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HOCKEY: Can anything else go wrong?

Justin Schuver | Monday, February 14, 2005

About the only thing missing from this season is a black cat running across the ice during an intermission.The latest episode in a snake-bitten year took place in Friday night’s game against Ferris State, with the Irish and Bulldogs knotted at three goals apiece late. Irish defenseman Luke Lucyk was whistled for hooking with 6 minutes left in the period and Notre Dame trying desperately to hold on to its momentum after coming back from a 3-1 deficit earlier in the game.If the Irish could kill the penalty, it would give a boost to the team and give them momentum heading down the final minutes of the contest. Not only did Notre Dame kill the penalty, but it didn’t even allow Ferris State’s offense a look at Irish goalie Morgan Cey.And 13 seconds after killing Lucyk’s minor, Ferris State was slapped with a penalty of its own – a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Sensing a perfect time to rally his troops, Irish coach Dave Poulin called his team’s only timeout.”I just wanted everyone to get a breather,” he said. “Our power plays are all for different lines, and we took the timeout so that each line would be able to catch its breath.”The hockey gods finally seemed to shine on Notre Dame following the timeout, as Ferris State forward Derek Nesbitt was whistled for hooking at 17:43, giving the Irish a 5-on-3 advantage. But things started to go wrong for the Irish from the very beginning. Forward Mike Walsh jammed his finger against the boards and had to stay on the bench, then forward Mark Van Guilder had trouble with his skate and had to retreat to the bench to re-lace it.Even with their lines jumbled, the Irish were still able to get several chances on Bulldog goalie Derek MacIntyre. But none of those chances were as close as when Irish forward Evan Rankin managed to get off a hard shot from point-blank range that MacIntyre was able to swat away.Focused entirely on getting the go-ahead goal and their first win in 13 games, the Irish weren’t able to get back in time after Ferris State’s Adam Welch took the puck down the ice on a 3-on-2 rush.For Irish fans who have watched this team all season, what happened next shouldn’t have been a surprise.Welch skated down the left side and made a quick pass across the ice to Matt Verdone, who broke the hearts of the Notre Dame faithful with a quick wrister that beat Cey with just 53 seconds remaining.Notre Dame did everything right in this game – they scored two power play goals; they came back from a two-goal deficit; Cey came up with big saves at big moments – but once again, as has happened 21 times already this season, the Irish ended up in the losing column.Following the game, Poulin was speechless as he tried to explain what had just happened to his team.”A shorthanded goal with less than a minute left … I just can’t explain that,” he said.This time last year, the Irish were getting excited about the prospects of making the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Now, they’re trying to avoid finishing the year with the worst record in the program’s history.Now that’s something hard to explain.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.Contact Justin Schuver at jschuver@nd.edu.