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Irish saddle Broncos for first league victory

Justin Schuver | Monday, November 15, 2004

The Irish bucked a pair of dubious streaks against the Broncos this weekend.

First, the Irish picked up their first point on the road this season, tying Western Michigan 2-2 Friday night. Then, Notre Dame (2-5-4, 1-4-3 in the CCHA) won its first road game and CCHA game of the year, knocking off the Broncos 3-2 Saturday.

“It was especially nice to do well on the road in a building where we haven’t played well as of late,” Irish coach Dave Poulin said since his team lost both road games against Western Michigan last season. “I think it added a bit to the rivalry we’ve got going on with them. It was really good to pick up that first win in the conference.”

With its win Saturday, Notre Dame also broke a five-game winless streak (0-2-3) dating back to a 3-2 win over Boston College on Oct. 22.

An especially encouraging sign for Poulin was the play of both his goalies, each of whom had struggled at times during the season. Senior Morgan Cey started Saturday, making 38 of 40 saves in the win, while sophomore David Brown got the call in net Friday, stopping 28 of 30 Bronco shots.

“Both of our goalies have been good on occasion, but they’d never really both played well on the same weekend until this weekend,” Poulin said. “We have very high expectations for our goalies, because they’ve had so much success before.

“But [Brown and Cey] put a lot of expectations on themselves, as well.”

The Irish had difficulty getting started Friday night, falling behind 1-0 after the first period after being outshot 17-10. Mike Erickson picked up a loose puck and poked it past Brown at 4:51 of the first period.

Neither team scored in the second, and it didn’t take long for the Broncos to add to their lead, with Erickson scoring his second goal of the game just 1:06 into the frame.

All that goal did was get the Irish going.

Notre Dame’s Noah Babin broke through on Bronco goalie Dan Bellissimo at 4:56 of the period, flipping a wrist shot past Bellissimo’s glove for Babin’s second career goal.

It was freshman forward Evan Rankin who picked up the equalizer off a three-on-one rush just three minutes later. Rankin used Tim Wallace and Brock Sheahan as decoys and slapped a hard shot from the right circle past Bellissimo. It was Rankin’s second-straight game with a goal.

The tally was especially sweet for Rankin, who is from Portage, Mich., a suburb of Kalamazoo, Mich., and learned to skate at the Broncos’ Lawson Arena.

“It was an interesting weekend for Evan,” Poulin said. “He performed for us once again, even with the pressure of having to play in front of his hometown and at the arena where he grew up skating.

“[Rankin’s] energy is great; his goal-scoring habits are what really make him a great player – things like keeping his stick on the ice, stopping in front of the goal for deflections – that’s the sort of things that make him stand out.”

Saturday the Irish got off to a quick start, with Mike Walsh and Rankin assisting on Cory McLean’s third goal of the season at 6:18 of the first period.

Each team scored twice in the second period. On an Irish power play, defenseman Wes O’Neill scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season at 5:01.

Western Michigan’s Brian Bicek scored two goals for the Broncos to tie the game at two apiece, but forward T.J. Jindra scored the game-winner with just 33.3 seconds in the second period.

Sheahan threw a cross-rink pass to Jindra at the Bronco blue line, and the sophomore forward skated in and fired a wrist shot from the slot to beat Bellissimo. Cey then closed out the Broncos in the third.

“The second and third periods Saturday were about the best hockey we’ve played all season,” Poulin said. “Even though they tied it up in the second, we knew that we had the energy and were going to come away with it.”

The Irish will face the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 team in an annual exhibition Friday.

NOTRE DAME 1 2 0 3

Western Michigan 0 2 0 2


First Period

ND – Cory McLean (Mike Walsh, Rankin), 6:18.

Second Period

ND – Wes O’Neill (T.J. Jindra, Mark Van Guilder), 5:01 PP; WMU – Brian Bicek (Nathan Ansell, Pat Dwyer), 15:34 PP; WMU – Bicek (Dwyer, Paul Szczechura), 18:14; ND – Jindra (Jason Paige, Brock Sheahan), 19:26.

Third Period

No scoring.

Shots on goal: Notre Dame 40, Western Michigan 24. Power plays: Notre Dame 1-of-1, Western Michigan 1-of-5. Goalies: Morgan Cey 38 saves out of 40 shots (ND), Daniel Bellissimo 21 saves out of 24 shots (WMU)