Ryan Thang celebrates after his shorthanded goal against Michigan in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal - 4/10/08 (photo by Michael Bennett)

Irish Play For First National Title Against Boston College Saturday

April 11, 2008


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#5 Notre Dame (27-15-4) vs. #3 Boston College (24-11-8) Saturday, April 12, 2008 – Pepsi Center NCAA Frozen Four National Championship Game – Denver, Colorado

MILE-HIGH HAPPENING: For the first time in the 40-year history of the Notre Dame hockey program, the Irish will be playing for a national championship when they face the Boston College Eagles on Saturday, April 12. The game will be televised live by ESPN with Gary Thorne and Ray Ferraro calling the action, Clay Matvick will be the rink side reporter and Bob Norton is the intermission host. Notre Dame advanced to its first national championship game in hockey with a 5-4 overtime win versus Michigan on Thursday night while Boston College moved on with a 6-1 win over North Dakota. While this is Notre Dame’s first NCAA finals appearance, the Eagles are making their ninth finals appearance, winning twice and finishing second six times.

MICHIGAN RECAP: After losing to Michigan twice during the regular season, Notre Dame picked a fine time to knock of the No. 1 ranked Wolverines, in the Frozen Four, as the Irish took a 5-4 overtime win on Thursday night. Freshman Calle Ridderwall (Stockholm, Sweden) scored the game winner at 5:44 of overtime when he pounced on the rebound of a Dan VeNard (Sr., Vernon Hills, Ill.) and fired a shot from the slot past Michigan goaltender Bryan Hogan. The goal was his second of the game and fifth of the season. Notre Dame jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period with a pair of goals 42 seconds apart. Ridderwall started the scoring when he beat Michigan starter Billy Sauer with a high wrist shot from the slot at 5:00. Mark Van Guilder (Sr., Roseville, Minn.) made it 2-0 at 5:42 when he snapped a wrister from the left faceoff dot past Sauer for his 13th of the season. The Irish lead would go to 3-0 at 19:25 of the first when Ryan Thang (So., Edina, Minn.) scored short-handed, lifting a backhander past Sauer for his 18th goal of the year. Michigan would answer with the next three goals as Chad Kolarik, Matt Rust and Kolarik again tied the game by the 2:16 mark of the third period. Kevin Deeth (So., Gig Harbor, Wash.) put the Irish back in front at 11:30 of the third when he snapped a wrister past Hogan who replaced Sauer after the first period. The goal was Deeth’s 10th of the year. Michigan would get the equalizer at 14:39 of the third when Carl Hagelin beat Jordan Pearce (Jr., Anchorage, Alaska) with a bad-angle shot to make it 4-4, setting up Ridderwall’s overtime heroics. The Wolverines out shot Notre Dame, 33-29 in the game. Pearce finished with 29 saves while Sauer had had six in 20 minutes and Hogan had 18 over the final 45:44.

IRISH AND EAGLES: Notre Dame and Boston College have met 26 times in the all-time series between the two schools with the Eagles holding a 14-10-2 advantage. In recent years, the two teams have met on the Friday night when the school’s football programs met the following day. The last time the two teams met was on Oct. 20, 2006 at Chestnut Hill, Mass., with the Irish taking a 7-1 win. Notre Dame is 3-0-1 in the last four meetings with Boston College, dating back to the 2002-03 season. The last three times the two schools have met, the Eagles were ranked No. 1 in the nation with the Irish winning all three games.

NOTRE DAME AND THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: Thursday’s overtime win against Michigan improved Notre Dame to 4-2 all-time in NCAA play. The overtime win was the second for the Irish in NCAA play as they defeated Alabama-Huntsville in an opening round game in 2007. Notre Dame has been in the NCAA Tournament, three times in its 40-year history – 2004, 2007 and 2008.

HOW SWEDE IT IS: Notre Dame’s first-ever player from Sweden, Calle Ridderwall proved to be the hero of the win over Michigan as he scored twice in the game, getting the game’s opening goal and then the game winner in overtime. The two-goal game was the first of Ridderwall’s career. He came into the game with three goals and two assists in 37 games and now has five goals on the season. Ridderwall’s parents, Jan and Marie Ridderwall, made the trip from Stockholm to Denver for the Frozen Four.

OVERTIME WINS: Notre Dame’s overtime win against Michigan was the first overtime win of the season for the Irish as they improve to 1-1-4 in extra time this season. In postseason action, the overtime game is the second for the Irish as they dropped a 2-1 overtime game to Miami in the CCHA semifinals. In that game, Miami scored with four seconds left to send the game into overtime and then won it at the 6:06 mark.

Jeff Jackson AND THE NCAAS: For Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson, this is his fourth trip to the NCAA title game. From 1992 to 1994, his Lake Superior State teams advanced all three seasons, winning the title in 1992 and 1994. The lone loss came to Maine in 1993. Jackson is now 6-1 all-time in the Frozen Four. In NCAA Tournament action, Jackson is now 17-6 (.739). He was 13-5 at Lake Superior and is now 4-1 at Notre Dame. For his nine seasons as a Division I head coach, Jackson is 254-93-36 (.710) and has the best winning percentage among active coaches.

RUNNING WITH THE BIG DOGS: Over the last three games, the Irish have faced three of the top 10 scoring teams in the country in New Hampshire, Michigan State and Michigan. In those three games, Notre Dame has out scored those teams b a 15-8 margin. The Irish defeated New Hampshire, 7-3, Michigan State, 3-1 and Michigan, 5-4 in overtime.

CROSSING JORDAN: Notre Dame goaltender Jordan Pearce will make his 18th consecutive start in Saturday’s title game with Boston College. He began his streak on Jan. 24 at Bowling Green. Pearce is 9-6-3 in that span with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. He has sent Notre Dame records this season for games (42) and minutes played (2499:15). For the year, he is 23-14-4 overall with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. His 23 wins are the third most in a single season at Notre Dame. He entered this year having played 12 games and 621:56 minutes over two seasons.

THE PUCK STOPS HERE: The four goals surrendered by Jordan Pearce in the overtime game against Michigan were the most he has given up in a game since Feb. 8 when he gave up five goals in a 5-3 loss to Ferris State. Since then he has given up 28 goals in 15 games for a 1.89 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.

SPREADING THE WEALTH: Notre Dame has scored 15 goals in three NCAA Tournament games this season. In the previous three games, the Irish scored a grand total of four goals. The 15 NCAA goals have been scored by nine different players with Christian Hanson (Jr., Venetia, Pa.) leading the way with three of those goals. Sixteen different players have points for the Irish in the NCAA Tournament.

IRISH VERSUS NO. 1: Notre Dame’s 5-4 overtime win against No. 1 Michigan was the second win for the Irish versus number one teams this season. The game was the fifth for the Irish against top-ranked teams this year and they own a 2-3-0 record in those games. On Nov. 9-10, the Irish split with then No. 1 Miami, winning 2-1 and losing a 3-1 game in the second contest. On Jan. 18-19, the Irish lost 3-2 and 5-1 versus No. 1 Michigan. All-time, Notre Dame has won 10 times versus No. 1 ranked teams.

COLORADO CALLING: The state of Colorado has become a second home to the Notre Dame hockey team. The Irish played in the NCAA West Regional in Colorado Springs where they defeated New Hampshire, a No. 1 seed, 7-3 and then won the regional with a 3-1 victory over Michigan State. On Thursday night, the Irish moved north to Denver and knocked off top seed, Michigan, 5-4, in overtime.

WINNING IN DENVER: Thursday’s win over Michigan improved Notre Dame’s record to 5-23-2 all-time in the Mile High City. The Irish played the University of Denver 20 times in Denver as members of the WCHA from 1971-81 and was 2-17-1 in those games. Notre Dame played Denver twice before joining the WCHA and was 0-2 and has played the Pioneers three times since leaving and is 0-2-1 in those games. The Irish have played in three tournaments in Denver – the 1992-93 Denver Cup where they defeated Air Force, 4-1, before losing to Denver, 6-1; the played in the IceBreaker Tournament in 1999-2000 where they lost to Providence, 2-1, and then beat Union, 4-0. The Irish were also in the ’99-’00 Denver Cup where they tied Denver, 3-3 and lost to Colorado College, 5-2.

THE BIG IF: If Notre Dame wins versus Boston College, it will be the first national championship for the Irish since 2005 when the men’s and women’s fencing team won the combined NCAA fencing championship. If the Irish defeat the Eagles, it will be the first NCAA championship for a Notre Dame men’s team since 1988 when football was crowned national champions.