ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 8 Michigan served notice Saturday night that they both will be teams to be reckoned with the NCAA playoffs come around in the spring.
The two CCHA powers entertained a completely sold out throng of 6,983 frenzied fans at Yost Arena, as Notre Dame gained revenge for a Friday night loss to the Wolverines, holding on for a 3-2 nail-biter over Michigan.
The Fighting Irish built a three-goal lead over the first two periods, but Michigan stormed back with two power play goals in the third period and then supplied a furious push in the game’s final two minutes, falling just short of tying the game.
“You’re never safe in this building,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “They’re a momentum team. The crowd gets them going. Fortunately, we held in there. It was nerve-wracking, though. It usually is in this building.
“Michigan’s a great team and they’re going to be in the hunt in the end, both conference and national championship.”
Jordan Pearce turned aside 36 Michigan shots that were spread out nearly evenly over the three periods, but had to make a strong stand in the third period especially.
Pearce “makes the difference for us,” said Jackson. “I don’t think he had a chance on either one of the goals. I thought he played exceptional, both nights.”
Freshman Billy Maday’s goal at 8:15 of the opening period served as a first step by the Fighting Irish toward avenging Friday night’s loss to the Wolverines. The goal’s odd nature stood in contrast to the rest of the crisply-played period.
A Michigan turnover in their own zone wound up bouncing to Maday in the circle to Hogan’s right, deflecting off the Notre Dame’s freshman’s skate into the open net behind Michigan netminder Bryan Hogan..
Despite a smothering Notre Dame forecheck, Michigan still managed to eke a out a one-shot 11-10 advantage in the first frame.
Notre Dame extended their lead to three goals with a pair of scores in the second period, as pretty as their first period goal was awkward. Ryan Thang’s penalty shot goal and Calle Ridderwall’s conversion on a three-way passing play did the damage for the Fighting Irish.
Michigan defenseman Steve Kampfer foiled Thang’s clean breakaway opportunity early in the period, but, in doing so, fouled the Notre Dame forward, resulting in the penalty shot. Thang methodically skated in on his off-wing, cut across the slot and roofed a shot over Hogan’s glove into the top of the net at 4:03.
“I had a move similar to that against Western Michigan in a shoot out,” said Thang of his slick move. Smiling, he added, “My heart was racing, but it worked out. It’s one of the few moves I have and it hasn’t let me down yet, so I think I’ll keep it.”
At 12:50 of the second, Ridderwall completed Maday’s and Kevin Deeth’s set-up on a defenseless Hogan..
Michigan stormed back in the third period.
On a power play, Aaron Palushaj grabbed a loose puck in the slot and fired a partially screened shot high over Pearce’s glove at 4:27 to finally put the Wolverines on the scoreboard..
Robbie Czarnik pulled Michigan to within one, breaking a long personal goal-scoring drought with his second of the season at 8:45, again on a power play. The Michigan freshman fed a pass to Palushaj, bolted toward the net, and tipped in Palushaj’s return feed with a backhand at the corner of the net.
Michigan stormed the Notre Dame net over the game’s final eleven minutes but couldn’t manage the equalizer.
“I thought all four lines played pretty well tonight, much better than last night,” said Jackson. “I thought we did a much better job with the puck. We were much more accountable defensively. I thought we clogged up the middle of the ice and that’s where they generate most of their speed.”
The Wolverines start a stretch of four straight home games when they welcome Lake Superior State for a weekend pair next Friday. The Fighting Irish remain on the road next weekend, traveling to Columbus to take on Ohio State for two.