Michigan Advances to Big Ten Championship with Victory Over Notre Dame

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» Matty Beniers scored his team-leading 19th goal before assisting the match-winner.
» Brendan Brisson scored his sixth game-winning goal of the year after assisting on Beniers’ icebreaker.
» Erik Portillo made 19 saves on 20 shots for his 28th victory.

To place: Ann Arbor, Michigan (Yost Ice Arena)

Goal: No. 2 Michigan 2, No. 3 Notre Dame 1

Recordings: UM (28-9-1), ND (27-11)

Next UM event: Saturday March 19 c. TBD (Venue TBD), 8:00 p.m. ET

ANN ARBOUR, Mich. – Sensational sophomores Maize and Blue put on a show for the second-seeded University of Michigan ice hockey team as the Wolverines recorded a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the third-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Big Ten hockey tournament semi-final at a sold-out Yost Ice Arena on Saturday night (March 12). The Wolverines will now move on to the Big Ten Championship game next week.

Erik Portillo stopped 19 of 20 shots he faced throughout the night to earn his 28th win of the season. On several occasions, Portillo made outstanding saves to keep UM afloat.

For the first 10 minutes of the match, the pace was frenetic and the Children of Yost kept the crowded arena abuzz with chants. The 99-year-old building erupted when Johnny Beecher hit an open hit in the offensive zone as play headed the other direction with just over nine minutes left in the first period.

Michigan had a golden opportunity to score with three and a half minutes left in the first frame before Owen Power was pushed into the UND net as Wolverines crashed into the crease in pursuit of a loose puck in the blue paint. Referees gave Notre Dame the first penalty of the contest for interference with 3:25 left, and the Wolverines went for the man advantage.

On the next shift, with 1:34 left on the opening power play, UND was given a second minor penalty for tripping to give the Wolverines a five-to-three advantage. The team worked the puck around the Notre Dame area, slowly compressing ND’s penalty killers before testing their goalkeeper with a flurry of shots, but none found the back of the net before the teams do not regain their equal strength.

Neither team was able to strike before the buzzer sounded for the first intermission.

After a brisk opening period, the teams headed to the locker room for intermission amid a scoreless tie. UM led the Irish in shots on goal (9-4) and faceoffs (8-5), but the Wolverines found themselves 0-2 on the power play after failing to break through late in the period.

Returning for the second period, Michigan scored an icebreaker 3:46 into the second period when the Olympian line of Matty Beniers, Brendan Brissonand Kent Johnson dazzled the crowd with tic-tac-toe passes to put the goalie out of position and damage the string. Johnson entered the zone on the right side before stopping and passing the puck to Beniers as he crossed the blue line in the middle of the ice. Beniers sent a quick pass to Brisson on the left flank before immediately receiving a return pass which he buried in a nearly open net for his team-leading 19th goal of the season. Brisson got the first assist while Johnson received the secondary.

Later in the period, Notre Dame equalized at 12:04 thanks to a bang-bang play from the top of Michigan’s crease. The Irish continued to dictate the pace midway through the second period as they cut UM’s penalty shootout lead to three.

Wolverines threatened as they gathered momentum in the final minutes of the second period, but the game was tied at one goal apiece in the second intermission. UM held a 21-16 penalty shootout lead and a 23-13 lead in the face-off spot, but the rivals continued to search for a decisive goal.

Back for the final frame and desperate for the game-clinching goal, Brisson channeled some magic for his 18th goal of the season on a clean shot from the right 3:59 into the third period. Beniers picked up the first assist as the defender Jacob Truscott got the secondary assist after an exceptional shift at the back.

Each team was given a minor penalty with 13:11 left in the third period after Beniers was taken down in front of the net. Notre Dame was tabled for the cross-check while the embellishment was the call for Beniers to create two minutes of four-on-four play.

The Notre Dame goaltender made a critical save for the Irish with 12 minutes on the board as the teams still skated in 4x4s to hold Michigan to a one-goal lead. As the period progressed, he and Portillo continued to thwart dueling offensive attacks.

Hanging on to a one-goal lead with the Notre Dame net vacant in the dying minutes, Luc Hughes launched a backhand attempt into the empty net but it was blocked in the air by a UND defender and the lead remained at one.

The Fighting Irish took their time out with 1:11 to go, but failed to score a game-winning goal before the final bell rang. Michigan used a 31-20 advantage in shots on goal and a staggering 86-37 advantage in shot attempts to earn a hard-fought victory, Michigan’s first against Notre Dame in eight tries in Yost.

With the 2-1 win, UM moves on to the Big Ten Championship game next Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET at the University of Minnesota. The game will air on Big Ten Network. The next day, Sunday, March 20, the Wolverines will learn their tournament fate when the NCAA draft show airs on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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