ST. PAUL, Minn. — If you wonder how important faceoffs can be in a hockey game, Thursday’s second national semifinal between Notre Dame and Michigan was a testimony to how winning draws can impact play.
The underdog Michigan team jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Fighting Irish. At the point that the Wolverines took the two-goal lead, they had won 16 of 18 faceoffs.
The Cardiac Kids from South Bend came from behind for the third time in their three NCAA tournament games to earn a 4-3 victory and, while manufacturing that comeback significantly improved in the faceoff dot. Notre Dame won 12 of the 25 faceoffs in the time between Michigan’s second goal and Notre Dame’s go-ahead third goal.
More importantly, all three of those goals were immediate results of faceoff wins.
It started on a power play when the Irish won the faceoff to start the man advantage and cycled the puck before Andrew Oglevie snapped home a wrister.
Less than four minutes later, an offensive-zone win led to Jake Evans firing a shot through traffic to knot the game at two.
Then a defensive-zone win forward by Andrew Oglevie turned into a two-on-one finished by Cal Burke.
“[Faceoffs were] a point of emphasis all week in practice, believe it or not, because Michigan [dominated faceoffs] when we faced them earlier in the year,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “When Jake Evans gets dominated, that’s cause for concern because he’s one of the best [centers] I’ve ever had.”
Evans didn’t win a draw in the first and finished the game winning just 10 of his 27 faceoffs. But others, including Oglevie, picked up the slack. Oglevie won eight of 14 draws on the night.
“We knew if we possessed the puck, we’d get some chances,” said Oglevie. “They’ve got some good centers; give them a lot of credit.
“We beared down in the second and third period and did a lot better job and got some goals as a result.”