March 16, 2007
ND Post Game Press Conference – Watch Now!
Detroit, Mich. – Outstanding goaltending, strong defensive play and timely scoring have been the keys to the Notre Dame hockey team’s success in the 2006-07. On Friday night at Joe Louis Arena, in the first semifinal game of the CCHA Championship, the Irish brought all aspects of their game with the defense going on the offensive to lead Notre Dame to a 3-0 shutout win versus Lake Superior State.
The win sends the top-ranked Irish to their first CCHA title game since 1982 on St. Patrick’s Day versus Michigan as the Wolverines downed Michigan State, 5-2 on Friday night. The Lakers and Spartans will play at 3:35 p.m. with Notre Dame and Michigan playing at 7:05 p.m.
CCHA player of the year, Irish goaltender David Brown made 17 saves to record his sixth shutout of the season and the 12th of his career in blanking the Lakers. Defensemen Wes O’Neill and Brock Sheahan scored for the Irish while Christian Hanson sealed the win with an empty net goal for the 3-0 final.
The game set up to be a showdown between the CCHA’s top two goaltenders – Lake Superior’s Jeff Jakaitis and Brown for the Irish. Notre Dame had 29 shots to 17 for Lake Superior with Jakiaits making 26 saves in goal.
“If you’re going up against a great goaltender like Jakaitis,” said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson, “then you’d better make sure that you shut them down because you may have to win the game 1-0. That’s almost what it was like tonight.”
The Irish had the jump early in the game as they fired 14 shots on Jakaitis, managing a power-play goal by O’Neill at 9:46.
Noah Babin started the play moving the puck from the point to Mark Van Guilder at the top of the left wing circle. Van Guilder moved toward the goal line and dropped a pass into the slot where O’Neill had drifted in for the left point. O’Neill waited and then snapped a wrist shot that beat Jakaitis for his third goal of the season.
After playing the first 36 games of the season without a goal, O’Neill has now scored a goal in all three playoff games.
The senior defenseman explained his recent goal-scoring splurge. “I think that I’ve just started to shoot the puck. Coach has been on me all year to shoot, shoot, shoot,” said O’Neill. “Finally the last couple of games I’ve gotten a few more chances and now I’ve been shooting every chance that I get.”
The Laker defense tightened up in the second half, limiting Notre Dame to just six shots in the period but the Irish managed to get one behind Jakaitis to build a 2-0 lead.
This time it was Sheahan’s turn to get on the scoreboard as he drilled a shot from the left point that went off a Laker defenseman in front and over Jakaitis’ blocker at 8:46 for his third goal of the season and second of the postseason.
Ryan Thang picked up his first assist of the night as he moved the puck behind the net to Erik Condra near the left wing boards. Condra, who also had two assists in the game, got the puck to Sheahan and he fired the puck at the net.
“There was a lot of traffic in front and I couldn’t even see where Jakaitis was,” explained the Lethbridge, Alb., native. “I was trying to shoot blocker side and it hit their guy in front and went off his leg blocker side.”
The two goaltenders traded saves in the third period with each making eight saves in the stanza. With over two-and-a-half minutes left, Jakaitis was pulled in favor of a sixth attacker. The Irish ended that bid at 17:33 when Thang and Condra set up Hanson for an empty-net goal for the 3-0 final score. The goal was Hanson’s sixth of the season.
The win gave Notre Dame its’ first-ever 30-win season as the Irish go to 30-6-3 on the year. The Lakers are now 21-18-3 for the season.
Jackson was not surprised to see his defensemen play a key role offensively in the low-scoring game.
We’re playing teams that keep people back. If you don’t have your defensemen activate, you’re not going to score,” said Jackson. “Everybody’s got four guys back in the neutral zone, five guys back. We spend a lot of time working on that because we won’t get scoring chances unless our defensemen get involved in the play.”
** With two assists in the game, sophomore right wing Erik Condra now has seven assists to lead Notre Dame in playoff scoring with seven points.
** Goaltender David Brown is now 3-0 in the playoffs with a 0.67 goals-against average and a .964 save percentage in three playoff games.
** Notre Dame and Michigan played twice in the regular season with the Irish winning, 7-3, at Ann Arbor on Dec. 8 and then at the Joyce Center on Dec. 10 by a 4-3 score.
** In CCHA playoff action, Notre Dame and Michigan have met nine times with the Wolverines holding a 6-3 edge in games played. The last time the Irish won a playoff game against Michigan came on March 13, 1998, a 4-2 win at Yost Arena.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 - FLake Superior State (21-18-3) 0 0 0 - 0#1/#1 Notre Dame (30-6-3) 1 1 1 - 3
First Period: ND: Wes O'Neill 3 (Mark Van Guilder, Noah Babin), PPG, 9:46.Penalties: ND: 2 for 4 minutes; LSSU: 2 for 4 minutes.
Second Period: ND: Brock Sheahan 3 (Erik Condra, Ryan Thang), 8:46.Penalties: ND: 2 for 4 minutes; LSSU: 2 for 4 minutes.
Third Period: ND: Christian Hanson 6 (Condra, Thang), ENG, 17:33.Penalties: ND: 1 for 2 minutes; LSSU: 0 for 0 minutes.
Shots On Goal:Lake Superior 4 - 5 - 8 - 17Notre Dame 14 - 6 - 9 - 29
Goaltender Saves:LSSU - Jeff Jakaitis (59:17) 13 - 5 - 8 - 26ND - David Brown (59:46) 4 - 5 - 8 - 17
Power Plays:LSSU: 0 for 5ND: 1 for 4