Feb. 25, 2006
Notre Dame, ind. – The Notre Dame hockey team went into Saturday night’s regular-season finale versus Alaska Fairbanks looking to sew up home-ice advantage in next week’s CCHA playoffs. A win or a tie would guarantee the Irish a home series while a loss would mean tiebreakers would become involved.
Well, the Irish dropped a 2-1 decision to the Nanooks and still came out of the series with home-ice due to out scoring Alaska Fairbanks in the two meetings by a 5-3 advantage. That coupled with Ferris State’s incredible come-from-behind 4-3 win in overtime versus Michigan and Northern Michigan’s 4-2 win over Ohio State gave Notre Dame the final home playoff spot versus the Nanooks. Ferris State’s win moved the Bulldogs into seventh place while Ohio State fell to 10th place and will travel to Ferris State next week.
All three goals on Saturday night were scored in the first period and from there it became a goaltending duel between Notre Dame’s David Brown and Alaska Fairbanks’ Wylie Rogers. Brown stopped 34 of 36 shots in the game while Rogers turned in a 24-save performance.
Notre Dame wasted little time taking an early lead as defenseman Tom Sawatske scored just 1:24 into the game when he took a pass from Michael Bartlett and fired a wrist shot past Rogers’ glove hand for his second goal of the game.
“The puck came right to me coming over the blue line,” said Sawatske. “I looked to pass it, but there wasn’t anyone there so I shot it. It got deflected on the way and went in. I’ll take a shot when I can. The defensemen just want to get the puck to the net for scoring chances.”
The Irish held the lead until the 6:10 mark when Aaron Lee teamed with Curtis Fraser on the goal. Fraser carried the puck in on Brown and when he tried to poke it away, slid it to Fraser for his seventh goal of the season.
“I over committed on the poke check and thought I got a piece of it,” said Brown. “Then I heard the cheering behind me. It was frustrating thinking if I should’ve played the shot instead or go for the poke.”
Alaska took the lead 48 seconds later at 6:58 of the opening period when Kyle Greentree scored his eighth of the season of an assist from Kelly Czuy for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
“Alaska played a more consistent game tonight and got good goaltending,” said Irish coach Jeff Jackson.
“Their big and physical and strong on the boards. I thought we got off to a good start scoring early, but after the 10-minute mark they seemed to turn the game around and take the momentum. They wore us down having to defend in our own zone.”
The loss snapped Notre Dame’s five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) and drops the Irish to 13-17-4 on the year and 11-13-4 in the CCHA, good for 26 points. The Nanooks finish with a 15-14-5 record and an identical 11-13-4 CCHA record. It all came down to those two extra goals the Irish scored on Friday night to give Notre Dame the tiebreaker for home ice.
“We’re glad that we have home ice,” said Jackson. “Our crowds and the support have been great here in the second half of the season. We’ll put this loss behind us. The playoffs are a different season and it’s a totally different environment.”
The Irish will open the best-of-three CCHA playoffs on Friday, March 3 with game two on Saturday, March 4 and game three if necessary on Sunday, March 5. Times are to be determined.
** The final order of finish in the CCHA was: 1. Miami (42); 2. Michigan State (35); 3. Michigan (31); 4. Northern Michigan (30); 5. Nebraska-Omaha (30); 6. Lake Superior (27); 7. Ferris State (27); 8. Notre Dame (26); 9. Alaska Fairbanks (26); 10. Ohio State (25); 11. Western Michigan (19), 12. Bowling Green (18).
** Notre Dame’s senior class of Matt Amado, Tony Gill, Chris Trick, Tim Wallace, Mike Walsh, Rory Walsh, senior manager Dave Preston and their parents were honored on the ice following the game.
** Notre Dame and Alaska Fairbanks have never met in the CCHA playoffs.
** Tim Wallace ran his “Iron Man” streak to 151 consecutive games for the Irish. The senior right wing has never missed a game in his four years at Notre Dame.
** With his selection as second star of the game, goaltender David Brown finished the year as Notre Dame’s Perani Cup Three stars winner in the CCHA.
Summary: 1 2 3 FAlaska Fairbanks (15-14-5/11-13-4) 2 0 0 2Notre Dame (13-17-4/11-13-4) 1 0 0 1
First Period: ND: Tom Sawatske 2 (Michael Bartlett), 1:24; UAF: Aaron Lee 7 (Curtis Fraser, Kyle Jones), 6:10; UAF: Kyle Greentree 8 (Kelly Czuy), 6:58.Penalties: UAF: 3 for 6 minutes; ND: 3 for 6 minutes.
Second Period: No Scoring.Penalties: UAF: 1 for 2 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Third Period: No Scoring.Penalties: UAF: 0 for 0 minutes; ND: 0 for 0 minutes.
Shots on Goal:Alaska Fairbanks 11 - 11 - 14 - 36Notre Dame: 8 - 11 - 6 - 25
Saves:Alaska Fairbanks: Wylie Rogers (59:55) 7 - 11 - 6 -24Notre Dame: David Brown (60:00) 9 - 11 - 14 - 34
Power Plays:Alaska Fairbanks: 0 for 3Notre Dame: 0 for 3
Attendance: 2,763 (sellout)