March 13, 1999

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Junior right wing J.P. Vigier scored just 13 seconds into the game and senior center Buddy Smith scored a pivotal power-play goal for a 3-1 lead midway through the second period, as visiting Northern Michigan ran away from Notre Dame, 7-1, evening their best-of-three Central Collegiate Hockey Association quarterfinal series Saturday night at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.

The teams will meet again on Sunday night at 7:00 p.m., with the winner advancing to Joe Louis Arena for a CCHA semi-final matchup on March 19 versus regular-season champion Michigan State.

Northern Michigan (20-13-5) posted its first win over the Irish since rejoining the CCHA prior to the 1997-98 season, with Notre Dame owning a 5-0-2 edge in the previous seven meetings. NMU sophomore Dan Ragusett was solid in the nets, making 26 saves while helping stop all five Irish power-play chances.

One night after setting the CCHA record for fewest combined penalty minutes (8:00), Notre Dame and NMU combined for 77 penalty minutes in Saturday’s emotional action, including 45:00 for the frustrated Irish.

Notre Dame (19-13-5) cut NMU’s lead to 2-1 early in the second, on the 18th goal of the season from junior center Ben Simon, but Ragusett stopped the final 15 Irish shots. Notre Dame lost at home for just the second time this season in 17 home games (12-2-3).

For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame has been extended to a third quarterfinal game after winning the opener. The Irish opener their 1998 playoff series at Michigan with a 4-3 win before suffering a tough 2-1 loss in the 19th minute of overtime in game twoa result that stands in stark contrast to Saturday’s lopsided defeat.

The loss represents Notre Dame’s largest margin of defeat at home in the four-year tenure of head coach Dave Poulin and is the biggest Irish home loss since Michigan won 9-3 at the Joyce Center on Jan. 21, 1995. The last time Notre Dame lost to a CCHA opponent by six-plus goals came in an 8-2 loss at Bowling Green on Feb. 24, 1996.

The game took a decisive swing during the midpoint of the second period, when the Irish nearly tied the game only to see NMU surge ahead, 3-1. Notre Dame’s chance came as the clock was ticking under 10:00, with sophomore left wing Dan Carlson crossing the puck to an open senior defenseman Benoit Cotnoir at the right circle. Cotnoir skated in on Ragusett, who was hugging the near post before sliding a pass to lefthanded freshman center Brett Henning. Henning was in perfect position to tap the puck into the net but his shot angled towards the left post and clanged back out into play at a 45-degree angle.

Three minutes later, NMU capitalized on a high-sticking penalty by freshman center David Inman for a 3-1 lead. Ragusett played the puck behind his own net for Smith, who skated off to the left and slid into the center near mid-ice before splitting junior defensemen Nathan Borega and Tyson Fraser. The righthanded Smith then let go a shot from the right circle that kicked off the glovehand of senior goaltender Forrest Karr before settling into the back of the net (13:30) for Smith’s ninth goal of the season.

Vigier opened the scoring with his 18th goal of the season, after picking off Simon’s clearing attempt and beating Karr from the right circle with a hard, rising slapshot to the glove side (00:13). Freshman defenseman Sean Connolly then scored his second goal of the season, on an awkward backhanded shot from the top of the slot. Inman tried to lift the puck out of the right corner but the righthanded Connolly caught the puck and dropped it to his left before shoveling a backhander that had Karr guessing wrongly to his stick side, with sophomore right wing Fred Mattersdorfer provided some distraction at the top of the crease (12:14).

Simon set up his own goal early in the second period, after pushing a rightside faceoff past the NMU endline. Connolly tried to drive the puck around the back boards but Irish senior right wing Brian Urick was waiting on the far side. Urick quickly one-timed a pass to the endline for sophomore left wing Jay Kopischke, who redirected the puck to Simon in the left circle. Simon wasted little time, sending a low shot inside the far right post for a 2-1 game (2:13).

After Smith’s goal, junior left wing Bryan Phillips scored his first of two goals in the game. Freshman center Chad Theuer set up the goal with a pass from behind the net and Phillips lifted the puck over Karr for a 4-1 cushion (15:55).

The Wildcats tacked on three goals in the final period. Mattersdorfer recorded his ninth goal of the season at the 2:27 mark, knocking home a pass from behind the net by junior left wing Roger Trudeau. Vigier then took over the NMU scoring lead with his 19th goal of the season, converting a 2-on-1 break with Smith at the 7:34 mark. Phillips capped the scoring with his 13th goal of the season, at 12:45, taking a breakout pass from Mattersdorfer between sending a shot between the legs of Irish freshman Jeremiah Kimento, who played the final 12-plus minutes.

OTHER ACTION: Each of the three other home teams closed out their CCHA series, with MSU topping Lake Superior (4-0), Michigan routing Bowling Green (9-3) and Ohio State topping Ferris State (3-1) MSU will play in the 5:00 p.m. semi-final while OSU and Michigan will meet at 8:30 three teams have advanced to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association “final five”: No. 2 seed Colorado College (3-1, 5-4 over Minn.-Duluth), No. 3 seed Denver (2-1, 4-2 over Mich. Tech) and No. 5 seed Minnesota (4-0, 1-0 over Alaska-Anchorage Minn.-Mankato won 3-2 at WCHA No. 1 seed North Dakota on Friday but the Sioux won 3-2 on Saturday to force a third game the WCHA’s No. 7 seed St. Cloud State won its first game with No. 4 seed Wisconsin, 5-2 on Saturday three teams advanced in the Hockey East postseason tournament: No. 1 seed New Hampshire (3-2, 5-4 over Merrimack), No. 2 seed Maine (3-1, 5-2 over UMass) and No. 3 seed Boston College (5-0, 5-4 over UMass-Lowell) Hockey East’s No. 4 seed Providence won 8-2 over Boston University on Friday but BU won by the same score Saturday, forcing a third game the East Coast Athletic Conference has seen four teams advance in its “three-point series” format: No. 1 seed Clarkson (3-2, 3-1 over Brown), No. 2 seed St. Lawrence (9-2, 4-1 over Vermont), No. 4 seed Princeton (4-4, 6-5 over Cornell) and No. 6 seed Colgate (5-1, 7-2 over Yale) the ECAC’s No. 3 seed Rensselaer lost 2-1 to Harvard on Friday but beat the Crimson 4-0 on Saturday to force a decisive third game.

NORTHERN MICHIGAN (20-13-5)     1    1    0    -    2NOTRE DAME (19-13-5)            2    0    1    -    3

1ST: NMU 1. Vigier 18 (unassisted) 00:13; NMU 2. Connolly 12 (unassisted) 12:14; 2ND: ND 1. Simon 18 (Kopischke, Urick) 2:13; NMU 3. Smith 9 (Ragusett), PP, 13:39; NMU 4. Phillips 12 (Theuer, Connolly) 15:55; 3RD: NMU 5. Mattersdorfer 9 (Trudeau, Theuer) 2:27; NMU 6. Vigier 19 (Smith, Ruff); NMU 7. Phillips (Mattersdorfer) 12:45.

SHOTS: NMU 12-14-9/35; ND 9-9-9/27.

SAVES: NMU (Ragusett) 9-8-9/26; ND (Karr) 10-12-1/23; (Kimento) 0-0-5/5.

POWER PLAY: ND 0-for-5, NMU 1-for-5.

PENALTIES: NMU 8 for 32:00, ND 9 for 45:00.