ANN ARBOR, Mich. — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
After coming up empty on its first 11 shots and trailing 1-0 after the first period, No. 4 Michigan scored on four of its first nine shots in the second period en route to a 10-1 blowout of Notre Dame in the first game of their CCHA first-round playoff series.
The Wolverines erupted for seven unanswered goals in the second period — a season high for goals in one period for the Maize and Blue — to evaporate the confidence the Fighting Irish had built in a solid first period of play.
“They were playing a good road game,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said of Notre Dame’s play in the first period. “They got the first goal and they were keeping us from getting good chances. I thought, in the second period, that we started playing with a little more intensity and the puck started to go in for us.”
The onslaught began with a goal by Eric Nystrom to tie the game 1:48 into the second period. The senior captain turned around just 30 seconds later on the power play and set up Jeff Tambellini in the right slot for a wrister that sailed over Notre Dame goalie Morgan Cey’s left shoulder to give Michigan the lead for good.
“I think the first two goals that we scored were huge goals,” Berenson said. “And then the power play became a factor and then you could see the confidence and the momentum taking over the game. We were lucky to escape the first period and then the second period became our period.”
Berenson has preached all year that college hockey is a game of momentum and his wisdom proved correct in the second period, as the avalanche of goals continued.
The Wolverines got goals from forwards Mike Woodford and Milan Gajic, defenseman Brandon Rogers, and finished the period with two consecutive goals by freshman Chad Kolarik to bring the score to 7-1.
“We handed the momentum back right at the start of the second period with an unfortunate line change,” Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin said. “When they got one, they got a power play right after that. Then when they got that power play goal to make it 2-1, then they sensed [opportunity]. They are a very strong offensive team and they sense opportunity when another team is down, and they just rolled.”
Notre Dame was wary of the Wolverine power play coming in and couldn’t stop it as Michigan went four-for-seven with the man advantage.
“They thrive on [the power play],” Poulin said. “They’re sharks.”
Rogers’ second goal of the game and freshman Kevin Porter’s first pushed the tally to 9-1 early in the third period. With just 50 seconds remaining, Gajic put the Wolverines in double digits, scoring his second goal to go along with two assists for four points and the game’s first star.
Notre Dame got on the board first with a hustle play by senior forward Evan Rankin with just 4:22 remaining in the first period. The Portage, Mich., native took advantage of a missed poke-check by Michigan netminder Al Montoya on the left side of the crease and slipped the puck past the sprawling goalie inside the right post.
In an interesting note, all six of the two teams’ goalies played in the game. Montoya stopped 10 of 11 shots in two periods of play before giving way to Noah Ruden and Mike Mayhew. Notre Dame starter Cey was pulled after letting in four goals and backup David Brown was replaced by Rory Walsh halfway through the third period.
“I wouldn’t say one goal was clearly their fault,” Poulin said about his goalies. “They were point-blank shots and Rory Walsh did an admirable job in the last 13 minutes.”
Both Michigan freshmen, Kolarik and Porter, responded to recent snubs for the CCHA all-rookie teams despite finishing third and tenth in scoring among league freshmen with 31 and 23 points, respectively. Kolarik was named to the honorable mention All-Rookie team while Porter was left off.
The Wolverines have now outscored the Fighting Irish 38-7 in their six games this season and as the top seed in the tournament, can move into the semifinals of the CCHA Super Six with a win Saturday night. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m.