Dec. 30, 2006
Ft. Wayne, Ind. – For the second game in a row (although 20 days apart) Notre Dame put together a big third-period rally to pull out a win, this time taking a 4-3 win over Northern Michigan in front of 3,134 in an afternoon matinee at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Tom Sawatske, Christian Hanson (ppg) and Erik Condra each put pucks behind Wildcat goaltender Bill Zaniboni in the third period to wipe out a 2-1 deficit to give the Irish the win. The victory ran Notre Dame’s win streak to five straight games and moved them into a first-place tie in the CCHA with Miami. Both teams have 21 points with the Irish having a game in hand.
The third-ranked Irish are now 15-3-1 overall and 10-2-1 in the CCHA while Northern Michigan is 7-11-2 on the year and 4-8-1 in conference play. The two teams will meet again on New Years’ Eve, Sunday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. The game at the Joyce Center is sold out with limited standing room tickets available at the Gate 3 ticket window on Sunday.
“We didn’t play our best today,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “I’m sure the break had something to do with it, but Northern had the same break and they seemed to have a little more jump than we did early.”
For the Irish, Saturday’s game was the first since Dec. 10 and that was evident in the early play as the teams went over six minutes before finally getting the first shot on goal.
The opening goal went to Northern Michigan as freshman Ray Kaunisto got his first collegiate goal at 13:22 of the first period when he flipped the rebound of a Zach Tarkir shot behind Notre Dame goaltender David Brown to stake the Wildcats to a 1-0 lead. Brown stopped Tarkir’s shot from the right point but Kaunisto was parked in front and tucked the rebound home.
The Irish answered three minutes later when Mark Van Guilder rammed a shot from the high slot past Zaniboni at 16:22. Hanson made a nice play behind the net to feed Garrett Regan in the left wing circle. Regan’s shot was stopped but the rebound came to Van Guilder who picked up his team-high 12th goal of the year.
In the second period, Notre Dame dominated the play, outshooting Northern Michigan by a 17-8 margin but the Wildcats scored the lone goal.
Senior center Darin Olver led a Wildcat two-on-one into the Irish zone only to have his shot stopped by Brown. The rebound caromed right to Nick Sirota who tucked it past Brown at 6:07 of the middle period to give Northern Michigan a 2-1 lead. The goal was Sirota’s sixth of the season.
“We have to start playing an entire game. I don’t like trailing going into the third period,” said Jackson. “We were able to come back tonight, but we have to play better tomorrow (Sunday).”
The Irish found their legs in the third period and continued to put pressure on the Northern Michigan goal. Condra picked up a loose puck at center ice and fed Sawatske who carried into the Wildcat zone. The Irish defenseman tried to slide a pass to a streaking Kevin Deeth who was pulled down as he went to the goal. The puck deflected off a Northern defenseman’s stick past Zaniboni to tie the game at 2-2 at 4:01. The goal was credited to Sawatske and was his second of the season.
Less than two minutes later, Notre Dame struck again, this time on the power play as Hanson snapped a wrist shot past Zaniboni at 5:49 for his fifth of the season to give the Irish their first lead of the afternoon. Wes O’Neill started the play by sending the puck behind the NMU goal where Van Guilder took control and found Hanson all alone on the left side.
The lead lasted just 17 seconds as the Wildcats converted a Notre Dame turnover into the tying goal at 6:06. Defenseman Bobby Selden knocked down an Irish clearing attempt at the blue line and fed to freshman Jacques Lamoureax in the left wing circle. Lamoureaux fired a shot that snuck between the left post and Brown for his first collegiate goal.
The score would stay tied until the 13:57 mark when Deeth and Condra combined on a face-off play to beat Zaniboni for the game winner. Deeth won a face off to the right of the Wildcat goaltender with the puck going right to Condra who one-timed a shot from the hash mark to beat Zaniboni low to the ice. The goal was Condra’s career-high seventh of the season and second game winner.
“The goal was a play that we work on in practice,” said Condra. “Deeth did a nice job winning the draw right to me and I just shot it at the goal and it went in.”
From there, Brown and the Irish defense took over limiting the Wildcats to just six shots in the final period to pick up the win.
“I guess you could say that we were a little rusty early in the game,” said Condra. “We seemed to get things together in the third period and capitalized on some of our chances. We can’t be happy with the way we played though. We have to play better than that.”
** The Irish are 5-0-0 in the month of December.
** Saturday’s win moved Notre Dame into a tie for first place in the CCHA. This marks the latest the Irish have ever been in first place in the conference. Prior to this, the latest the Irish were ever in first was the week of Dec. 8, 2003 when they were 7-3-2 and tied for first with Ohio State with 16 points.
** The win at the Allen County Coliseum was the first for the Irish in their road home games over the past four years. The Irish have played twice at Allstate Arena in Chicago, losing twice and now twice in Ft. Wayne where they are 1-1.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 - FNorthern Michigan (7-11-2/4-8-1) 1 1 1 - 3Notre Dame (15-3-1/10-2-1) 1 0 3 - 4
Penalties: NMU: 2 for 4 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Second Period: NMU: Nick Sirota 6 (Darin Olver, Andrew Sarauer), 6:07.
Penalties: NMU: 2 for 4 minutes; ND: 2 for 4 minutes.
Penalties: NMU: 2 for 4 minutes; ND: 0 for 0 minutes.
Shots On Goal:Northern Michigan 8 - 8 - 6 - 22Notre Dame 7 - 17 - 11 - 35
Goaltender Saves:NMU - Bill Zaniboni (58:47) 6 - 17 - 8 - 31ND - David Brown (60:00) 7 - 7 - 5 - 19
Power Plays:NMU: 0 for 2ND: 1 for 6