March 10, 2007
Notre Dame, Ind. – For the first time since 2004, the Notre Dame hockey team will advance to Detroit, Mich., to play in the CCHA Championship. The Irish advanced on Saturday night, sweeping the Alaska Nanooks two games to none with a 3-1 win in front of a sellout crowd of 2,763 at the Joyce Center.
First-period power-play goals by Ryan Thang and Wes O’Neill and a second-period insurance goal by Kevin Deeth gave the Irish the margin of victory and Hobey Baker candidate, goaltender David Brown, stopped 21 of 22 Nanook shots to pick up his school-record 27th win of the season. Adam Naglich’s second-period power-play goal was the lone Nanook goal of the night.
The win improves Notre Dame to 29-6-3 on the season and sends the Irish on to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for the CCHA Championship Tournament. The Irish will face the Lake Superior State Lakers in one of the semifinal games while Michigan faces Michigan State in the other game. The Lakers, who finished eighth in the regular-season standings, are 21-17-3 on the year and advanced by upsetting third-seed Miami, two games to none.
Jackson was pleased with his team’s performance on the weekend. “When you get to the playoffs it’s a matter of teamwork and discipline. Goaltending and special teams are huge in this environment and as long as we are strong in those areas, we will be okay and have a shot at doing something,” said Jackson following the game. “There’s still a long way to go. I’m just glad these kids are going to get the opportunity to play in Detroit and it will be a great experience for all of us.”
For the second night in a row, the Irish scored twice on the power play and on Saturday, they got both in a span of 1:23.
Thang scored the first goal of the night at 17:19 of the opening period when he jumped on the rebound of a Deeth shot from the left point and deposited it behind Alaska goaltender Wylie Rogers. The goal was his 18th of the season and ninth on the power play.
The Irish would strike again at 18:42 of the first with O’Neill getting his second goal in as many nights. After moving the puck from the right point to Noah Babin on the left side, O’Neill moved towards the goal while Justin White took his spot at the right point. Babin returned the puck to White who passed it to O’Neill at the bottom of the right circle. O’Neill returned it to White and moved toward the front of the goal. White fired a low shot on goal that O’Neill deflected over Rogers for his second goal of the season and the eventual game winner.
“That’s something we do, me going through to the net,” explained O’Neill. “Whitey (Justin White) made a really good play. He faked the defender and got the shot through and I was lucky enough to get my stick on the puck and it went in.”
The score would stay 2-0 until the 10:20 mark of the second period when the Nanooks scored off a scramble in front of Brown.
Kyle Greentree fired the initial shot that Brown stopped. Dion Knelsen tried to jam the rebound in but the puck squirted away to Naglich who fired the rebound past Brown for his sixth goal of the season.
The Nanooks pressured Brown through the first 40 minutes, firing 20 shots on the Hobey Baker candidate.
“We knew coming into the game tonight what we had to do,” said Brown. “We knew they weren’t going to just roll over and die and we had to be sharp all the way through the lineup. I was just glad that I was able to do my job.”
Notre Dame would close out the game’s scoring at 14:47 of the second period on Deeth’s 17th goal of the season. The freshman center deflected a Tom Sawatske shot from the right point past Rogers to make the game 3-1.
After giving up 20 shots in the first two periods, the Notre Dame defense clamped down in the third, limiting Alaska to just two shots in the final period.
“The defense was phenomenal. It’s been that way all year long,” said Brown. “The guys were amazing, clearing out in front. The forwards were coming back and back checking, picking up sticks, clearing lanes for me to see the puck. That made my job that much easier.”
Notre Dame finished the night out shooting Alaska by a 33-22 margin. Rogers finished with 30 saves for the Nanooks.
Now Jackson and his Irish have to get ready for their next challenge – Lake Superior State.
“At this time of the year, there is a reason why Lake Superior State has gone 4-0 in the playoffs. If anyone wants to play them, they aren’t very intelligent,” said Jackson.
“They just knocked off a very good Miami team and beat Ferris State who beat us a few weeks back. You certainly don’t take a team lightly that’s gone 4-0 and beaten the third seed. They are hot too. They have a very good goaltender and a good coaching staff and they have a very good defensive team. They play a unique style that’s tough to play against.”
** Notre Dame’s sellout crowd of 2,763 was the eighth in a row and the 10th in the last 11 games for the Irish. The Irish have recorded 11 sellouts this season in 16 home games.
** The Irish finished the 2006-07 season with a 13-2-2 record at the Joyce Center.
** Notre Dame was 4-for-16 on the power play on the weekend against Alaska. Defensemen scored four of the 10 goals scored by the Irish on the weekend.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 - FAlaska (11-22-6) 0 1 0 - 1#1/#1 Notre Dame (29-6-3) 2 1 0 - 3
Penalties: Alaska: 2 for 4 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Penalties: Alaska: 2 for 4 minutes; ND: 4 for 8 minutes.
Third Period: No Scoring.
Penalties: Alaska: 4 for 8 minutes; ND: 3 for 6 minutes.
Shots On Goal:Alaska 9 - 11 - 2 - 22Notre Dame 12 - 14 - 7 - 33
Goaltender Saves:Alaska - Wylie Rogers (57:31) 10 - 13 - 7 - 27ND - David Brown (59:48) 9 - 10 - 2 - 21
Power Plays:Alaska: 1 for 6ND: 2 for 6
Attendance: 2,763 (sellout)