ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With a tie, at least both teams can be happy.
Fifth-ranked Michigan settled for a 4-4 draw with Notre Dame on Friday, but both teams improved their playoff chances.
The Fighting Irish remained deadlocked with Bowling Green (which had a 2-2 standoff with Ferris State) for the last coveted CCHA postseason spot.
“We’ve been through so much this season,” said Notre Dame goaltender Tony Zasowski, who stopped 40 of 44 Michigan shots. “This is our time, we control our own fate.”
Meanwhile, thanks to a Michigan State loss to Western Michigan, the Wolverines also control their own destiny, with a possible CCHA regular season championship in their mix. Currently four points behind the Spartans, if Michigan can win its final four games (two against Michigan State), the Wolverines would take their second straight regular season crown.
“We got what we needed – [a point],” Langfeld said. “They’re the 12th-place team. It shows the parity in the league.”
Notre Dame put pressure on the Wolverines straight from the start, something the Fighting Irish didn’t do in their 9-0 loss to Michigan on Jan. 23.
It didn’t take long for the Irish to break their scoring drought. Seven minutes into the first period, Notre Dame freshman Rob Globke deflected a rebound past Michigan goaltender Josh Blackburn for a quick 1-0 lead.
“The first period sort of took away that first game,” Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin said. “We did a better job with our patience.”
But it was senior night at Yost Ice Arena, and the eldest Wolverines used their power on special teams to bring Michigan back, thanks to almost 14 minutes of Notre Dame playing four-on-four or shorthanded.
Junior Jeff Jillson could have played in his last regular season game at Yost — the defenseman is still undecided as to whether he will skip his senior year to go to the NHL. But he made the most of the current moment, tallying two power-play goals. Senior Josh Langfeld anchored a strong senior line with teammates Scott Matzka and Mark Kosick and notched two goals himself.
“We all came together,” Langfeld said of the seniors. “We’ve been through thick and thin. We were trying to set each other up all night.”
All four tallies came in the best period of the season for the Wolverines. Michigan had 24 shots on goal in the second stanza, the most it’s had this year.
But even outgunned, the Fighting Irish held on, and got a lucky goal.
Michigan sophomore Mike Cammalleri’s shot from inside the Notre Dame blue line ricocheted off Notre Dame senior Ryan Dolder’s body and out to center ice. The puck sailed into the open just as defenseman Ryan Nieslen stepped out of the penalty box. Nielsen quickly picked up the puck, skated one-on-one with Blackburn and beat him to slim the Michigan lead to 3-2.
Langfeld’s second goal made it 4-2 entering the third period and things were looking good for the Wolverines.
Michigan was 18-0 when leading after two periods.
End that streak at 18.
While the Wolverines continued to play well into the third period, bad bounces and defensive blunders plagued them on two plays. The mistakes led to two third-period Notre Dame tallies by David Inman and Brett Lebda within four minutes.
Despite two consecutive penalties, the Irish found a way to tie. Lebda notched the game-tying goal shorthanded with nine minutes left on an embarrassing set of skating by the Wolverines.
First, Connor Dunlop took the puck away from Michigan’s Jillson, then Ryan Dolder skated easily between two Wolverines and had Blackburn one-on-one. The Michigan goaltender stopped Dolder, but couldn’t stop the trailing Lebda.
“We dominated the game tonight, we just made some mistakes,” Cammalleri said. “It’s terrible that we couldn’t come up with a win for our seniors.”
Langfeld and his senior line accounted for five of Michigan’s nine shots on goal in the third period, but could not put the biscuit past Zasowski.
“They scored three goals on the power play, but two of them I didn’t see, [so] it didn’t faze me.” said Zasowski, who has solidified himself as a starting goalie in the past seven games.
Zasowski is 4-2 in his past six games.
For the Michigan seniors, it was the second consecutive year they’ve exited the home regular-season schedule without a win. The Wolverines fell 6-3 to Bowling Green last March.
Senior Geoff Koch missed the third period after separating his shoulder. He is doubtful for Saturday’s game with Michigan State.