FINALLY! [Patrick Barron]
We wondered what it would be like if M's scoring depth was tested. Tonight, it happened. The CCM line generated a few chances but nothing very scary...early on. The best looks came from the 2nd line. Boo, Selman, and Kile all had great looks at the net. Selman converted his off of a nice faceoff play, but Cal Petersen was able to put the rest of M's good looks to bed. Notre Dame all but eliminated the M's top line through two periods, forcing the rest of the Wolverines lines to produce the scoring and it just didn't happen. A hat tip to the ND coaching staff. No one has really been able to do that all year. It got so bad that Michigan started slipping Connor onto different lines just to give him a chance to get a few looks. The third period produced a few better looks, but still nothing...until Werenski stepped into the slot and tied the game with about half of the third period left. Kyle Connor ALMOST won the game right before the end of regulation, but Petersen got enough of Connor's shot to slow it down on the goalline before freezing it. However...you can keep the CCM line off the board for three periods but apparently not four. Connor had multiple Grade A chances to start the OT period, then got the puck down to Compher, who found Motte wide open in the slot to finish off the Irish, 3-2. After only a decent showing in the first couple periods, Michigan bombarded Petersen in the third and overtime. Michigan's supporting cast did just enough to let the CCM line slam the door.
Michigan's defense was not stellar, tonight. Downing took a terrible gamble near the end of the first that set up Bjork on a 2v1. He didn't need to pass and hit a corner on Racine, scoring ND's first tally. Downing also had another couple of plays that reminded us of what he was for most of his career, instead of the last few months. He wasn't alone, though. There were enough defensive zone TOs and failed clears that allowed ND to sustain a lot of pressure. The Irish also missed on a few wide open opportunities. A goal is attributed to Werenski -who also had another few fantastic opportunities- so there is that. Michigan did only give up two goals, but Racine can take most of the credit for that. They will need to be consistently better as a unit, if they are going to shut down a powerful North Dakota attack, tomorrow night.
The biggest key coming into to the game tonight was ND taking penalties. If you stay out of the box, Michigan's biggest weapon is gone. That's exactly what they did tonight. Michigan had zero power plays. I think that's the first game this year that Michigan has not had a power play? Its a big testament to Michigan getting three goals without their nuclear bomb. Also, props to ND for staying out of the box.
Michigan had to kill two penalties and did so. Notre Dame threatened a few times, but never scored. Really not much else to say in this section.
NOPE! [Patrick Barron]
Steve Racine may have had his best game as a Wolverine tonight. He flat out robbed ND multiple times throughout the game. He matched Petersen save-for-save. I can't really put either goal on Racine, tonight. He had no chance on the 2v1 on the first goal -it was also an excellent snipe by Bjork. It was tough to tell, but I don't think he saw the 2nd goal. A couple of ND skaters crossed in the left faceoff circle and the lead one dropped the puck off and the second immediately shot the puck high over Racine's blocker. I thought from his reaction that he never saw the drop.
I would give Racine the MVP, although Petersen played just as well. Dealing with a leaky defense and and offense that couldn't get in gear until 3rd period, Steve Racine kept Michigan in the game long enough for the Wolverine legs to outlast the Irish legs. It's about time the senior get his due.
BONUS: ODD MAN RUSHES
I counted four.
The first I've covered a few times. It was not good. Michigan hadn't given up an OMR goal in a few weeks. It was situations like that, that lead to Adam and I digging into and counting OMRs.
The next three came to very little (3v2, 2v1, 3v2). Racine had to make a nice save on the fourth, but the second and third were rather harmless. Michigan does need to stay disciplined, though. A powerful North Dakota offense awaits and giving them numbers in transition could end even worse than tonight.