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Irish battle to split series against No. 3 Michigan

By Tom Zwiller and Andrew McGuinness

No. 18 Notre Dame hockey began its series against the No. 3 University of Michigan Wolverines on Friday night. In honor of Veterans Day, the sellout crowd sang the national anthem. And at its conclusion, four army ROTC cadets repelled from the jumbotron catwalk.

The game was incredibly physical before the puck drop, with both sets of wings getting into skirmishes awaiting the opening faceoff.

Early in the first, graduate student defenseman Nick Leivermann took a cross-checking penalty, giving Michigan the man advantage.

The Wolverines utilized the powerplay efficiently, scoring just under a minute into the penalty. Mackie Samsokevich took a pass from Luke Hughes and carried it from point to point. His cross-ice shot hit the post and bounced in, giving the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.

After a Luca Fantilli holding penalty gave the Irish a man advantage, Michigan was nearly able to kill off the penalty, clearing the puck twice. However, with just 14 seconds left in the penalty, Leivermann took a shot just above the left faceoff circle. The puck made its way behind the net, where graduate student forward Chayse Primeau found an open Leivermann, who buried the puck.

Early in the second, a poor turnover by sophomore forward Hunter Strand allowed Michigan’s T.J. Hughes to take advantage of an unset Notre Dame defense. Hughes found Eric Ciccolini, who scored from the slot to put the Wolverines up 2-1.

With just under nine minutes in the second, Michigan continued their aggressive play and scored the third goal, with Dylan Duke tipping a shot from Adam Fantilli right outside the crease.

Shortly after, an excellent breakout pass by Keaton Pehrson allowed Jackson Hallum an odd-man rush opportunity. Hallum beat his man, who appeared to be coming from a line change, creating a one-on-one with Irish graduate student netminder Ryan Bischel. Hallum beat him to the right with a backhand shot.

Irish senior forward Jesse Lansdell would provide the Wolverines with another power play opportunity with a tripping penalty. And the No. 2 power play unit in the country got to work. Off a faceoff in the Irish zone, Samoskevich found T.J. Hughes in the slot, and he put the Wolverines up 5-1.

The third period saw no goals for either team. Instead, a slew of penalties would make a minor league hockey team blush. The Irish had five penalties. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Helliwell earned a roughing minor. Senior forward Trevor Janicke earned two trips to the box. And his brother, sophomore forward Justin Janicke, got a 10-minute misconduct for roughing.

Not to be outdone, Michigan committed eight penalties, including two misconducts. One of which was a charging the goalie penalty by Nolan Moyle, who was ejected from the game.

Saturday’s game, however, would play out much differently. The Irish got off to a fairly strong start, generating several odd-man rushes and catching an early post courtesy of sophomore center Tyler Carpenter. However, the Wolverines would answer that close chance almost immediately after with a goal. Ethan Edwards cleaned up a rebound on a shot from the left point that was deflected en route to Bischel.

For the second straight night, special teams appeared to be tilting things in Michigan’s favor for good. The Irish generated tons of pressure on their first man advantage of the night but couldn’t light the lamp. The Irish did keep the Wolverines at bay for most of their first power play. But almost out of nowhere, Samoskevich beat Bischel clean with a wrist shot from the left hash marks, doubling the Michigan lead.

But this time, the Irish would not go quietly. Their performance in the second period wasn’t the prettiest — Notre Dame was outshot 8-6 and took a couple of penalties. But the finish they lacked in the first was suddenly readily available. For an Irish team looking for more from its depth, head coach Jeff Jackson had to be encouraged by the gorgeous passing play his fourth-line put together that ended with graduate student right winger Jack Adams finding Carpenter backdoor for his first goal of the year.

Then, a somewhat contested too-many-men call went against Michigan with 2:07 left in the second, giving the Irish a golden chance to equalize. Sure enough, they would take advantage, with Leivermann making an excellent pass to set up Primeau for a backdoor tap-in.

The Irish came out guns blazing to start the third, registering the frame’s first four shots and forcing Michigan netminder Erik Portillo to make some difficult saves. Bischel picked up his game too after the somewhat shaky Samoskevich goal, including a massive breakaway stop on Hallum about five minutes into the third. He then denied Wolverines star Luke Hughes off a net-mouth scramble a few moments later. Portillo answered with a huge stop on Notre Dame graduate student defenseman Ben Brinkman off a similar sequence.

After the Irish were unable to capitalize on another late period power play, overtime became necessary for the third time in Notre Dame’s season. After a strong defensive play by junior right winger Ryder Rolston to prevent a breakaway from Michigan’s Rutger McGroarty, senior left winger Grant Silanoff ended the game at the other end, with the rebound of his shot on a 2-on-1 caroming in off a sliding Edwards.

The victory was a much-needed one for the Irish. Before Saturday, they had lost three straight in regulation and had not won a game since Oct. 28. For most of the year, Notre Dame has not looked like the NCAA Tournament-caliber team they were last season. Now, this Irish squad knows they can skate with some of the best college hockey has to offer. That type of confidence boost could mean far more to their season than an already impressive victory over the talented Wolverines.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu and Andrew McGuinness at amcguinn@nd.edu.

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