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Hockey: No. 5 Irish sweep No. 7 Michigan in home-and-home series

Kyle Cassily | Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Notre Dame left wing Garrett Regan asked Irish associate head coach Paul Pooley for a chance to be on one of the power play units and was given a shot – a shot the Irish didn’t regret Sunday at home against Michigan.

Regan scored twice – once on the power play – to defeat the No. 7 Wolverines 4-3 in a third-period comeback, two days after the Irish drubbed Michigan 7-3 at Yost Ice Arena.

“I’m really happy for [Regan],” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said. “There’s a kid that was expected to be a fourth line guy when he got here, and I think he’s worked his way into a much bigger role.

“Our power play wasn’t working very well, and we decided to put [Regan] on one of the two units, and all of a sudden our power play is working again. So he obviously he brings some things to the table.”

The Irish power play was effective and deadly – a label it has struggled to earn all season – scoring three goals on seven chances Sunday, for five power play goals in the two-game series.

“When you look at the score, they got three and we got none on the power play – it’s the difference in the game,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.

It was the second consecutive weekend sweep of a ranked team for the No. 5 Irish (14-3-1, 9-2-1 CCHA), who took two games from No. 14 Alaska last weekend. The Wolverines (12-7-0, 8-5-0) dropped out of second place in the CCHA and three points behind Notre Dame with the two losses, while the Irish vaulted into the Wolverine’s place – two points behind league-leading Miami – and maintained an immaculate home record (7-0) at the completion of the first half of the season.

“If you had asked me at the beginning of the season, I would have never thought that we would be where we are,” Jackson said. “All the credit goes to the kids. The senior class has done a great job in making sure that the ghosts of the past disappear.”

And the Irish eradicated the ghosts of their first two periods of play Sunday with a two-goal third period to rally back from a 3-2 deficit for the win.

Left wing Ryan Thang tied the game at 3-3 with a one-timer at 7: 13 and was followed :30 later with Regan’s even-strength goal for the 4-3 final.

Thang was camped on the left side of the net without a Wolverine defender in reach when center Kevin Deeth redirected a pass through Michigan goalie Billy Sauer’s crease from the right side. The pass caught Sauer frozen on the opposite side and Thang rocketed a shot into the open twine.

The goal came a short time after Thang was stonewalled on a breakaway by Sauer, who smothered Thang’s quick move to the right with a diving save.

“It took a little weight off my shoulders to finally get that one and finally get some momentum for our guys,” Thang said. “And to get the band and the fans back into it was great.”

Regan gave the Irish their first lead of the game – and one that would stick – when he rushed up the right side of the sheet off a deep breakout pass from Mark Van Guilder, deked left, then right and backhanded the puck over Sauer for the goal and the win.

“Everyone’s just clicking really well together,” Thang said. “We’re coming at them with four lines, and some of these other teams have really good first two lines, then their third and fourth lines can’t really keep up with our four lines because we really don’t have, necessarily, a third and fourth line.”

Irish goalie Dave Brown rallied from a lackluster two-period performance with several saves that kept Notre Dame in the game in the third period and finished the night with 25 saves.

Brown surrendered the first goal of the game to Wolverines right wing Travis Turnbull only :42 into the first period. Center Chad Kolarik dumped the puck into the front of the net from the corner, deflecting off Brown down and to his right side. Brown looked for the puck still in the corner, while Turnbull crashed the net and buried the lost puck for the 1-0 lead.

“I was nervous with the game, because obviously it was David Brown’s probably weakest game of the season,” Jackson said.

“I told our guys, ‘[Brown’s] won games for us all season long. It’s time that we step up for him.’ He knew he wasn’t having a great night, and yet I challenged him too. I said, ‘You don’t give up anything else, and we will win this game.’ And he did that.”

The Irish tied the game on the power play at 13:26 in the same period on a goal from defenseman Kyle Lawson. Right wing Erik Condra corralled the cycled puck in the right corner and shipped a quick pass to Lawson on top of the right circle. Lawson slapped a one-timer past Lawson’s glove side.

The Wolverines, however, answered minutes later and took the 2-1 lead at 16:08 on a backhander from left wing Kevin Porter. Porter received a pass deflected off the left-side glass in the high right slot from Turnbull, waited until Brown dropped into his butterfly stance and backhanded the puck over his right pad.

The two teams exchanged second period goals to put the score at 3-2 during the second intermission.

Immediately after leaving the penalty box, Regan roofed a loose puck in front of the net on an Irish five-on-three to tie the game at 7:45 into the period.

“I pressed on the power play when I came out of the box,” Regan said. “Just kind of screened in front, Van Guilder got a good shot to the net, luckily it was just sitting there, and I pulled it out of there and backhanded it into the net.”

Wolverines defenseman Mark Mitera put Michigan back in the lead at 3-2 at 19:37 with a shot from the left point that went through a screened Brown.

“A lot of those players have never played on a .500 team,” Berenson said of the Irish. “So this is inspirational for them to get off to such a good start, and then the coaching staff [is] doing a great job.”