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Wolverines beat Irish for first time this season to advance to Big Ten championship

| Saturday, March 12, 2022

No. 8 Notre Dame had plenty of success against No. 4 Michigan during the regular season, winning all four of the regular-season meetings. But the Wolverines won when it mattered on Saturday night. They beat the Irish 2-1 in the Big Ten semifinals at Yost Arena.

The Wolverines looked like the better team all night, possessing the puck for the majority of the game and outshooting the Irish 31-20. Michigan was dominant over Notre Dame from the dot as well. Their majority of faceoff wins denied the puck from the Irish for the majority of the game. Graduate student goaltender Matthew Galajda gave the Irish a fighting chance, but the Wolverines simply had too much speed and talent for the Irish to overcome.

Goaltenders keep first period scoreless

The Wolverines started off fast, possessing the puck for the majority of the first three minutes of the game. But, the Irish defense limited chances. When tested, Galajda made one big save to keep the game scoreless early on. The early Michigan pressure continued throughout the first ten minutes but they didn’t notch an opening goal in that time.

The Irish finally got a good look on goal just over halfway into the first period. Freshman forward Hunter Strand rifled a shot from the right side, and Michigan goaltender Erik Portillo saved it. Portillo denied a good look from junior forward Trevor Janicke minutes later.

The Wolverines had a great scoring chance with just under four minutes to play in the first period with a close-range shot. Galajda once again made a save to keep it scoreless. Two Irish penalties in thirty seconds gave the Wolverines the first power play of the game with a 5-on-3 advantage.

The Wolverines generated plenty of good looks over the course of the 5-on-3 power play, but Galajda played sensationally. Four saves in a matter of 45 seconds denied the Wolverines during the two-man advantage. The Irish then killed off the rest of the power play to keep the game scoreless after twenty minutes of play. Galajda finished the period with nine saves.

Irish, Wolverines trade 2nd-period goals

Out of the gate in the second period, the Wolverines continued to pressure the Irish. Galajda stood strong against two early chances to keep the Wolverines off the board. But, just under four minutes into the second period, Michigan finally slipped a shot past Galajda. Matty Beniers scored his team-leading 19th goal of the season. The Wolverines worked the puck to the right side of the net, leaving Beniers with a nearly open net score.

The Irish pressured the Wolverines a couple of minutes later. Junior forward Max Ellis earned a great look off a rebound but Portillo recovered to make a huge save. However, the Irish tied the game up at the 12-minute mark of the second period. Graduate student defender Adam Karashik slipped the puck in front of the net and graduate student forward Jack Adams threw his stick out and slipped the puck past Portillo. Justin Janicke also got an assist on the play.

The Irish had a 2-on-1 opportunity with just over six minutes left in the period, but Portillo denied junior forward Solag Bakich, making a desperation save in front of the net to keep the game tied at one apiece. Senior defenseman Spencer Stastney had another look for the Irish a minute later, but Portillo made another huge save. His sliding left leg denied Stastney.

The Wolverines had some good looks in the final three minutes of the period, but Galajda stood strong to keep the game tied.

Michigan goal early in the third wins it

The Wolverines forced Galajda to make three saves over the first three minutes of third-period play and finally broke through just over four minutes into the period. The Wolverines took the lead off the stick of Brendan Brisson. Brisson sent a wrister into the top right corner of the net, nearly impossible to save.

The Irish and Wolverines traded prime scoring chances about three minutes later. However, neither found the net and both teams took penalties on the play, leading to two minutes of four-on-four hockey.

The speed of the Wolverines was on full display during the four-on-four play. They continued to keep the pressure on Galajda, forcing him to make multiple saves to keep the Irish within one.

The Irish struggled to get opportunities over the following five minutes, and Michigan continued to look like the better team. Michigan’s best opportunity came with four minutes to play on a four-on-one opportunity, but Galajda made a huge pad save to keep the Irish within striking distance. The Wolverines got another good look with just over two minutes to play, but Galajda got his stick out in front of the net.

With just under two minutes to go, Notre Dame pulled Galajda, and the Irish entered desperation mode. It looked like the Wolverines were going to close out the game on the empty net, but Spencer Stastney got his stick out in front of the shot to keep the Irish alive. Unfortunately for the Irish, the net was dislodged on the play, forcing Galajda to go back into the net.

Galajda was pulled after the ensuing faceoff, but the Irish struggled to get the puck into the Wolverines’ zone. The Irish finally got into the attacking zone with just under thirty seconds to play. But, they were unsuccessful in getting a shot on goal and the Wolverines prevailed by a score of 2-1.

With the win, the Wolverines advance to next weekend’s Big Ten Championship game against the winner of Minnesota and Penn State’s semifinal matchup. The Irish will have the weekend off before the NCAA Tournament two weeks from now.

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

Contact Nate