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Irish make Big Ten statement with 5-2 win over Wolverines

| Wednesday, February 13, 2019

On a snowy Tuesday night in South Bend, No. 15 Notre Dame seized its opportunity to right a recent slump with a convincing 5-2 win over rival Michigan to move just two points behind the Wolverines (12-13-6, 8-9-4 Big Ten) and into third place in the Big Ten with six games left in the regular season.

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish junior forward Cam Morrison skates with the puck during Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Michigan on Tuesday at Compton Family Ice Arena.

The last time the Wolverines visited the Irish (15-10-3, 8-8-2 Big Ten) on Jan. 5 in the first-ever collegiate game played in Notre Dame Stadium, Michigan stunned Notre Dame with three first-period goals. But this time around, it was Irish head coach Jeff Jackson’s squad who returned the favor. Only 27 seconds into the game, Michigan junior forward Will Lockwood was called for a needless penalty, and the Irish immediately capitalized on the subsequent power play when senior forward Dylan Malmquist fired past Wolverine junior goalie Hayden Lavigne’s right shoulder to put Notre Dame up 1-0.

Finding itself down almost immediately, Michigan piled on the pressure with a strong forecheck, hoping to get back in the game with a goal. But Notre Dame held its own, as junior goalie Cale Morris stopped all seven shots he faced in the period.

The Wolverines had a real opportunity when Irish junior center Mike O’Leary was called for high sticking with 7:57 left in the first, but once again, a mistake proved costly. On the penalty kill, Irish sophomore Pierce Crawford jumped on a wayward Wolverine pass near the blue line and was immediately set on the breakaway. With only Lavigne to beat, the forward calmly fired into the upper-left corner to double the advantage. The Irish almost added a third to end the period, as freshman forward Michael Graham’s wrister beat Lavigne, but the shot rattled off the crossbar.

The first half of the second period saw missed chances at both ends, until the game exploded with three goals in 1:35. It was the Wolverines who struck first at 12:33, when Lockwood skated down the ice during a Notre Dame line change and took advantage of a bang-bang pick of senior defenseman Bobby Nardella to beat Morris one-on-one and cut the deficit in half. But less than a minute later, the Irish roared right back when freshman Jake Pivonka fired from just inside the blue line to beat Lavigne from distance. Just 45 seconds after that, Notre Dame added a second in the period when freshman Michael Graham slotted home a turnaround shot after the Irish won an offensive-zone face-off to push the lead back up to 4-1.

Jackson applauded the production from some of his squad’s younger faces.

“We need that. Right now, that’s been one of the biggest challenges for us, being consistent offensively, and I think that has a lot to do with our offensive depth. I’m really happy for Pierce Crawford, he works as hard as anyone, so it was nice to see him score that goal, not just for us, but for him as well,” Jackson said. “Same thing with Pivonka, he has been fighting all season long to get that first goal, and I’m just glad they both got their first goals tonight, and it certainly makes a big difference when we get some secondary scoring.

… It’s kind of a wash, when you’re matching your top lines against each other, which we did tonight, so you need to get production from guys down the list a little bit, and we needed our freshman to maybe start contributing a bit more, and it was good to see Jake score that goal tonight.”

The third period opened with an onslaught from the Wolverines, who made a concerted effort to get back in the game with 19 shots in the frame and plenty of chippy play. But Morris and the Irish stood tall for the first 15 minutes, and thought they had a goal with 8:32 left after a scrum in front of the Wolverine net, but the score was called off. Morris was finally beat by Michigan freshman Garrett Van Wyhe on a short-handed goal at 15:49, but once again, Notre Dame responded in kind with a goal less than a minute later, as sophomore forward Colin Theisen buried a slap shot to extend the lead back to three.

Jackson said postgame he was particularly pleased with the performance of Notre Dame’s special teams, which scored once short-handed and twice on the power play.

“Well, if we are going to get three or four goals a game, you’re going to have to score on the power play,” he said. “We didn’t have to kill off a lot of penalties — I liked our discipline tonight, I thought we played very disciplined. … You have got to get great goaltending and great special teams this time of year — you don’t get as many [goals] usually, later in the season, so you have to take advantage of the ones you get.”

The Irish next face Wisconsin this weekend at Compton Family Ice Arena for a two-game series with major conference tournament implications. The puck is set to drop at 7 p.m. on Friday.

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby served as Managing Editor in the 2018-2019 term.

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