Jan. 15, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Sophomore goaltender Mike Johnson stopped 34-of-35 Alaska shots and got goals from Anders Lee and Nick Larson as Notre Dame held off the Nanooks for a 2-1 win in front of a sell-out crowd of 2,857 at the Joyce Center.
Johnson was 23 seconds away from his first shutout of the season when Alaska’s Aaron Gens was able to bang a centering pass behind him with the Nanooks playing with a sixth attacker.
The Irish victory gives Notre Dame a three-game winning streak and four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) since Jan. 2 and improves the overall record to 15-7-3. The Irish go to 12-4-1-1 in the CCHA, good for 38 points and a four-point lead on second-place Michigan and an eight-point lead on third-place Miami. Alaska falls to 9-8-4 overall and 6-7-4-2 in conference play.
“I thought Alaska played a very good game tonight,” said Irish coach Jeff Jackson.
“They won a lot of battles and they were strong on the walls. Their forecheck was aggressive and their defensemen were coming down on us. We were not making good plays with the puck, but they were pressuring us, so you have to give them their due too.”
After a scoreless first period that saw Alaska out shoot the Irish, 13-8, Notre Dame broke through with their own secret weapon – the short-handed goal.
With Riley Sheahan off for roughing at 14:31, the Nanooks went on the power play only to see Lee give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead at 15:16 with his first short-handed goal of the season and 14th goal overall.
“We just sent the puck out to the point and their guy tried to keep it in,” explained Guentzel, who had a pair of assists on the night.
“I just batted it out of the air and got around the guy and then I looked ahead to the 2-on-1. I just waited for a seam and passed the puck then watched Anders (Lee) put it away.”
For Notre Dame, the short-handed goal was the 12th of the season, a mark that leads the nation and is the second-highest total in the program’s 43-year history. The 1981-82 team scored 19 short-handed goals. Lee became the ninth Irish player to score short-handed this season.
“We’ve had success short-handed but you have to be careful because we have to kill the penalty first,” said Jackson.
“Sometimes, we cheated a little too much. We are thinking shorties. Part of it is our defensemen are jumping and creating some odd-man rushes and the guys we’ve had out there have been finishing.”
Johnson protected the one-goal lead through the second and into the third period with Alaska taking a commanding lead in shots before the Irish converted a Nanook turnover to take a 2-0 lead at 18:45 of the third period.
Senior Ben Ryan forced an errant pass from behind the Alaska net that Guentzel picked up inside the blue line. The senior right wing found left wing Nick Larson on the right side of the goal and he outwaited Nanook goaltender Scott Greenham before depositing it behind him for his career-best seventh goal of the season and his second game winner of the year.
With 1:07 left on the clock, Alaska took a timeout and pulled Greenham in favor of a sixth attacker and it paid off as the Nanooks were able to beat Johnson with 23 seconds left as Gens took a feed from behind the net from Jarret Granberg and fired a shot from in front that deflected off an Irish defender and popped over Johnson for his second goal of the season at 19:37, making it a 2-1 game.
“Unfortunately Mike didn’t get the shutout because I thought he deserved it,” said Jackson.
“We left the net front open with a guy behind the net. That’s unacceptable. I didn’t like the way we played in some portions of the game leaving him (Johnson) out to dry, but he came up with the saves.
The Irish were able to kill off the final 23 seconds to pick up the win. For the second game in a row, Notre Dame was out shot by its opponent, this time the Nanooks had a 35-22 advantage. That marks just the fifth time this season that the Irish have been out shot in a game and they are now 2-2-1 in those games.
Greenham finished the night with 20 saves to Johnson’s 34.
“We didn’t play our best tonight, but at this time of the year, you just have to find a way to win the game,” said Guentzel.
“In the playoffs it doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win. We’ve been scoring a lot of goals this season so it’s nice to know that we can win a 2-1 game.”
Notre Dame and Alaska will meet in game two of the series on Saturday night with face off at the Joyce Center set for 7:05 p.m.
** IRISH NOTES **
* With his assist on Anders Lee’s short-handed goal, sophomore defenseman Sam Calabrese extended his career-best point streak to six games. He now has four goals and three assists for seven points since December 29.
* Since the start of the 2006-07 season, Notre Dame is 11-1-1 versus Alaska. The Irish have now won seven straight against Alaska at the Joyce Center since the 2006-07 season. The last time the Nanooks won at Notre Dame was March 4, 2006, a 1-0 win in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 - F#20 Alaska (9-8-4/6-7-4-4) 0 0 1 - 1#8/#8 Notre Dame (15-7-3/12-4-1-1) 0 1 1 - 2
First Period: No Scoring.
Penalties: UAF: 1 for 2 minutes; ND: 0 for 0 minutes.
Penalties: UAF: 1 for 2 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Third Period: ND: Aaron Gens 2 (Jarret Granberg, Colton Beck), EX, 19:37.
Penalties: UAF: 0 for 0 minutes; ND: 2 for 4 minutes.
Shots On Goal:Alaska 13 - 9 - 13 - 35Notre Dame 8 - 10 - 4 - 22
Goaltender Saves:UAF: Scott Greenham (58:53) 8 - 9 - 3 - 20ND: Mike Johnson (60:00) 13 - 9 - 12 - 34
Power Plays:UAF: 0 for 3ND: 0 for 2
Attendance: 2,857 (sellout)