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Michigan hockey splits two-game series with Notre Dame

Michigan’s youth dominated in game one and exposed itself in the game two.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 19 Ohio State at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines had this weekend circled on the calendar for a long time. Last season, the Irish were the only team to sweep the maize and blue, and they did so twice. Ultimately, Michigan exacted revenge in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, but the pain of multiple sweeps from a conference rival persisted.

Over the weekend, Michigan was able to slightly return the favor and hand Notre Dame its first home loss of the season.

In game one, following an interesting first period marred by penalties, stoppages, and reviews, the Irish and Wolverines entered the first intermission tied 1-1. The second period began and the Wolverines went on a frustration-fueled rampage.

Michigan scored four unanswered goals in the second frame, and sparked the run just 54 seconds into the middle period. TJ Hughes found a cutting Eric Ciccolini in the Notre Dame zone and Ciccolini’s wrister put the Wolverines back out in front, 2-1.

Halfway through the second period, Michigan scored goals on back-to-back shifts. First it was Dylan Duke redirecting a blast from Adam Fantilli, and then it was speedster Jackson Hallum capitalizing with a filthy backhand on a breakaway to give Michigan a commanding 4-1 lead.

The final goal of the period — and the game — was scored by the same player that sparked the run to begin the period: TJ Hughes. On the power play, Hughes regained possession of the puck near the left circle, finessed his way through the slot and fired home a glove side wrister to put Michigan up 5-1.

Unlike previous games, Michigan would not relent any late goals or comeback attempts (more on that later). The Wolverines neutralized the Irish in the third and cruised to victory. In his first game back from an illness, junior goalie Erik Portillo was outstanding in net stopping 23-of-24 shots and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.

The second game of the weekend saw the Wolverines pick up right where they left off in the first game.

Under five minutes into action in the first period, Ethan Edwards cleaned up a Fantilli rebound and put Michigan up 1-0. Later in the first, the hottest power play in college hockey remained potent with Samoskevich firing home a blast to make it 2-0. At this point, Samo’s shot drifting left to right is one of the most effective in all of hockey.

In the second period, Notre Dame was able to light the lamp halfway through the period and again in the closing minute while on the power play. Michigan has now blown two-goal leads at least once in each of the last three series (Western Michigan, Penn State), but had still managed to win the two prior games.

The third period was a grinding stalemate until the Irish went on the power play just under five minutes to go. Michigan was able to remain strong and the teams headed to overtime, where the Wolverines had been undefeated on the season (2-0).

But after several chances and a driving Luke Hughes blast, nothing gave. The Irish eventually capitalized after Edwards lost an edge and won the game 3-2 in extra time.

No time to sulk because next up is the No. 1 ranked team in hockey, the Minnesota Golden Gophers. And with a current record of 2-2 in conference, Michigan must at least take one of the two games at Yost Arena.