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Saturday, April 20, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame uses a shootout and OT against Michigan to clinch home ice

Madness in Michigan: Irish complete improbable run for home ice

Three weeks ago, Notre Dame hockey hit a breaking point. After a February-opening sweep at the hands of Michigan State, the team’s postseason hopes looked bleak. As the Irish exited the U.S. College Hockey Online (USCHO) top 20, its prospects for home ice in the Big Ten tournament and qualification for the NCAA tournament were fading. Something needed to change, and change sure did happen.

Now, with the regular season finished, the turnaround has come full circle. Notre Dame will host that same Michigan State team in the Big Ten tournament’s opening round. Should the Irish win the series, they will almost certainly receive a bid to the national tournament. The magical run reached a stunning crescendo this weekend, as Notre Dame grabbed four of six possible points at No. 4 Michigan, going beyond regulation in both games.
Friday: Irish survive early chaos to win shootout
In only nine minutes, any questions regarding the competitiveness of the series were answered. Notre Dame and Michigan had each scored twice by the first period’s midway point. The fireworks opened during an early Wolverines power-play. With Ben Brinkman in the penalty box for interference, Michigan forward T.J. Hughes saw an opening as he entered the offensive zone. The freshman cruised between two Irish defenders and slid the puck around senior goaltender Ryan Bischel for his 12th goal of the season. 

Three minutes later, Notre Dame countered at the tail end of its own man advantage. Junior Drew Bavaro sent a wrist shot through traffic, and senior Jesse Lansdell caught a piece of it. The change of direction fooled Erik Portillo, and the game was level at one. Within the next minute, Notre Dame untied it. While graduate forward Chayse Primeau battled behind the cage, sophomore forward Landon Slaggert parked himself at the edge of the goal crease. The puck found him, and he popped the puck over Portillo’s pad for his fifth goal in six games. 

Another 57 seconds elapsed before the Wolverines offered a freshman-powered response. Entering the Irish zone on a two-on-one, forward Jackson Hallum slid the puck across the net-mouth. It reached linemate Gavin Brindley, who rocketed a one-timer past Bischel for his 10th goal of the campaign. Brindley had another great look several minutes later, but the 2-2 tie carried on to the first intermission.

In the second period, Notre Dame killed off a pair of penalties, maintaining the tie through 40 minutes of play. Then, on an early third-period power play, the Irish struck again. Just after Primeau missed a yawning cage, fellow net-front presence Jack Adams bailed him out. The graduate forward drifted out from below the goal line, stuffing the puck between Portillo’s legs for the lead. With six minutes left, senior defenseman Jake Boltmann nearly added insurance but nailed the crossbar for ND’s third pipe-ringer of the night.

From there, the Wolverines dominated play. After senior defenseman Nick Leivermann took an interference penalty, they tied the game. With Portillo pulled, prolific freshman forward Adam Fantilli ripped a shot through Bischel’s wickets for his 50th point of the season. As the game transitioned to overtime, Michigan continued the pressure. Midway through the three-on-three period, as Fantilli and sophomore forward Mackie Samoskevich broke in alone on Bischel, Chase Blackmun saved the day. As Fantilli prepared to hammer home the presumptive game-winning one-timer, the graduate defenseman laid out to disrupt his shot.

The shootout opened with Leivermann hoping to atone for his late penalty, and that he did. On a slow approach, the Irish captain crossed Portillo’s face before scoring on a high wrist shot. To follow, Bischel made two saves, including a magnificent glove stop on Fantilli. The extra point came down to another freshman forward, Rutger McGroarty. He moved in slowly and fired off a quick wrister, but Bischel made the winning pad save. 
Saturday: Irish win a nailbiter in OT
Heading into Saturday night’s game, the Irish needed two specific results to occur to keep their hopes of home ice alive. 

First, they needed Minnesota to complete its sweep of Ohio State. Secondly, Notre Dame needed unranked Wisconsin to knock off Penn State on the road.

The Ohio State sweep felt much more likely. Ohio State had been shut out by Minnesota 4-0 the night before. And while the Buckeyes got on the board twice, the Golden Gophers still completed the sweep, 5-2. 

The second felt less so. The Badgers were 0-11 in conference road games. However, the Badgers pulled off the unlikely thanks to a power-play goal and a review that took Penn State’s equalizer off the board.

The Irish now had a chance. If Notre Dame won in regulation, they earned the third seed. An OT win would get them fourth. A loss of any kind would keep them in sixth. 

Game action began with the first of six Irish penalties when sophomore forward Tyler Carpenter was called for interference. Carpenter’s penalty set the tempo for the game. The officials would call 13 penalties for a combined 48 minutes, including two game misconducts.

Michigan’s game misconduct came on Adam Fantilli, the Wolverine’s star forward leading the country in goals. The call (contact to the head) gave the Irish a five-minute power play in the waning moments of the first and resulted in Fantilli’s ejection from the game.

The Irish began a scoreless second period with their man advantage, though the advantage did not last long. Just two minutes into the second, Leivermann was called for interference resulting in a four-on-four for the rest of Fantilli’s major. 

The Irish would be called for their game misconduct when Lansdell was ejected for a cross-check to the head, giving Michigan a five-minute power play. However, just as Notre Dame had cut their power-play short with a penalty, so too would Michigan, and the second period ended as it began: scoreless. 

The final penalty of the game would have massive implications for both the game and the Big 10 standings.

After Michigan was called for high-sticking, Notre Dame began their best power play of the night. With just 10 seconds remaining in the advantage, Bavaro caught a pass from junior forward Grant Silianoff. Bavaro returned the pass and floated off his defender before receiving a pass and letting a one-timer fly. Thanks to a screen from Adams, Portillo could not see the puck coming, and ND scored the night’s first goal.

The Wolverines would find the equalizer just six minutes later when they scored at 9:59. Michigan won a faceoff in the Irish defensive zone and jammed Bischel’s crease. After winning the faceoff, Wolverine freshman Casey Seamus would slide the puck to Rutger McGroarty, who beat Bischel on a point-blank shot, Bischel’s only blemish on a night in which he carried the Irish defensively.

In the next ten minutes, neither team could find twine, resulting in the second overtime in as many days. 

Unlike Friday night, however, the Irish would not need a shootout to win the extra conference point.  With 3:30 left in OT, sophomore Hunter Strand collected the puck from the corner and chipped it to Bavaro. Bavaro carried the puck through the neutral zone and to the near faceoff dot before taking his first shot. Portillo blocked it, but Bavaro caught his rebound and shot again before catching a second rebound. The third time was indeed the charm, and Bavaro got the Irish the win and fourth place in the conference standings.