SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The No. 18-ranked University of Michigan hockey team bolstered its NCAA tournament resume on Friday night (Feb. 16) as they took down No. 1-ranked Notre Dame. Backstopped by a stellar performance by sophomore goaltender Hayden Lavigne, who recorded 34 saves, the Wolverines came away with a hard-fought 4-2 victory at Compton Family Ice Arena.
Michigan struck first when sophomore forward Adam Winborg tipped in a shot from freshman defenseman Quinn Hughes. Junior defenseman Joseph Cecconi passed the puck to a waiting Hughes at the Notre Dame blueline. Hughes walked the line and fired the puck on net, where Winborg was able to get in behind the Irish defense and redirect the puck into the goal for the 1-0 lead with 7:26 remaining in the opening period.
The Wolverines continued their pressure, and were rewarded with another goal three minutes after their first when the DMC line connected with 4:20 left in the opening frame. Senior defenseman Sam Piazza threw a breakout pass to junior forward Cooper Marody in the defensive end, where Marody took the puck up the ice and left a drop pass for senior linemate Dexter Dancs. Dancs took the pass and was able to put the puck past the netminder for his eighth goal on the season, and a 2-0 U-M lead.
The ensuing powerplay for Notre Dame to start the second period proved to be the break the Irish needed as they scored a powerplay goal 1:27 into the middle stanza. Jake Evans passed the puck to the point where Matt Hellickson shot it towards the Wolverine net. Joe Wegwerth was able to get his stick on it in the net-front battle and tip the puck into the U-M net cutting the Michigan lead in half.
It didn’t take long for the Wolverines to get back to a two-goal advantage as senior captain Tony Calderone tapped in the puck for his team-leading 16th goal. Marody took the puck deep into the Notre Dame zone and found sophomore forward James Sanchez in the slot. Sanchez’s shot was stopped but the puck squirted past the Notre Dame goalie where Calderone was able to tap it in for the 3-1 lead, 4:27 into the second.
Notre Dame continued to threaten with its powerplay, as Evans found himself with the puck in the slot with a gaping net in front of him, but Lavigne was able to slide across his crease and make a diving kick save to maintain the two-goal lead. The penalty killers held their ground even after going down another man to give the Irish a five on three advantage, and were able to fend off every attack Notre Dame’s top 20 powerplay threw at them.
The Irish powerplay was able to strike again before the intermission, as they cut the lead to one again, with 1:13 remaining in the period. The goal happened on a shot from the point with traffic in front of Lavigne again, but the puck was untipped this time, with Bobby Nardella scoring from the shot. That proved to be the last scoring entry in the second period as the Wolverines took a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
Michigan opened the scoring in the third period when freshman forward Michael Pastujov scored to re-extend the Maize and Blue lead to two goals. The goal was a family affair, as he was helped by older brother, sophomore Nick Pastujov. The elder Pastujov brought the puck up the wing and delivered a beautiful saucer pass to his younger brother for the 4-2 lead 8:08 into the final period. The play was set up by sophomore defenseman Luke Martin, as he intercepted an errant Notre Dame pass at the redline and was able to spring Pastujov on the break.
Lavigne continued to make spectacular saves in the third to protect the Maize and Blue’s lead. Shortly after the fourth goal, Lavigne made a diving save with the paddle of his goal stick to keep the score at 4-2 with less than ten minutes remaining.
The Irish wouldn’t quit, and thought they had scored their third goal with 3:44 left in the third period, on a deflection from the slot. The goal was reviewed, and it was determined that Jack Jenkins tipped the puck with his stick above the crossbar, negating the scoring play and keeping the score at 4-2 in favor of U-M.
Despite heavy pressure from Notre Dame in the final moments, the Michigan defense held strong and kept the puck away from the net, securing the 4-2 victory for the Wolverines.
The win was U-M’s ninth over the No. 1 team in the polls, since the polls were introduced in the 1995-96 season. It’s back-to-back wins over the top team in the country as well for the Wolverines as the last time they played the nation’s best team they won, beating Minnesota at home to close out the 2013-14 season. It’s the second time Michigan has beaten Notre Dame when they were the top team, with the first coming in 2009, also in South Bend.
Michigan will conclude its Big Ten regular season schedule on Sunday (Feb. 18) when the two teams play in Ann Arbor on the Red Berenson Rink at Yost Ice Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.