik Portillo 23 (10-4-9), Notre Dame, Ryan Bischel 39 (12-14-13).

Power-play opportunities: Michigan 2 of 3, Notre Dame 1 of 4. Faceoffs won: Michigan 26 (11-7-8), Notre Dame 23 (11-8-4). Blocked shots: Michigan 16 (8-3-5), Notre Dame 19 (7-7-5).

Referees: Colin Kronforst and Sean Fernandez. Linesmen: Pat Richardson and Justin Cornell. Attendance: 5,103 (4,850). 

Records: Michigan 9-2-0 overall, 2-1-0-1-0-0 Big Ten for 5 points; Notre Dame 4-5-2 overall, 1-3-1-0-0-0 Big Ten for 4 points.