March 2, 2008
Notre Dame, Ind. – The Notre Dame hockey team closed the 2007-08 regular season on a positive note Saturday night at a sold-out Joyce Center, using three power-play goals to take a 3-1 victory from Western Michigan on Senior Night.
Ryan Thang, Erik Condra and Mark Van Guilder got a man-advantage goal in each period as the Irish fired 39 shots at Bronco goaltender Riley Gill, including 20 in the first period. Adam Flink broke up Jordan Pearce’s shutout bid when he scored with seven seconds left in the game.
The win gives Notre Dame a 22-12-4 overall record and a final CCHA record of 15-9-4. The 15 wins in conference play are the second most for the Irish in CCHA play behind last season’s 21. The Irish also had 15 conference victories in 1998-99 and 1981-82. The loss drops Western Michigan to 8-25-3 overall and 4-22-2 in the league.
The Irish finished fourth in the CCHA and will have a bye in the opening round of the playoffs that start next Friday, March 7. Notre Dame will host a second round, best-of-three series beginning on Friday, March 14 against the highest remaining first round seed.
In the game on Saturday, Van Guilder set the Notre Dame record for most consecutive games played as he played in his 154th straight career game. By giving up just one goal, Pearce won the CCHA goaltending goals-against average crown as he finished with a 1.80 goals-against average to Miami’s Jeff Zatkoff who checked in with a 1.83 mark.
“Winning tonight was important to the team,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “We went into the third period with a 2-0 lead and I could feel us getting tight on the bench. Right now we’re afraid to make mistakes and that’s the way its been over the last month. That’s what happens when a team loses its confidence and goes into a little bit of a spin.”
The Irish came out fast in the first period, equaling a season high with 20 shots on goal against Gill. For a while it looked like Notre Dame might see a repeat of his 42-save performance from Friday night.
That was before Chris Clackson and Jeff LoVecchio took penalties 59 seconds a part to give the Irish a two-man advantage that they were able to capitalize on.
Thang would do the honors as he rammed the rebound of a shot by Kyle Lawson past Gill at 11:43 for his team-best 16th goal of the season. Ian Cole would pick up the first of his two assists on the goal.
In all, Notre Dame would get 11 chances on the power play and capitalize on three of them. The second came at 17:57 of the middle period. The Irish would out shoot the Broncos, 13-2, in the period and take the 2-0 lead.
This time it was Condra’s turn. The junior right wing scored his 14th of the season when Cole’s shot from the slot deflected off Condra’s shin pads past Gill. After waiting out a review by referee Stephen McInchak, the goal stood and Notre Dame had a 2-0 lead.
The two-goal lead was the first for the Irish since Jan. 26 at Bowling Green in a game the Irish won 4-1.
The lead would go to 3-0 at 16:49 of the third period with Van Guilder getting his 11th goal of the season. Freshman center Ben Ryan set up Evan Rankin in the slot and the senior right wing blistered a shot off Gill’s pads. The rebound went right to Van Guilder at the bottom of the left circle and he just one-timed it through Gill’s pads to give the Irish a three-goal cushion.
With time running out, Jackson put all five of his seniors on the ice for a final time and they may have stayed out too long. Defenseman Tyler Ludwig cleared the puck up the right boards to Flick who carried the puck deep into the Notre Dame zone before firing a shot from the right circle that beat Pearce low to the ice for his first career goals at 19:53 for the final of 3-1.
On the night, Gill would finish with 36 saves while Pearce stopped 15 of 16 shots.
Western Michigan was 0-for-5 on the power play.
With the postseason up next, Jackson saw some positives for his team on the final night of the regular season.
“We had long sustained periods of play in the offensive zone; we had numerous scoring chances and we finally scored some power-play goals. There are positives,” said Jackson.
He continued, “Jordan (Pearce) won the conference goals-against average, the team was first in penalty kill and we were among the top defensive teams in the conference. There were plenty of positives. We have to approach things like a new season. That’s what we always do with the playoffs. We finished on a positive note and I’m not going to worry about what I can’t control right now.”
** Mark Van Guilder heads into the playoffs tied for third on Notre Dame’s games played list with 154 games played. He is tied with Wes O’Neill `07 and Jason Paige `07. Defenseman Brock Sheahan is now tied for seventh with 152 games played. The record is 158 games and is held by Dan Carlson `01.
** The crowd of 2,770 was the eighth straight sellout (2,713) for the Irish and the 11th in 16 home dates for Notre Dame this season.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 - FWestern Michigan (8-25-3/4-22-2) 0 0 1 - 1#11/#11 Notre Dame (22-12-4/15-9-4) 1 1 1 - 3
ScoringFirst Period: ND: Ryan Thang 16 (Kyle Lawson, Ian Cole), PPG, 11:43.Penalties: WMU: 4 for 8 minutes; ND: 2 for 4 minutes.
Second Period: ND: Erik Condra 14 (Cole, Thang), PPG, 17:57.Penalties: WMU: 6 for 28 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Third Period: ND: Mark Van Guilder 11 (Evan Rankin, Ben Ryan), PPG, 16:49; WMU: Adam Flink 1 (Tyler Ludwig), 19:53.Penalties: WMU: 3 for 6 minutes; ND: 2 for 4 minutes.
Shots On Goal:Western Michigan 6 - 2 - 8 - 16Notre Dame 20 - 13 - 6 - 39
Goaltender Saves:WMU - Riley Gill (60:00) 19 - 12 - 5 - 36ND - Jordan Pearce (60:00) 6 - 2 - 7 - 15
Power Plays:WMU: 0 for 5ND: 3 for 11
Attendance: 2,770 (sellout)