Sophomore Ryan Thang's shorthanded goal gave the Irish a 3-0 lead late in the first period of their NCAA Frozen Four semifinal vs. Michigan.

Irish Advance To NCAA Title Game After 5-4 OT Win Over Michigan

April 10, 2008

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DENVER – Freshman left wing Calle Ridderwall (Stockholm, Sweden) scored his second goal of the game at 5:44 of overtime, lifting the No. 5 Notre Dame hockey team to a 5-4 victory over top-ranked Michigan in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver. With the win, the Irish will play for their first national championship on Saturday night against Boston College, with the puck scheduled to drop at 5 p.m. MT (7 p.m. ET) live on ESPN.

Ridderwall had come into the game with three goals in his rookie season, but saved some of his best play of the year for college hockey’s biggest stage. Senior defenseman Dan VeNard (Vernon Hills, Mich.) and junior center Justin White (Traverse City, Mich.) earned assists on the game-winning score, which saw Venard rip a shot from the right faceoff circle that was initially saved. The puck rebounded to Ridderwall, who made no mistake with a rising blast from the slot over the right shoulder of Michigan goaltender Bryan Hogan.

Thursday’s game was the first NCAA Frozen Four game to go to overtime since 2003 in Buffalo, N.Y., when Minnesota defeated Michigan, 3-2 en route to the national title. It also marked the first extra-session win for Notre Dame this season (1-1-4) and its second OT victory in the NCAA tournament in as many years (the Irish downed Alabama-Huntsville, 3-2 in double overtime in last season’s Midwest Regional semifinals).

Ridderwall and White also teamed up on the first goal of the evening exactly five minutes into the contest. White hit Ridderwall with an outlet pass in the Irish zone, with the Swedish forward swiftly crossing through center ice. He then made a move at the blue line and rifled a wrist shot high over the right shoulder of Michigan starting goaltender Billy Sauer.

Only 42 seconds later, Notre Dame (27-15-4) stunned the Wolverines with a second score. Senior defenseman Brock Sheahan (Lethbridge, Alb.) started the rush by getting the puck up to sophomore left wing Ryan Thang (Edina, Mich.), who dropped a pass for senior right wing Mark Van Guilder (Roseville, Minn.). The Irish captain then calmly ripped a shot from the top of the left circle under Sauer’s left arm for his 13th goal of the season and second of the NCAA tournament.

Thang took care of business himself late in the first period to add to the Notre Dame lead. Working the top of the Irish penalty kill, Thang picked up the puck at the half-boards in the defensive zone, used a brilliant piece of stickwork to deke past the Michigan defenseman at the blue line, and flipped a backhander over Sauer’s blocker at 19:25 for his team-leading 18th goal of the season (and second shorthanded tally of the year).

Notre Dame almost made it 4-0 in the first two minutes of the second period. Freshman center Ben Ryan (Brighton, Mich.) got loose in front, but whistled a backhander wide of Hogan, who came on at the first intermission in place of Sauer.

The Wolverines (33-6-4) answered back with two goals 15 seconds apart just before the midway point of the period. UM first got on the board at the 8:48 mark of the second period, as Chad Kolarik took a centering pass from Kevin Porter in the high slot and put a wrist shot over the left shoulder of junior goaltender Jordan Pearce (Anchorage, Alaska). Moments later, Michigan’s Aaron Palushaj skated into the left corner and tossed a pass toward the crease, where Matt Rust was charging hard and nudged the puck past Pearce to make it a one-goal game.

The Irish had another golden scoring opportunity less than two minutes later, as junior center Christian Hanson (Venetia, Pa.) cranked up a drive from the high slot that richocheted off the outside off the right post. That would be the last good chance for either side in the period, although both teams did go on the power play during the frame.

Michigan came all the way back and knotted the score at 3-3 on the power play at 2:16 of the third period. After the Irish were whistled for too many men on the ice, Kolarik fired a shot from the left wing that hit the right post and caromed directly back to the stick to the UM forward, who put the rebound home for his second goal of the night Max Pacioretty got the first assist on the score, while Palushaj got the other helper, his second of the evening.

Notre Dame went back in front with 8:30 remaining, when sophomore left wing Dan Kissel (Crestwood, Ill.) broke in over the blue line, whipped a pass to classmate Kevin Deeth (Gig Harbor, Wash.) on the right side. Deeth cut in front of Hogan and chipped a shot inside the far post over the sprawling Wolverine goaltender. Freshman defenseman Ian Cole (Ann Arbor, Mich.) earned the second assist on Deeth’s goal, which was his 10th marker of the season.

Michigan answered back and tied the game at 4-4 at the 14:39 mark. Rust dumped the puck into the Irish zone to the left of Pearce, and Carl Hagelin won the race to the biscuit, tossing a shot on goal from the end line that somehow found space between Pearce’s leg and the near post. Palushaj got credit for his third assist of the night on Hagelin’s score, which sent the game to overtime.

Pearce went the distance in goal for Notre Dame, improving to 23-14-4 this season after recording 29 saves. Hogan, who had played in only five games all season prior to Thursday, made 18 saves in relief while finishing his rookie campaign with a 3-2-1 record.

— ND —


• Calle Ridderwall’s game-winning goal was his first of the season and fifth goal overall of the season.

• Notre Dame’s overtime win tonight was the first for the Irish since March 23, 2007, when it defeated Alabama-Huntsville, 3-2, in double overtime in an NCAA Tournament first round game.

• Head coach Jeff Jackson made his first appearance in the Frozen Four with Notre Dame after three trips with Lake Superior State. He has a 6-1 record in the Frozen Four. He has never lost in the semifinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

• The Irish will make their first appearance in the NCAA title game Saturday.

• Notre Dame is 14-2-0 when leading after the first period and 24-1-0 when leading after the second. The Irish are also 20-5-1 when scoring first and 6-5-0 in neutral site games.

• Tonight’s game was the 46th the Irish have played this season, the most in school history.

• Tonight was the fifth time (2-3) the Irish had faced No. 1 team in the nation.

• Sophomore Ryan Thang scored his team-leading 18th goal and his second shorthanded goal of the season. He also recorded his eighth multi-point game of the season tonight with an assist .

• The Irish penalty kill entered tonight’s game ranked second in the nation (.896, 180 of 201). They held Michigan to 1-for-5 on the man advantage tonight.

• Notre Dame picked up its 27th win of the season tonight, tied for second most in school history.

• Senior Mark Van Guilder has played in a school record 162 games and classmate Brock Sheahan ranks second with 160 career games.

• The 18,544 sellout was the largest crowd Notre Dame has played in front of this season.

• Tonight’s overtime game was the first at the Frozen Four since Minnesota defeated Michigan, 3-2, in a 2003 national semifinal (also on April 10).

• Notre Dame is 5-23-2 all-time in games played in Denver.