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HOCKEY: Icers win thrilling 4-3 game

Kyle Cassily | Monday, January 23, 2006

A month removed from the last time he manned the pipes in a game and two months since his last win, Irish goalie Jordan Pearce came off the bench to spur on the Irish in a comeback Notre Dame victory.

After the Irish fell behind 3-1 at 6:38 of the second period in Saturday’s matchup with Northern Michigan, Irish head coach Jeff Jackson called a time out for his team to regain its composure and to make a personnel change. Jackson ordered Pearce to get his gear ready and replace starter Dave Brown in net.

The freshman, who last played on Dec. 3 against Western Michigan and had not notched a win since Nov. 10 against Bowling Green, stopped all 14 shots faced as Notre Dame fought back to win the game 4-3 with third-period heroics.

“You always gotta in the back of your mind be ready, because you never know what’s going to happen,” Pearce said regarding the backup role. “It was tough, but when you go in there you just kind of help your team stop the bleeding and see where it goes from there. Just give the team a chance to get back in it, to give them hope.”

The Irish team that emerged from the Jackson-induced timeout did not take long to reduce the Wildcat lead. Senior Mike Walsh deflected a shot from Erik Condra into the net at 12:36 into the second to put the game at 3-2. Pearce deflected five Wildcat shots to close out the second period.

The Irish onslaught continued after the start of the third and the fatal blow was delivered at the 8:42 mark of the final period. Condra (goal, two assists) knocked in a rebound off a Noah Babin shot from the point to tie the game at 3-3. Only seconds later the Irish struck again.

The center ice faceoff was won by T.J. Jindra and drawn back to Brock Sheahan along the blue line. Sheahan dished the puck to Tom Sawatske on the left side and Sawatske drove up the ice before releasing a shot from the circle that blew past Wildcat goaltender Bill Zaniboni for the game-winning goal.

“Before the timeout we seemed to be playing as though we were kind of there,” Pearce said. “We were trying hard, but just going through the motions. After the timeout we started playing with more passion, with more heart.”

Irish forward Michael Bartlett was whistled for a five-minute major with 3:49 left in the game, and Notre Dame found itself fighting off a vicious Wildcat attack to close out the game. Pearce stopped three shots in the man-down situation to preserve the lead and complete his half-game shutout with 14 saves.

The come-from-behind victory marks the first time this season Notre Dame has won a game after trailing at the start of the third period, a 0-13-0 streak.

“We just believed the shots were going to go in when you get the chances,” Pearce said of the team’s attitude in the second half. “When you want something you drive for it. It was obvious we wanted to come back and win.”

The Irish scored first in the game when Mark Van Guilder scored on the power play at 10:13 of the first period from a sharp pass by Condra. Northern Michigan then went on a three-goal tear to take the 3-1 lead with a goal by Darin Olver in the first and two by Andy Contois in the second.

Northern Michigan 5, Notre Dame 2

The weekend came to a dramatic close for the Irish on Saturday night, but on Friday all the icers could do was to correct mistakes and come back strong in the encore.

Northern Michigan collected two second period goals after the first frame passed without a tally from either side. Patrick Murphy and Matt Siddall beat Irish goaltender Brown twice in the early minutes of the second on separate power play chances.

The Wildcats then collected two unanswered goals by Olver to take a commanding 4-0 lead before the Irish would make a statement.

It was too little, too late, however. Tim Wallace scored first at 12:03 of the third, followed by a Walsh goal at 17:44 in the period, but time ran out for the Irish.

Brown was pulled to put an extra attacker on the ice and Northern Michigan’s Olver capitalized to complete his hat trick – and the win – with an empty netter to seal the 5-2 final.

“When you play on the road it kind of magnifies your game,” Pearce said. “We were making strides in the right direction but we could still see there was a couple of mistakes. See what those mistakes are and kind of learn from them.”