There aren’t many sun filled days in South Bend, Indiana this time of year. But on Saturday, the weather couldn’t have been much better.
With temperatures close to 50 degrees, a bright blue sky, and the sun beaming, the weather was absolutely ideal for fans to watch outdoor hockey.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium, the event got the title ‘Let’s Take This Outside’, and that’s exactly what they did. While the crowd wasn’t of the sellout variety (23,422), they were enthused from start to finish and provided ample noise and energy.
Before the game even began Michigan was playing from behind, so to speak. Their star players, Quinn Hughes and Josh Norris weren’t with the team, as they were playing for the US National Team in the World Juniors gold-medal game Saturday night.
Without Hughes and Norris, with the slow start to Michigan’s season (6-7-6), you’d be hard pressed to find anyone predicting a Michigan victory.
Before the game started, The Beatles song ‘Here Comes the Sun’ came on, and shortly thereafter figurative rain fell down once the puck dropped, Michigan had a downpour of goals in the 1st Period.
The first goal was a back breaker for Notre Dame via an improbable goal from Joe Cecconi.
It appeared Cecconi was just trying to dump the puck into the zone, but a crazy bounce and a bad read by goalie Cale Morris put Michigan up 1-0.
It only took sixteen seconds for Michigan to get another goal, this one on an excellent one-timer by Will Lockwood.
Michigan wasn’t done scoring in the opening frame, adding their final goal of the period on a shot by Nolan Moyle.
While it was all Michigan in the 1st, Notre Dame inched closer in the 2nd Period while they were on a power play. A goal by Cam Morrison narrowed Michigan’s lead to 3-1.
Morrison with the deflection on the power play to cut into the Michigan lead!— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) January 5, 2019
Irish pushing hard to get within one goal with under six minutes to play in the 2nd.#GoIrish #BeatWolverines pic.twitter.com/dfbUgO27rs
With just a few minutes to go, Michigan still had a two-goal lead and were dominating the game, but when Notre Dame pulled their goalie and added an extra skater, the game became a nail-biter with a Alex Steeves goal.
After the Steeves goal, the ND offense couldn’t get a clean shot off in the remaining minutes, and with 11 seconds left Dakota Raabe scored an open net goal to put Michigan up 4-2, which would be the final score.
The win put Michigan at 7-7-6 and dropped Notre Dame to 12-6-1. The two teams will face each other again February 12th at Notre Dame.
Michigan coach Mel Pearson said the game was memorable, saying “These guys will remember this for the rest of their lives. It adds a little extra sweetness to it when you win.”
The win could be a turning point for the team this season. Down their two leading scorers, Michigan beat the No. 6 team in the nation on the road, in a nationally televised outdoor spectacle, in one of the most famous football stadiums in America.
If the Wolverines are to turn the season around, they’re going to need to get going in a hurry, and the game against ND was a fine start.
“It’s a good spark, but at the same time we can’t get ahead of ourselves banking that it’s going to be the same as last year,” said goalie Hayden Lavigne. “We have to go one game at a time with the same mentality we had last year, and things will work itself out in the end.”
Next up for Michigan is Merrimack on Tuesday in Ann Arbor before taking on Ohio State in Columbus next weekend.