March 12, 2000
? Coach Poulin Audio!
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame hockey team used goals from three unlikely heroes and a 24-save night from freshman Tony Zasowski to emerge with a 4-2 victory over visiting Ferris State, in the decisive game of a three-game Central Collegiate Hockey Association first-round series Sunday night at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.
The victory-coupled with Nebraska-Omaha’s 2-1 win at Northern Michigan-leaves Notre Dame as the third-highest remaining seed in the CCHA Tournament. Consequently, the Irish will advance to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena for a semi-final matchup versus Michigan State on Friday, March 17 (8:30 p.m.). The winner of that game then will advance to Saturday’s CCHA final, with the tournament champion receiving an automatic berth in the NCAA Championship (top-seeded Michigan will play in the 5:00 p.m. semi-final, versus the winner of Tuesday’s play in game between Bowling Green and Nebraska-Omaha, at UNO).
Sunday’s win serves as a breakthrough for the Notre Dame program on several levels:
* The Irish will be making just their second appearance at “The Joe” for the CCHA semi-finals in 10 seasons as a member of the CCHA, with the last coming in 1981-82-when current Irish head coach Dave Poulin served as the Irish co-captain.
* In 19 previous seasons as a member of the CCHA (’81-’82, ’82-’83, ’92-present) or the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (1971-81), Notre Dame had won just three first-round playoff series: in 1972-73 vs. North Dakota (5-0, 8-3), in ’79-’80 at Michigan (8-3, 3-4, total goals) and in ’81-’82 vs. Michigan (6-5, 5-3).
* The Irish have reached The Joe despite opening the season with a 1-5-0 overall record (0-4-0 in the CCHA ).
* Notre Dame avoided losing for the third straight season in the third game of a playoff series, with victories each year in game one.
* Finally, the Irish now stand just two victories away from securing the first NCAA tournament berth in the 32-year history of the program’s modern era.
All of those factors were not lost on Poulin, who now has been part of nine seasons with the Notre Dame hockey program.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Poulin. “I made a special note to thank the seniors. The first two recruits were Ben Simon and Joe Dusbabek and they were sort of the foundation that made it easier for (the other seniors) to commit, but we needed that start.
“And this is what we envisioned. We envisioned a team that would be one of the top teams in college hockey.”
Even after the final horn had sounded, some drama remained for the Irish hockey team and a core group of its most diehard fans. With UNO clinging to its 2-1 lead at NMU, the Joyce Center public address announcer informed the crowd of the score and invited fans to “stick around” and find out if the Irish indeed were headed for The Joe. Several hundred took him up on the offer and minutes later they let out a huge cheer when the UNO-NMU final score was announced.
One interested onlooker was junior left wing Chad Chipchase, whose role has been limited in 1999-2000 due to a knee problem that ultimately required surgery. With the rest of his teammates celebrating their victory in the Irish lockerroom-but still awaiting final word on the UNO-NMU score-Chipchase made his way through the locker door.
“It was a weird sense of emotion,” said Poulin. “We were waiting for the other game to end and Chad came in walking real quietly and then got down in a crouch and just screamed, ‘We’re going to The Joe’. And it was fitting, because he has had such a tough year with reconstructive knee surgery and he is a huge part of the team, as is everybody on the roster. He was great and I’m glad it was a player who got to tell the rest of the team.”
In the two hours preceding Chipchase’s announcement, it was several other unlikely heroes who had provided the Irish with their early cushion. Junior forwards Matt Van Arkel and Jay Kopischke-who had combined for just 23 career goals while each logging roughly 100 games-both scored in the game’s first 22 minutes. And after FSU sophomore right wing Jason Basile cut the Irish lead to 2-1, yet another unlikely goalscorer answered right back-as senior defenseman Tyson Fraser sent home a shot from the left point for his third goal of the season and first since Nov. 6.
The Bulldogs set up a tension-packed finish, thanks to a sensational effort by freshman right wing Phil Lewandowski early in the third period. But the visitors managed just seven shots on goal in the final period and Irish junior right wing Ryan Dolder fired into the empty net with 0:16 left to play, clinching the historic win.
FERRIS STATE 0 1 1 – 2
NOTRE DAME 1 2 1 – 4
1st: ND 1. Van Arkel 4 (unassisted) 5:31.
2nd: ND 2. Kopischke 6 (Henning) 2:05, FSU 1. Basile 7 (Lightfoot, Kozak) 6:46, ND 3. Fraser 3 (Bagne) 9:56.
3rd: FSU 2. Lewandowski (Swider) 3:36, ND 4. Dolder 10 (unassisted), EN, 19:44.
SHOTS: FSU 10-9-7/26, ND 13-13-4/30.
SAVES: FSU (Osaer) 12-11-3/26, ND (Zasowski) 10-8-6/24.
POWER PLAY: FSU 0-for-2, ND 0-for-1.
PENALTIES: FSU 3 for 6:00, ND 4 for 8:00.
* ND 1, FSU 0 – Van Arkel used his speed to register his fourth goal of the season, 17th of his career-and first since the New Year’s Eve tie at the University of Denver (3-3) … players from several teams were fighting for the puck near mid-ice, adjacent to both benches … as both teams proceeded to change lines, Van Arkel streaked away with the puck-slanting off to his right with sophomore D Christian Schroder left as the only FSU player between Van Arkel and sophomore G Phil Osaer … Schroder tried to keep up with Van Arkel but the speedy junior beat him to the far right circle before ripping a shot past Osaer’s blocker into the far left side of the net (5:31) … Van Arkel said he was surprised at the opportunity but gladly cashed it in. “The puck popped out and I fired it back far side. I guess I caught the goalie looking,” he said. “It was pretty huge. Whenever we score the first goal, things just pick up.”
* ND 2, FSU 0 – Kopischke scored on a heads-up rebound play early in the second period, for his sixth goal of the season and the eighth of his career … Schroder again played a role in the goal, as his attempted clear kicked off the boards to Osaer’s left and took a bad bounce into the high slot area … Irish sophomore C Brett Henning-who was mired in his own drought, with just one point in the previous 20 games-then seized on the moment, skating to his left before sending a shot from between the circles … Osaer batted the puck with his glove but Kopischke was in position for the rebound, slapping a shot that deflected off the goaltender before bouncing into the right side of the net (2:05).
* ND 2, FSU 1 – The Bulldogs stayed in the game with a succession of crisp passes four minutes later … Basile set the play in motion by moving the puck up the boards, from the right point … senior C Rob Kozak then alertly redirected the puck to the far left circle, with junior LW Rob Lightfoot then sending the puck back into the slot … Basile had skated in from the right point and one-timed a shot into the open right side of the net for his seventh goal of the season (6:46).
* ND 3, FSU 1 – Yet another unlikely player set up the third Irish score three minutes later, as senior C Troy Bagne picked up his third assist and fifth point of the of the season (and the 16th point of his career) … Bagne-who had not played in the first two games of the series-came through with a hustle play on Sunday, tracking down a loose puck in the left corner and sliding a pass back to Fraser at the left point … the alternate captain then sent a shot on net-with Van Arkel setting the screen-and the puck appeared to deflect off a player or possibly Osaer’s glove before settling into the far right side of the net, giving Fraser the eighth goal of his career and his 57th career point (9:56).
* ND 3, FSU 2 – Despite the 3-1 cushion, Poulin felt anything but comfortable. “You always say a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey,” he said. ” You don’t know whether to sit back or to keep playing. If you are up one, you can keep playing.” … those misgivings proved prophetic, as FSU jumped right back in the game with Lewandowski’s ninth goal of the season … junior C Kevin Swider knocked the puck loose near the left corner and Lewandowski took it from there, with four Irish players trying in vain to stop the promising rookie … the lefthanded Lewandowski wheeled into the left circle and switched to his forehand while angling towards the goal before switching again and nudging a backhander into the right side of the net (3:36) … “Maybe the best thing that could happen was them scoring when they did,” said Poulin. “We changed up our forechecking a little bit, going back to something we were doing earlier in the year. But that was not a defensive breakdown. (Lewandowski) just made a great play. After that goal, I don’t think we gave up another good scoring chance.”
* ND 4, FSU 2 – Poulin’s assessment of the FSU chances was quite accurate, particularly in the final five minutes of the game … the Bulldogs then pulled Osaer with 0:55 left to play but still cold not generate any strong chances, with Irish senior C Ben Simon ultimately shoveling the puck loose and sending it ahead to Dolder … with the clock ticking under 20 seconds, Dolder skated past mid-ice and fired from the right side of the blue line, with the puck sailing into the left side of the net, giving Dolder a goal in each game of the series while nine of his 10 scores this season have come at the Joyce Center (19:44).
MORE POULIN QUOTES: “We can’t keep looking to the same people. Everyone is necessary. … Henning had a good night, Van Arkel was terrific. He came up big tonight. We need that from everyone. … Obviously, we just played Michigan State last week. We will sit and evaluate them tomorrow, but we are going to enjoy this tonight. This is a very sweet moment for us, there’s no question. … It’s very strange. Two years ago, we upset Michigan in the first game, then lose in overtime, then lose a heartbreaking one-goal decision. Last year, we came out and beat Northern and have home ice and then they come back and beat us on the second night and on the third night it’s four minutes to go and the puck hits a seam in the boards and you are done.”
IRISH SENIOR DEFENSEMAN NATHAN BOREGA: “It has been something we have been waiting for four years. I’m kind of numb to it right now. We can’t be satisfied with just this. … We had that never-say-die attitude tonight. They would score and we came back harder.”
SENIOR CENTER BEN SIMON: “We have been waiting four years for this. It’s about as sweet as it gets right now. There is a lot of hockey left to be played. For right now, we are just going to sit back and enjoy it.”