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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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Sports

Notre Dame to meet No. 3 Michigan on the ice

Notre Dame hockey and its November gauntlet will return to Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend. The third-ranked Michigan Wolverines, the reigning Big Ten champions, await. The Irish have taken eight of the last ten regular-season meetings with the Wolverines, but Michigan defeated Notre Dame in last season’s conference semifinals. 

This will be a crucial early-season series for the Irish, who check in at 4-4-2 and 1-2-1 in Big Ten play. They slipped six spots to No. 18 in the USCHO poll after a lopsided sweep at the hands of top-ranked Minnesota. The Golden Gophers dished out 4-1 and 3-0 defeats, outshooting Notre Dame 85-46 in the process. To make matters worse, the Irish totaled 29 penalty minutes across the two games, putting themselves behind the eight ball repeatedly against an elite opponent.

High-scoring Michigan offense poses challenge

Offensive consistency and man-down situations have been Notre Dame’s primary issues through the opening month, and both have contributed heavily to the team’s active three-game winless streak. Junior Ryder Rolston continues to lead the Irish in goals (4) and points (9), but he was stymied over the weekend. On the other hand, senior goaltender Ryan Bischel was a bright spot, making 45 saves on Friday night and lifting his season save percentage to an impressive .932.

The Wolverines, coached by Michigan alum Brandon Naurato, have scored their way to an 8-2-0 record. Michigan has potted five or more goals in six games already, including a 9-2 rout of No. 14 Boston University on October 14. They also notched back-to-back five-goal efforts against No. 17 Western Michigan two weekends ago. The offense has cooled off a bit recently, posting less than 30 shots on goal in three straight games.

Last weekend, Michigan earned a split with No. 8 Penn State, falling 3-0 on Friday but prevailing 4-3 in overtime on Saturday. The Wolverines coughed up a three-goal third-period lead in game two, but freshman forward Adam Fantilli delivered the game-winner. While Notre Dame’s penalty killers have scuffled early on, Michigan’s power play has shined. The Wolverines have converted on 31% of their man advantage opportunities, cranking out as many as five power-play goals in a game this year.

Youth, star power lead Michigan offense

Michigan hockey is young but extremely skilled. As of last Friday, eight of their top nine forwards were freshmen or sophomores, even with star freshman forward Frank Nazar out of the lineup. The 13th overall pick of the Blackhawks could miss the remainder of the season due to a lower-body injury. Michigan’s crown jewel is Adam Fantilli, who is projected to be among the first three selected in next year’s draft. Fantilli made his collegiate debut before turning 17, yet he is setting the ice on fire for the Wolverines. After posting 74 points in 54 games for the USHL’s Chicago Steel last season, he leads college hockey with 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists) in 10 games. On Michigan’s top line, he is flanked by sophomores Dylan Duke and Mackie Samoskevich, who have posted a combined 25 points to open the year. 

NHL draft picks anchor Wolverine defense

On the back end, each of the Wolverines’ top four defensemen is an NHL draft pick. They are anchored by the pairing of junior Jacob Truscott and sophomore Luke Hughes, the New Jersey Devils’ 4th overall pick in last year’s entry draft. Junior goaltender Erik Portillo made the season’s first eight starts, posting a 7-1 record with a .905 save percentage. Fellow junior Noah West covered both starts against Penn State, however, stopping 78 out of 83 shots in the series split.

With Notre Dame football in Baltimore for the weekend, this top-20 matchup will play out in the traditional Friday-Saturday format. Game one will drop the puck at 7:30 p.m., while game two will commence at 6 p.m. Following the series, Michigan will return home to end November against No. 1 Minnesota and No. 13 Harvard.

Meanwhile, the Irish will not play another home game until Dec. 9, traveling to Ohio State, Boston University and Boston College to wrap up the month. Notre Dame and Michigan will meet again in Ann Arbor to close the regular season on Feb. 24 and 25.