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Irish extend losing streak to three games with losses to Michigan

and | Monday, February 19, 2018

No. 1 Notre Dame had a bounce-back on its mind coming into Friday’s home matchup with No. 18 Michigan, as it was looking to recover from a disappointing 5-1 loss at the hands of Ohio State last Saturday. The Irish were not able to rally from an early 2-0 deficit, however, dropping their second-consecutive Big Ten game for the first time this season.

The first period was a difficult one for the Irish (22-7-2, 16-4-1 Big Ten). The team came out flat, generating only one of the game’s first eight shots on goal. Sophomore goaltender Cale Morris handled the game’s first real chance at the 4:54 mark of the game, pushing across the crease to stop a backdoor drive on a 2-on-1. The Irish would continue to pay on their heels, allowing the Wolverines (16-13-3, 11-10-3) to generate offense in the Irish end and ultimately score the game’s first goal — a slapshot from Michigan freshman defenseman Quinn Hughes was tipped in front by freshman forward Adam Winborg past Morris to put the Wolverines up 1-0. The Wolverines would double their advantage just minutes later off a wristshot from senior forward Dexter Dancs. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said he was impressed with the Wolverines’ play.

“Michigan puts a lot of pressure on you with their speed. They skate really well, and you have less time to make a play,” Jackson said. “When you’ve got the puck on your stick, they’re on you right away and you have to move it quickly. To do that, you have to have good puck support.”

Later in the period, the Irish were given a chance to respond after an offensive-zone penalty by the Wolverines but took a penalty of their own shortly after, negating the advantage and returning play to an even 4-on-4. The Irish would close the period with a 3-on-1 break, but tried one too many passes and failed to generate a shot out of the odd-man rush. The Irish entered the locker room down 2-0 and having been outshot 17-6. Jackson was not pleased with his team’s reluctance to put the puck on net late in the first.

“They drive me crazy when they don’t shoot the puck,” Jackson said. “They’re trying to make everything look pretty.”

A late first-period penalty gave the Irish almost a full two minutes of power-play time to open the second period, and the Irish made the most of it, working a series of passes that set junior forward Bobby Nardella up to fire a slapshot that picked up a deflection in front by junior forward Joe Wegwerth. The puck found its way through the five hole of Wolverines sophomore goaltender Hayden Lavigne to put the Irish on the board.

The Irish came out playing fast in the second, generating the first five shots of the frame. Despite the added pressure, the Wolverines would get the next goal, putting themselves up 3-1 on a third-chance opportunity in the crease. The Irish would kill a penalty and then go on a power play of their own. Lavigne would have to push across the crease to rob Irish senior captain Jake Evans of a sure goal, but a penalty was called on the play, putting the Irish on a 5-on-3 power play. They would do little with it, however, and the Wolverines would return to full strength unscathed.

The Irish would be given one more chance on the power play late in the frame, and they did not squander it. Nardella blasted home a slapshot immediately off a face-off win from Evans to put the Irish within one heading into the third period. Jackson was happy with the team’s effort in the later periods of the game.

“I thought we played much better after the first period. We made some bad defensive mistakes where defensemen got trapped up the ice a few times, and there were some bad turnovers too that led to goals,” Jackson said. “Those were plays that you can’t make against a team like Michigan, especially against their top-two lines.”

The Irish came out hot in the third, firing the puck on net and keeping the puck in the Michigan end at even strength consistently for the first time in the contest. As Irish momentum reached its peak, a bad turnover led to a misplayed 2-on-1 and a backdoor goal for Wolverines freshman forward Michael Pastujov off an assist from his older brother, sophomore forward Nick Pastujov. Jackson lamented the Irish giving up odd-man breaks.

“One of my biggest concerns as we approach the playoffs is giving up odd-man rushes, and over the last couple games, we’ve given up more than our share,” Jackson said. “We have to clean that up. When we were playing real well there for a long stretch, we weren’t giving up those kinds of odd-man situations. That way Cale Morris doesn’t have to be spectacular all the time.”

The Irish kept the pressure on in the third, forcing some clutch saves from Lavigne down the stretch, particularly a sprawling pad stop on sophomore forward Cam Morrison midway through the final frame. The Irish appeared to get one back at the 16:16 mark on a tip by junior forward Jack Jenkins, but a lengthy review overturned the goal for a high stick. The Irish kept fighting on with their net empty but failed to find the back of the net again. Despite putting 30 shots on in the final two frames, the Irish fell to the Wolverines by a final score of 4-2.

“We’re not playing the way we were playing. We have to get back to that,” Jackson said. “I thought we played better after the first period, but you give a team a two-goal lead, you’re asking for trouble.”

Notre Dame looked to bounce back against the Wolverines on Sunday night, but were shut out 1-0 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

It was Michigan who got off to a fast start again, outshooting Notre Dame 10-0 in the first eight minutes of the game. The Irish regained their footing during the middle of the opening period, and with less than a minute to go in the first, Michigan was called for a penalty. Notre Dame had a couple of quality chances to bury the puck in the dying seconds but were denied each time.

After a scoreless first period, the shots on goal were 16-8 in favor of Michigan.

Sophomore forward Cal Burke and sophomore defenseman Tory Dello had opportunities to put Notre Dame ahead during the first seven minutes of the second period, but they were turned away by Lavigne. The Irish got another power-play opportunity with 7:42 left in the period but could not capitalize. With 38 seconds left in the period, a turnover in the Notre Dame zone led to a goal by Michigan senior captain Tony Calderone to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead going into the second intermission.

After the second period, the shots on goal were 27-23 in favor of Michigan.

Notre Dame had chances to tie the score in the third period but could not solve Lavigne. Notre Dame pulled Morris for the extra attacker with 1:31 left in regulation. Evans, senior defenseman Jordan Gross and junior forward Andrew Oglevie had chances to tie the game in the dying seconds, but they couldn’t bury the puck.

Morris finished with 36 saves, while Lavigne finished with 35.

This weekend was the first time all season Notre Dame was swept in a two-game series and extended Notre Dame’s losing streak to three games. The Irish have not won since clinching the Big Ten regular-season title last Friday.

Notre Dame will be back in action Friday and Saturday when it hosts Michigan State in a two-game series at Compton Family Ice Arena to close out the regular season.

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