Michigan ices Notre Dame in OT in NCAA Tourney showdown
CINCINNATI — Throttled for most of the game, Michigan's top line finally came through with a no-look pass setting up the winning goal.
Tyler Motte got a no-look pass in front of the goal from J.T. Compher and scored 8:19 into overtime Friday night, giving Michigan a 3-2 victory over rival Notre Dame in an NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional semifinal.
The long-time rivals have faced each other twice in the NCAA Tournament and both games have gone overtime, with each winning once.
"We just stuck with our game," Motte said. "It takes one bounce, one to go in."
Second seed Michigan (25-7-5) will play top-seeded North Dakota on Saturday for a berth in the Frozen Four, a game matching two of college hockey's record-setting programs. North Dakota beat Northeastern, 6-2, Friday in the other semifinal.
Michigan was the top-scoring team in the country, averaging 4.89 goals. The Wolverines pulled one out in a game where goals were hard to come by as third-seeded Notre Dame (19-11-7) cranked up its defense.
"We just stayed patient and were kind of weathering the storm," Notre Dame captain Steven Fogarty said. "I thought we did that at the beginning and had some momentum going forward, but it wasn't enough.
"If you give a line like that a chance, they're going to capitalize."
The Wolverines won their first Big Ten Tournament with left wing Kyle Connor — the league's top freshman and Player of the Year — leading the way. He couldn't even get off a shot in the first two periods as Notre Dame turned it into a grind-it-out game.
In overtime, Connor passed it to Compher, who found Motte for the winning goal.
"I think with our chemistry at this point in the year, (Compher) has a feeling where Kyle or I are going to be," Motte said. "You put it there and you never know what's going to happen."
It came down to one perfect pass.
"I thought we did a good job against them," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. "But when the game was on the line — that was a no-look pass to win the game. That was an incredible play."
The rivals played for the 134th time since 1923 but the first time since the 2012-13 season, before Notre Dame moved to Hockey East and Michigan to the newly formed Big Ten hockey conference. The Fighting Irish went 5-0 against the Wolverines that season, including a victory in the championship game of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament.
Back in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines got a lot of encouragement by students still bristling over Michigan's loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. A week later, it was Michigan vs. Notre Dame, Round II. This time, on ice.
Notre Dame's defense throttled the Wolverines' top line — led by Connor — for most of the game. Michigan's Cristoval Nieves scored off a faceoff midway through the first period. Notre Dame's Anders Bjork tied it with an unassisted goal, bringing the puck up the ice and lifting it over the glove of Steve Racine, who also was in goal the last time the teams played in 2013.
Only 24 seconds into the second period, Bjork brought the puck up ice and dropped it for Thomas DiPauli, whose slap shot made it 2-1. The Wolverines managed only two shots on goal in the first 14 minutes of the period.
Cal Petersen stopped Compher on a breakaway to preserve the lead early in the third period. Defenseman Zach Werenski's goal tied it midway through the period, and Michigan came within inches of taking the lead with 3:56 left in regulation. Connor's shot deflected through Petersen and stopped just shy of the goal before it was slapped away.