Back in January, the Wolverines won a 3-2 decision against Notre Dame in a game that ended up being an absolute classic. I kept it on my DVR so that eventually I can archive it. In the meantime, it ended up being relevant to my coverage of the Frozen Four. The game took place before I started the "Going Upstairs" feature, so it's time to jump back in time and go upstairs to review this one.
Right off the bat, Notre Dame had a great scoring chance. Porter and Miller went for a hit deep in the Notre Dame end, the puck came out to another Irish player and Kolarik hit him just as he let the pass go. It was still just a 2 on 2 coming through center ice, but Mitera sold-out to check Ryan "Thoia" Thang (why?) and missed, allowing Thang and Kevin "Dee Dee" Deeth to fly into the zone with just Chris Summers back. Deeth went to the top of the crease and Summers played it about as well as he could, not letting Thang pass the puck until he was behind the goal line. He did get the pass through and Deeth put it on net. Sauer made a save and Miller came flying back to check Deeth into our keeper. Big stop for Sauer right out of the gate.
This was one of the games that Pacioretty missed due to a shoulder injury, so Tim Miller took Patch's spot on the top line. Llewellyn also didn't play, since this game occured while we were still rotating freshmen defensemen.
Notre Dame went up 1-0 three-and-a-half minutes into the game on a really fluky goal. Michigan turned the puck over at center ice. Hagelin threw a behind-the-back pass to "Other" who wasn't able to handle it. Deeth picked it up and went to the outside as Other tried to stick check him at the Michigan blue line. Deeth wristed a pass through the slot toward Kissel, who he had streaking down the right wing, but Mitera got his stick in there and deflected it....right into the top corner of the net. No chance for Sauer on that one.
Michigan nearly evened the score when Louie Caporusso had a golden opportunity off a nice feed from Winnett. Naurato led the rush up, but it was 3 on 3 and he didn't really have anywhere to go with it. He hit center ice and threw it across the ice into the corner to the left of Jordan Pearce. Winnett out-raced Blatchford to the puck and immediately threw it into the slot where Caporusso was all alone. He had a wide open net, but one-timed it just wide.
Notre Dame widened the gap to two goals, just a minute later. The Irish won a battle for a loose puck in the corner deep in their end. It came to the point where Lebler wasn't able to lift the stick of Ridderwall enough to prevent a forwarding pass up to Guentzel. Vaughan had come up to provide support on Ridderwall, so when the pass got through to Guentzel, it created a two-on-one. Summers had already started skating with Guentzel and bodied him off the puck, but Guentzel was able to get his stick on it and center it to White. Vaughan got on his horse to get back, but he wasn't able to make it. White quickly back-handed a shot through Sauer's five-hole and the Irish were up 2-0.
Notre Dame has really been coming after Michigan on the forecheck to this point, usually sending two guys. This time, the Wolverines beat it and got a great scoring opportunity out of it. Travis Turnbull came back low to help out his defense and brought it out to center ice where he fed Summers. Summers beat his man to the outside and fed Naurato at the top of the left faceoff circle. Naurato fired a shot and Pearce kicked the rebound right out to Caporusso. If Caporusso had been a right-hand shot, it was in the net. Instead, he made a very crafty move to kick the puck right up to his stick and let a shot go. It was a great play, but that extra half-second gave Pearce time to slide to his left and make a nice glove save.
To keep the offense going, Notre Dame came down to the other end and rung one off the bar. They threw one high off the glass, which Other couldn't handle and the puck bounced to center ice where Guentzel was able to slide it to White. White snapped a shot from 60 feet, which beat Sauer over the glove and hit the cross bar.
The Irish came close once again seconds later. They won a faceoff in the Michigan end and a shot from the point went wide to the left of Sauer and came out the other side. Condra was camped out right in front and he corraled the loose puck by the side of the net. He tried to quickly back-hand a shot into the net before Sauer could recover, but ended up just pushing it back into the slot. He had an empty net for a second, though.
The first penalty of the hockey game went against Mitera for hooking. Probably a needless penalty. He was behind the net and his man beat him. He was going to bring the puck out in front, but Kolarik was right there. Mitera hauled his guy down and got called.
Not much for Notre Dame on their first power play. Condra had one decent shot, but it was a wrister from the faceoff dot, so not really a high percentage look. Michigan put a lot of pressure on the point men.
Evan Rankin had a nice scoring chance with about 5 1/2 left in the first period. Notre Dame won an offensive zone faceoff and threw it deep into the corner. Rankin battled with Mitera for it. Mitera initally had possession, but Rankin stopped the puck when Mitera tried to rap it up the boards, and got to the goal-side of Mitera. Having done that, he was able to walk it out of the corner. Other was slow to react and Rankin tried to tuck it far-side. Sauer got his left pad on it, disaster averted. The Mitera/Other combo has been absolutely brutal tonight.
Porter blocked a shot at the point, gloved it down, and was off to the races. Ted Ruth, who was traded for Sergei Fedorov at the trade deadline, was able to skate with him and get his stick on Porter's just as he tried to get a backhand shot away.
Michigan finally hit on a homerun pass just a few seconds after that rush. Mitera hit Winnett in stride but Dan VeNard got his stick in there to break up any potential scoring chance. He was called for hooking on the play as they went into the corner. That call was on the weaker side (by the way, Hall did this game) but he missed a blatant one after Porter's chance, so we'll call it a wash.
Notre Dame lined up four guys in the neutral zone during the penalty kill. They didn't forecheck the entire time and Michigan wasn't able to get anything going until the waning seconds of the power play when they finally shot the puck in. Langlais carried the puck up and fired one from the red line off of Pearce's pads. Palushaj beat his man into the zone and made a pretty feed to an uncovered Porter after he drew a defenseman to him. Porter threw one off Pearce's right pad and couldn't control the rebound, or he would have had a wide-open net. Matching minors for roughing after the whistle were called on the play. On the ensuing faceoff, Hagelin jumped around his man and was hauled down, so Michigan had a 4 on 3.
The Wolverines spent the remaining 30 seconds of the period in a diamond, working the puck back to Langlais at the point for one-timers. Nothing came as a result and the teams headed to intermission with Notre Dame up 2-0.
The Irish clearly out-played Michigan in that period. Some of the big reasons:
-Mitera played one of his worst periods of the season. Other wasn't any better. And when your top pairing struggles against the other team's top line, you know they're getting some chances.
-Notre Dame won 7 of the 10 faceoffs in the Michigan end and got several quality chances off those draws.
-Their forecheck caused a few turnovers. Evan Rankin in particular was causing fits for the Wolverine defense.
Michigan did have some chances in the first, however. The top line wasn't horribly effective (though they also didn't have Pacioretty) as Ruth and Sheahan did a nice job on them. Caporusso had some really nice chances.
Michigan was able to capitalize on the 4 on 3 right out of the gate in the second period. Porter brought the puck into the zone and threw it cross-ice to Palushaj. The Wolverines had three guys high (Porter on the left, Langlais in the middle, and Palushaj on the right) with Kolarik going to the goal. Palushaj passed to Langlais and he and Chad each slid one "slot" to the left as Porter came all the way across to the right. By switching to his off-side, the left-handed Porter was able to get to the top of the right faceoff circle and one-time a pass from Langlais into the net. Pearce may have been screened by Kolarik, but it might not have mattered. Great play and a great shot.
The line with Naurato, Caporusso and Turnbull has been great tonight. Caporusso has had at least 4 great scoring chances and the other two have been effective as well.
Another chance for Notre Dame off a faceoff in the Michigan end. They won the draw back to Cole and he was ready to let a bomb go, but Lebler had fallen down, which left Rankin open in the high slot. Cole slid the pass to him, but Rankin mishit it.
Rust, Hagelin, and Palushaj just ran a 3 on 2 about as well as you can. Hagelin and Rust played catch as they brought it up ice (Hagelin to Rust, back to Hagelin, back to Rust). It drew both defensemen to Rust and at the last second, he fed Palushaj on the right wing. Palushaj snapped a shot from the faceoff dot and sent it high over the net. Then Rust ran into the goalie and got a penalty. He hit him, but Hasek would've been proud of that dive by Pearce.
The power play was short-lived as Cole was called for interference. Hagelin intercepted a pass headed for Cole and broke out with Porter. He made the pass to Porter and Cole took Hagelin down as he tried to streak into the offensive zone. Hagelin is fast, if you haven't noticed.
Rust headed back to the box just a minute and a half after he came out, as he got called for cross-checking. I'm pretty sure that was another penalty that came about just because Rust is really strong. He just kind of put a forearm into Regan's back and Regan took a tumble. Somehow that ended up being cross-checking. This penalty came about because of another Michigan turnover in their own end due to the strong ND forecheck.
The goal that tied it was Rust's bomb from the left point as he was bringing the puck into the Notre Dame zone. Off a Notre Dame faceoff win in the Michigan zone, Regan took a shot that was well wide of the net and Aaron Palushaj went to the boards to pick up the loose puck. Hagelin was streaking up ice but he was well covered so Palushaj opted for the cross-ice pass to Rust instead. Rust brought it into the zone and let a laser of a shot go from just inside the blueline that simply beat Pearce. That wasn't a good goal to give up, though it was a beautiful shot.
Naurato tried to dump the puck into the Notre Dame end, but it didn't make it. Instead, Notre Dame flipped it right back out. Summers was coming off on the play (remember, the teams have the long change in the second period) and so Michigan was caught when the puck didn't get in deep. White brought the puck in and flipped a pass into the middle of the ice as Vaughan laid down to try and block the attempt. Ridderwall put a shot on net, but Sauer slid to his right and got the legs closed just in time.
Notre Dame hit their second bar of the night off another faceoff win in the Michigan zone. Guentzel tapped the draw back, White picked it up and wrister one through traffic that got behind Sauer but hit the crossbar.
Michigan flashed its transition game off a neutral zone turnover. Porter intercepted a pass that was headed for a Notre Dame player that was changing anyway, he carried into the zone and dropped it back for Tim Miller. With Pearce butterflying, Miller could've taken a shot from the hash mark, but opted to feed Kolarik who was coming in on the right wing. If the pass had connected, Kolarik probably had an easy goal, but Miller got a little anxious and fired the pass too far out in front of Kolarik. Way too hard, a little too far.
The level of play was a lot more even that period. Notre Dame got most of its opportunities on dump-ins and won faceoffs. By the announcer's count, Notre Dame tried dumping the puck in on five occasions that period and got the puck back four times. They also won seven of the nine faceoffs in the Michigan end by my count. I wouldn't bet my life that that count is dead on since it's 3 in the morning, but it's close. Notre Dame has dominated their offensive zone. I haven't been tracking the faceoffs in the Notre Dame end, but I feel like Michigan is winning their share down there.
A key moment in the game came early in the third period when Chris Summers was given five and a game for checking from behind. They're going to call that one every time. The Michigan penalty killing was very strong, and Chad Kolarik actually had the best opportunity on this penalty kill. Notre Dame had some opportunities on the initial shift (which ran a full two minutes) but they didn't hit the net on any of their shots. Tim Miller made three or four nice plays, getting into passing lanes and diving to knock the puck away on one occasion.
For Kolarik's opportunity, a couple of Irish players flubbed the puck out at the blueline and Kolarik was off like a shot. Rust knocked it ahead to him and Kolarik came in all alone. Pearce laid down to try to poke-check him if he tried to deke. Kolarik shot it and tried to go upstairs, but he didn't get it up far enough and it looked like it just caught Pearce as he was going down. Rust came in for the rebound, sent it wide, and was cross-checked into the the net by Ryan Thang, which negated the remaining portion of the power play.
The play went back and forth for the next seven minutes or so but nothing really noteworthy happened.
Aaron Palushaj was called for charging. He had a bit of a break and the defenseman got his stick in there. Palushaj tried to stop but pretty much just plowed into Pearce.
At the end of the power play, Michigan nearly hit thanks to one of their homerun passes. Porter left it for Kolarik at the ND blueline and Palushaj went to the back post. Palushaj was open. I mean wiiiide open and Kolarik tried to get him the puck, but Kyle Lawson came flying back and he dove to break the pass up. He almost knocked it into his own net, but it was still a helluva play.
Porter just missed giving Michigan the lead with about a minute and a half remaining. Miller intercepted a pass behind the Notre Dame net and in one motion centered it to Porter. Porter pulled it across the crease and tried to tuck a backhander into the open net and just missed.
It ended up not mattering, however, as Louie Caporusso won it for Michigan with twenty seconds remaining. The key? We won the faceoff. Caporusso won it back, Mitera chipped it in deep, Turnbull centered it and Caporusso just missed. Caporusso knocked the puck back to Turnbull and then snuck back to the post. Turnbull passed it through his legs to Naurato in the slot. Whether he meant to or not, Naurato one-touched it to Caporusso who buried it. And Yost went bezerk.
Kolarik single-handedly killed the last twenty seconds, just taking the puck into the Notre Dame zone and pinning it along the boards. By the time they dug it out, all Notre Dame could do was throw a Hail Mary down the ice, which didn't connect.
We were really fortunate to get out of that game with a win. Notre Dame played a helluva hockey game. Their forecheck was relentless, Sheahan and Ruth did a great job on our top line, and Sauer made some great saves.
I'm not sure if Notre Dame always plays that balls-out on the forecheck, but I'd expect to see it again this week because it was very effective. They put a lot of pressure on our defensemen and a lot of the time we turned the puck over. They created most of their offense via dumping the puck in and going in to get it. Also, the pressure they put on our defensemen was a big reason that Michigan had trouble hitting on the outlet passes for a lot of the game.
We didn't get destroyed on faceoffs (It was 32-25 in Notre Dame's favor) but the Irish won a huge percentage of draws in the Michigan zone. The biggest win, however, was by Caporusso at the end of the game down in the Notre Dame zone.
Pearce and Sauer both played well. Pearce gave up some rebounds--especially early in the game--and I'm sure he wants that Rust goal back. Sauer had a rough start, giving up two goals on the first five shots he faced (the first of which he had no fault on whatsoever), but rebounded to play a great hockey game. He made some splendid stops, particularly when he absolutely robbed Ridderwall.
Mitera had a horrid first period, but settled down and played well the rest of the game.
I think it's important to point out two key personnel differences from this game to the National Semifinal that will be played on Thursday: Michigan will have Max Pacioretty in the lineup. Notre Dame will not have the services of Erik Condra. Pacioretty adds another dimension to Michigan's top line. Sheahan and Ruth did a great job on Porter and Kolarik for the most part, but while Tim Miller played a good game he's not Pacioretty. He can create space for the most dangerous duo in the country, and he's been held off the score-sheet in just six of the last 32 games. He had put in seven points in his previous five before getting injured, so it's safe to say he was missed. Condra played a strong game for Notre Dame. He didn't have a point in either game against Michigan, but he was a big reason ND had as many scoring chances as they did. He's definitely a loss.
I'll have more on Notre Dame in the 10 Things feature, which is still to come this week.