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Notre Dame’s season comes to an end after OT loss to Michigan

| Wednesday, March 30, 2016

CINCINNATI — A tournament game built up by a fierce rivalry and Notre Dame’s future move to the Big Ten lived up to the hype Friday, as Notre Dame and Michigan delivered another classic in the 135th meeting between the two programs.

The Wolverines (25-7-5, 12-5-3 Big Ten) came out on top this time around with a 3-2 overtime thriller over the Irish (19-11-7, 15-5-2 Hockey East).

Two seemingly evenly-matched teams needed extra hockey to decide who would move on to the next round after 60 minutes of play, and Michigan junior forward Tyler Motte netted the game-winner 8:19 into the first overtime period to seal the win and a second-round matchup with No. 1 seed North Dakota for the Wolverines.

“Our guys played their hearts out,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said after the game. “I’m extremely proud of them. Our senior class has probably done a better job of leading as a combination of a group of players that I’ve ever had, so I’m very proud of them.”

Michigan senior left wing Justin Selman opened the scoring at the 10:31 mark with a rocket from the point off an offensive zone faceoff win, but Irish sophomore Anders Bjork evened the game at 15:46 with an unassisted, top-shelf laser on a 2-on-1. The two goaltenders went toe-to-toe in the opening frame, with Michigan senior Steve Racine stopping 12 of 13 shots and Notre Dame sophomore Cal Petersen countering by getting in front of 10 of 11.

Notre Dame sophomore left wing Anders Bjork scores on Michigan senior goalie Steve Racine during the first period of Notre Dame's 3-2 overtime loss during the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.Kelly Vaughn | The Observer
Notre Dame sophomore left wing Anders Bjork scores on Michigan senior goalie Steve Racine during the first period of Notre Dame’s 3-2 overtime loss during the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.

Defense was the difference for the Irish in the middle period — that and senior forward Thomas DiPauli. Notre Dame allowed only six shots from the Wolverines’ high-powered offense in the frame, and DiPauli staked Notre Dame to its first lead of the game just 24 seconds into the period, gliding the puck into the zone through two Michigan defenders and finishing with a goal.

The momentum began to shift toward Michigan in the third, however, as its offense began to become more effective in the Irish zone.

Michigan sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski leveled the score at 2-2 9:52 into the third period after a flurry of Michigan pressure, which continued until the end of regulation. However, a combination of blocked shots and Petersen saves pushed the game into overtime.

Both teams got their chances in the extra period, as Irish sophomore Jake Evans nearly netted a game-winning wrap-around early on. It was Motte and the highest-scoring line in college hockey who broke through, however, as the Wolverines converted an overtime goal into a victory.

“Credit to them,” Irish senior forward Sam Herr said of Michigan’s top line, which includes Motte, junior center JT Compher and freshman left wing Kyler Connor. “They’re a phenomenal line. Obviously they have been all year, but that was just a team effort shutting them down. We played strong team defense when we were on the ice. Everyone was aware. As far as the overtime goal, just one lapse against those guys and you’re going to have to pay for it, and that’s what we did tonight.”

“I thought for the most part we played well,” senior center and captain Steven Fogarty said. “We wanted to get a good start, and I thought we did that. When we were sticking to our game plan is when we had success. There was a few lapses in there, and they capitalized. But overall I’m really proud of the guys and of how they worked all game.”

Junior defenseman Justin Wade had a noticeable impact on the flow of the game and especially against the Wolverines’ top line, a fact Jackson acknowledged after the loss.

“He’s a heavy player,” Jackson said. “He’s strong, and he’s physical. And he does it without taking a lot of penalties. He’s a hard player to play against. You need to have defenders like that. He’s just a tough kid that plays big hockey. He’s not looking for a lot of credit. He just does his job, and he makes us a better team.”

“It’s one of those classic matchups between Michigan and Notre Dame, where we were supposed to have the offense and they’re supposed to have the defense, and they usually have the goalkeeping,” Wolverine head coach Red Berenson said during his post-game press conference. “Defense usually wins, and Jeff’s had the edge in some of those games, and we’ve had the edge in some. But it can go either way. I have a lot of respect for Jeff. I think he’s a great coach, and I’m glad to see they’re coming into the Big Ten. But this was a game that Michigan got the last shot. It was one of those games.”

Looking ahead, Notre Dame enters the offseason with one more season in Hockey East before joining Michigan in the Big Ten in 2017.

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