Notre Dame outlasts Michigan in Thursday-night showcase

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November 16, 2012 by Casey Hart

Eighth-ranked Notre Dame beat No. 13 Michigan 3-1 Thursday night in Ann Arbor, Mich., and, with that score, no one should be surprised.

Don’t get me wrong: Michigan could have won this game and came pretty close to doing so. But this was, for all intents and purposes, a low-scoring, one-goal contest. That’s the Fighting Irish’s game, not the Wolverines’. Bryan Rust broke a 1-1 tie with a less-than-beautiful goal in the final six minutes for an Irish squad that improved as the game went on following a dominant first few minutes for Michigan.

A few more thoughts:

• Notre Dame (7-3-0, 4-1-0 CCHA) has, at least for the moment, taken over first place in the CCHA and has picked up wins against three of the league’s top teams: Michigan, Western Michigan and Northern Michigan (twice). The Wolverines (4-5-1, 2-4-1), meanwhile, have a losing record through 10 games and will need a win in Friday’s rematch to avoid taking the sub-.500 mark into practice next week.

• The game was the first of the season to air on CBS Sports Network.  Maybe someone’s said it before, but I think Mike McMahon of College Hockey News (@MikeMcMahonCHN) was the first tonight to tweet it: It would be awesome to have a college hockey game on every Thursday night. With fans and writers from around the country watching the high-definition broadcast and interacting on Twitter, it had the feel of a showcase game. Scheduling would be easy enough; when the original schedules are made, just move one Saturday-night game from each week to Thursday. The problem I can see is ratings. National Hockey League games will presumably be back next season, meaning CBS Sports or any other network would be pitting college hockey against a busy night of pro hockey, as well as pro and college football in the first part of the season.

Related: NBC Sports Network begins its Friday-night schedule with this week’s Harvard-Cornell matchup.

• Credit both teams for showing some versatility. Michigan has had serious trouble keeping the puck out of its net, but hung in this game by limiting a top-10 side to essentially just two goals. (Peter Schneider’s late goal for the Irish was a pinball point shot off his body and then off that of a U-M defender.) And even though the scoreline showed a Notre Dame-style game, the matchup was not without a fair share of end-to-end moments. Thanks in large part to Steven Summerhays—and the posts and crossbar behind him—the big, physical Irish came out, at worst, even in those exchanges. Notre Dame remains outside the nation’s top 30 in scoring but seems likely to break through offensively.

• One key to the Notre Dame offense getting on track is getting more from T.J. Tynan. The talented center had been stuck on 99 career points for five games before making a brilliant play to set up Mike Voran’s shorthanded, tying tally in the second period. At the offensive blue line, Tynan leapt to collect with his glove a Shayne Taker clear from the other end and then carried in and waited before passing to Voran for a one-time finish. He also hit the post on a shot in the waning minutes, when the score was still 2-1. Following two years skating together, Tynan and fellow star Anders Lee have been separated and are centering the Irish’s top two lines. If Tynan can get back up to his normal scoring pace, two high-powered lines and this stingy defense (1.70 goals allowed per game, the third-lowest average in Division I) could be a nasty combination.

• Goaltending continues to be a concern in Ann Arbor. Steve Racine played a strong overall game for Michigan, with several outstanding saves among his 29 total. The best was a right-to-left-to-right slide to rob Steven Fogarty on a two-on-one chance in the second period. Rust’s game-winner, however, came after Racine was caught badly out of position, overplaying a Stephen Johns point shot and allowing Rust to tuck the puck inside the far post. The rookie netminder certainly cannot be blamed for the loss, though, and the game was a step in the right direction for the Wolverines’ defense.

• Any player’s collegiate debut is sure to be memorable, but how about this one for Mario Lucia? The highly touted prospect and son of Minnesota coach (and former ND defenseman) Don Lucia came back at least a week earlier than expected from a preseason injury to play his first game in a golden helmet at storied Yost Arena. He skated on the fourth line and did not have a shot on goal, but it was a first step toward a later boost for the Irish offense.

• Another well-thought-of freshman, Michigan defenseman Jacob Trouba jumped into the play early and nearly put the Wolverines on top when he hit the post on a shot at an open net with Summerhays down about three minutes into the game. The pressure eventually paid off when Justin Selman pressured Robbie Russo into a defensive-zone turnover and gave Michigan the lead at 4:38 of the first period.

• Notre Dame played a little better after falling behind, but the Wolverines had the better of the play in the opening period. Summerhays kept his team close and after the game told CBS Sports Network, “We were fortunate enough to get out of the first period there just down one, and, you know, we regrouped in the locker room and came out with a little more spunk.”

It was Racine’s turn to hold Notre Dame mostly at bay in the second period, but the momentum turned and the Irish owned a 10-3 shots edge in the third period.

• The Irish kept Michigan’s high-flying line of center A.J. Treais—with his nation’s-best eight goals—and wings Alex Guptill and Boo Nieves off the scoresheet. Both Treais and Guptill had chances to give Michigan the lead early in the third period. Treais got behind the ND defense from the blue line in but carried in and shot wide on the short side. The next time down, Guptill rang a shot off the crossbar, the third U-M bid of the night to draw iron.

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