ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s Louie Caporusso converted when it counted the most after missing several golden opportunities earlier in the game in the Wolverine’s come-from-behind 3-2 win over Notre Dame Friday night at a raucous Yost Ice Arena.
The freshman forward’s third game-winning goal of the year, his fifth overall, with just 20.3 seconds remaining capped a see-saw battle between two of the top four teams in the CCHA.
The matchup between the top-ranked Wolverines and the No. 8 Fighting Irish lived up to its pre-game billing, as each team dominated a period and then played tight, up and down hockey in the deciding stanza.
The crowd of 6,984 enthused attendees fell two shy of tying the post-renovation Yost Ice Arena attendance record.
Caporusso started the deciding sequence with a faceoff win in the Notre Dame zone. Travis Turnbull’s between-the-legs pass from the left corner to Brandon Naurato in the slot slithered to the corner of the Notre Dame net, where Caporusso finally found the finish that had eluded him all night.
“It was huge,” said an excited Caporusso. “It was probably one of the biggest goals of my career. I think if we had gotten off to a better start, it wouldn’t have had to end like that even though it was exciting. The puck just bounced out and I put it in.”
Earlier in the final period, Michigan had to kill off 4:12 of a five-minute major to defenseman Chris Summers before Notre Dame took a minor of its own. The Fighting Irish buzzed the Michigan net for most of the power play, but couldn’t manage to beat Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer, who recorded 24 saves during the contest. Notre Dame netminder Jordan Pearce countered with 25 stops of his own.
“There’s the game right there,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson of the extended Wolverines’ penalty kill. “If you want to come down to one stretch, that was it. It was not as though they were not playing in our zone. At one point, (Kevin) Porter and (Tim) Miller must have been out there for two to three minutes.”
“The bottom line and the difference in the game was that we couldn’t get that next power play goal when we needed it,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson.
The Fighting Irish blitzed Michigan from the opening faceoff, building a 2-0 lead after only six minutes of the first period. Michigan gradually adapted to the swift initial Notre Dame pace of play, managing a few quality scoring chances of their own during the period without solving Pearce.
At 3:33 of the opening frame, Wolverines’ defenseman Mark Mitera inadvertently deflected Kevin Deeth’s shot from the left half boards over the shoulder of Sauer, rewarding Notre Dame for their early dominating play..
Just over two minutes later, Justin White took a left wing feed from Ryan Guentzel, tipping the pass under Sauer’s stick to increase the Fighting Irish lead to 2-0 at 5:53.
The Wolverines found their skating legs at the start of the second period and returned the favor to Notre Dame, scoring two unanswered goals to knot the game at 2-2 after two periods.
“We were confident,” said Porter of his team’s approach coming out to start the second period. “We did not play our best (in the first period), but we knew if we came out and got an early goal and got back in the game that we would be just fine.”
Porter took care of that project himself.
Capitalizing on a four-on-three advantage at the period’s start, Porter buried a one-time blast behind Pearce from 20 feet inside the right point off Chad Langlais’ cross-ice pass only 21 seconds into the stanza.
Only minutes after returning to the ice from serving his second minor penalty of the period, Matt Rust ripped a shot from just inside the left point at 12:05 that found the open Fighting Irish net high over Pearce’s stick to pull the Wolverines even, setting the stage for Caporusso’s dramatic game-winner.
Michigan (21-2-0, 14-1-0 CCHA) and Notre Dame (18-8-1, 11-5-1 CCHA) renew the battle Saturday night in a special “home” appearance for the Fighting Irish at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the fifth such meeting of the two CCHA squads at the suburban Detroit venue since their first get-together there in the fall of ’92.