March 24, 2007
Grand Rapids, Mich. – It was playoff hockey at its best. Sudden-death overtime, loser goes home for the summer.
For over 94 minutes Notre Dame and Alabama-Huntsville battled tooth and nail, looking for that one scoring chance to end the contest.
This time the luck of the Irish was in full force as freshman Ryan Thang drilled a shot from the left wing circle that beat Charger goaltender Marc Narduzzi over his blocker and under the cross bar to give the Irish the 3-2 win in the longest game in Irish hockey history.
The win, the first NCAA Tournament win in Irish hockey history, advances Notre Dame to the Midwest Regional finals where they will face Michigan State, 5-1 winners over Boston University in the second game of the regional. Game time is set for 8:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.
The win was the sixth in a row for Notre Dame and improved the Irish to 32-6-3 on the year. Alabama-Huntsville, the playoff winner of College Hockey America (CHA), saw its season end with a 13-20-3 record.
“We scored those two goals so fast and the two-goal lead is the toughest to play with in hockey,” said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
“I knew we were in for a battle tonight. Alabama-Huntsville is a well-coached team and they played hard and never let up all night.”
Notre Dame got off to a fast start in this game, scoring a pair of goals 1:08 apart in the first 4:26 of the game.
Senior left wing Josh Sciba opened the scoring when he picked up a loose puck in the slot, carried it to the left face-off dot and drilled a shot past starting goaltender Blake MacNicol for his eighth goal of the season and his first since Jan. 13 at Lake Superior State. Sciba missed nine games with a broken wrist and returned for the start of the CCHA playoffs.
Thang followed Sciba’s goal at 4:26 when he took a feed from Erik Condra coming out of the left corner and ripped a low shot that beat MacNicol, giving the Irish a 2-0 lead. The goal was Thang’s team-leading 19th of the season and sent MacNicol to the bench in favor of Marc Narduzzi in the Alabama-Huntsville goal.
It would be well over 90 minutes before the Irish would score again as they led 2-0 after the first period.
The Chargers got back in the game at 10:20 of the second period when Dominick Rozman scored when his shot went off an Irish defenseman and deflected by David Brown. The goal was Rozman’s sixth of the season and cut the Notre Dame lead to 2-1.
Alabama would get the equalizer at 16:06 when Cale Tanaka fired a shot from the slot that beat Brown to the upper corner. The goal was his second of the year and made it a 2-2.
“I wasn’t happy on the first one,” said Brown. “The shot deflected off a stick in front and got past me. The second goal was a real nice shot. I played it the way that I wanted, but he just made a better shot.”
From there the goaltenders took over. Brown would finish with 28 saves in the game while Narduzzi made 49 saves, giving up just one goal.
“We just stayed focus and didn’t worry about how long we were playing, said defenseman Wes O’Neill. “You can’t be thinking about it, it’s just another period of hockey and you keep playing.”
Through the first 90+ minutes, the Irish were 0-for-5 on the power play and would get one more chance in the second overtime. Defenseman Noah Babin carried the puck down the right side and cut to the front of the goal. Scott Kalinchuk was called for holding the stick, setting up Thang’s game winner.
“He had stopped so many with his glove up until then that I decided to roll in front and shot it towards his blocker and it went in,” said Thang. “I couldn’t tell it was in until I saw the water bottle pop up in the air.”
Thang’s goal was his 20th of the season and set off a wild celebration on the ice as the Irish lived to play another day.
** The 94:42 minutes played by the Irish was the longest game in the program’s history. The previous longest game came on March 8, 2002 when Notre Dame and Nebraska-Omaha played 80:40 in a first-round CCHA playoff game. The Irish lost that game, 3-2.
**Ryan Thang’s two goals against Alabama-Huntsville give him 20 for the season, making him the first Irish player to score 20 or more goals in a season since Rob Globke had 21 in the 2002-03 season.
** Notre Dame’s 53 shots in the game are the most by the Irish since Nov. 5, 2004 when the Irish fired 53 shots on goal against Bowling Green.
** The win at Van Andel Arena was the first for the Irish in four tries. The Irish have played Ferris State in Grand Rapids twice and in 2004, played in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Minnesota, 5-2 in the opening game.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 OT OT - FAlabama-Huntsville (13-20 -3) 0 2 0 0 0 - 2#1/#1 Notre Dame (32-6-3) 2 0 0 0 1 - 3
Penalties: UAH: 4 for 8 minutes; ND: 0 for 0 minutes.
Second Period: UAH: Dominick Rozman 6 (Josh Murray), 10:20; UAH: Cale Tanaka 2 (Tom Train), 16:06.
Penalties: UAH: 1 for 2 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Third Period: No Scoring.
Penalties: UAH: 0 for 0 minutes; ND: 0 for 0 minutes.
First Overtime: No Scoring.
Penalties: UAH: 0 for 0 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Penalties: UAH: 1 for 2 minutes; ND: 0 for 0 minutes.
Shots On Goal:Alabama-Huntsville 7 - 5 - 3 - 12 - 3 - 30Notre Dame 12 - 13 - 11 - 8 - 9 - 53
Goaltender Saves:UAH - Blake MacNicol (4:26) 1 - x - x - x - x - 1 Marc Narduzzi (90:16) 9 - 13 - 11 - 8 - 8 - 49ND - David Brown (94:42) 7 - 3 - 3 - 12 - 3 - 28
Power Plays:UAH: 0 for 2ND: 1 for 6