March 4, 2006
Notre Dame, Ind. – Defenseman Nathan Fornataro’s power-play goal at 19:04 of the second period was the only goal the Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks would need as they downed Notre Dame, 1-0, on Saturday night to win the best-of-three opening round of the CCHA playoffs, 2-0.
The Irish threw everything they had at goaltender Wylie Rogers, peppering him with 39 shots in the game with 32 coming in the final two periods, but the sophomore was equal to the task, stopping all 39 shots. Notre Dame was held scoreless on 10 power-play chances in the game.
With the win, the Nanooks go to 17-14-5 on the season and advance to the second round of the CCHA playoffs at Michigan State. The Irish end the season with three straight losses to the Nanooks and finish the year with a 13-19-4 final mark.
“I thought we competed and played hard tonight,” said Irish coach Jeff Jackson.
“We had plenty of good chances but their goaltender stood on his head and that was the difference tonight. That’s playoff hockey.”
The Irish were forced to compete without their top goaltender David Brown for the final 50 minutes of the game as he injured a leg when Nanook forward Braden Wells slid into Brown near the top of the right wing face-off circle as the Irish netminder was looking to move the puck ahead on a Notre Dame power play opportunity. Brown was forced to leave the game with a leg injury and did not return. Wells was given a two-minute minor by referee Mark Wilkins that gave the Irish a five-on-three for 1:28 and they could not score.
Brown was replaced by freshman Jordan Pearce who turned in a strong game in over 49 minutes of playing time.
“Jordan (Pearce) did a great job tonight,” said Jackson.
“The only goal he gave up was a fluke off a broken stick. I was pleased with the way he played.”
For Pearce, it was just his third appearance since Jan. 1 and he finished with 15 saves on the night.
“I saw David go down, but I thought he’d get up. When he didn’t I started to stretch and get ready. It’s a tough situation to go into. You just can’t think too much about it. I just tried to concentrate on the game and stopping the puck,” said Pearce.
Alaska Fairbanks would get the only goal it would need with just 56 seconds left in the second period on the power play. Defenseman Tyler Eckford moved the puck from the left point to Fornataro at the top of the right-wing circle. The junior wound up and fired a slap shot that broke his stick, sending the puck and the blade at Pearce with the puck getting by the goaltender for Fornataro’s third goal of the season and second of the weekend.
“It was a quick pass across and I slid across the crease following it. The shot came and all I saw was the blade and I followed that and the puck went in. I don’t know if it was deflected or went off some one,” said Pearce.
From there it was all Rogers as Notre Dame fired 17 shots in the third period but couldn’t put the puck past him. The results send Alaska Fairbanks to the second round of the playoffs.
“On the whole we played pretty well for the weekend. The bottom line is if you don’t score, you don’t win,” said Jackson.
** Notre Dame is now 13-25 all-time in the CCHA playoffs. The two-game sweep marks the second year in a row that the Irish have been beaten two straight with the second loss being a 1-0 defeat. Prior to the last two seasons, Notre Dame had played in six consecutive three-game series.
** The second round of the CCHA playoffs will have No. 11 Western Michigan, upset winners over Lake Superior traveling to No. 1 Miami; No. 10 Alaska Fairbanks will be at No. 2 Michigan State; No. 7 Ferris State will travel to No. 3 Michigan and No. 5 Nebraska-Omaha will be at No. 4 Northern Michigan.
** The 1-0 shutout by the Nanooks marks just the third time the Irish have been shutout in CCHA playoff action. Last season, Michigan handed Notre Dame a 1-0 overtime loss and in 2000, Michigan State defeated the Irish, 4-0, in the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena.
Summary: 1 2 3 FAlaska Fairbanks (17-14-5) 0 1 0 1Notre Dame (13-19-4) 0 0 0 0
First Period: No Scoring.Penalties: UAF: 4 for 8 minutes; ND: 2 for 4 minutes.
Second Period: UAF: Nathan Fornataro 3 (Tyler Eckford, Kyle Jones), PPG, 19:04.Penalties: UAF: 3 for 6 minutes; ND: 3 for 6 minutes.
Third Period: No Scoring.Penalties: UAF: 3 for 6 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Shots on Goal:Alaska Fairbanks 8 - 7 - 7 - 22Notre Dame: 7 - 15 - 17 - 39
Saves:Alaska Fairbanks: Wylie Rogers (60:00) 7 - 15 - 17 - 39Notre Dame: David Brown (9:18) 6 - x - x - 6 Jordan Pearce (49:13) 2 - 6 - 7 -15
Power Plays:Alaska Fairbanks: 1 for 6Notre Dame: 0 for 10