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Hockey: Last-second leap

Kyle Cassily | Monday, February 12, 2007

Irish center Kevin Deeth took it to Nebraska-Omaha goaltender Jeremie Dupont, then he took it to the student section in the last seconds of Friday’s 4-2 win over the Mavericks at the Joyce Center.

Deeth capped a six-goal third period between the two teams with a backhand wraparound goal past Dupont with 10 seconds left in the game to give the Irish the 3-2 lead. It was Deeth’s second goal of the night, and the freshman celebrated by jumping into the glass in front of the Notre Dame student section, where he was mobbed by teammates.

“It’s kind of a joke on the team, something we always talk about doing,” Deeth said of the game-winning leap. “To quote [right wing linemate] Ryan Thang, he says ‘Taking it to the band.’ I kind of go a little bit more toward the student section, that’s what they’re there for – to see some goals.”

No. 1 Notre Dame (24-5-4, 18-3-3 CCHA) allowed Nebraska-Omaha to create some last-moment heroics of its own Saturday night when the Mavericks erased a 2-0 Irish lead with two goals in the last five minutes of the third period. The Mavericks (13-13-8, 10-10-4 CCHA) pressured throughout overtime in the second game, but the score ended tied 2-2. It was the fourth meeting between the two teams this season, with Notre Dame winning the series 2-1-1 after a split on the road in Omaha earlier in the year.

The tie will slow Notre Dame’s ability to clinch the CCHA regular-season title. The Irish need to take three points out of their next four games to eliminate third-place Michigan and fourth-place Michigan State from the race, while second-place Miami sits in front of the Michigan schools because it has played two more games to date. For the Mavericks, the tie was crucial as it allowed them to remain in a tie for fifth-place with Ohio State – and in position for a key first-round matchup against last-place Bowling Green.

“This is playoff hockey. That’s what usually happens this time of year,” Jackson said. “Everybody is playing passionate for positioning, and Nebraska did that.”

Until the third period of Friday’s 4-2 Irish win brought a deluge of goals, it appeared that both teams would grind the game into a 0-0 tie. The Irish clogged up the Mavericks in their own end with a conservative neutral-zone trap, while Nebraska-Omaha was content to tie up the middle of its own zone and keep Notre Dame to the boards and devoid of scoring chances from the slot.

But Deeth changed the tempo of the game when he banged home a rebound off a shot from defenseman Noah Babin only 1:46 into the third period for the 1-0 lead.

Nebraska-Omaha responded just over two minutes later with a one-timer from center Jeric Agosta past Irish goalie Dave Brown, who had not recovered from the initial save when Agosta slapped in the rebound. Mavericks right wing Dan Charleston gave his team the 2-1 lead at 4:52 into the third with a power-play goal.

It took the Irish another five minutes, but solid pressure in the Mavericks zone – and a power play after Nebraska-Omaha defenseman Eddie Del Grosso was whistled for hitting after the whistle – allowed Notre Dame to tie the game.

Irish center Justin White carried the puck to the right circle and took a low shot through the Mavericks defense that was redirected past Dupont at 11:02 to make it 2-2.

“It’s frustrating when you get a lot of chances and you can’t score,” White said. “But we knew we were taking it to them and we knew that throughout the year we’ve had a good third period, so we just went out there pretty confident.”

Deeth then buried the puck past Dupont with only seconds remaining after Thang’s forechecking down low opened up Deeth’s chance. Center T.J. Jindra added an empty-net goal with less than three seconds left for the 4-2 final.

“It’s been a different guy every night in games like this, and it was [Deeth’s] night,” Jackson said. “He took advantage of some good opportunities. What a way to win the game.”

On Saturday night, Charleston and Mavericks center Bryan Marshall did their best Deeth impression with two goals late in the third to erase the Irish lead and force a 2-2 tie after overtime.

Charleston took a shot that deflected off and over Brown’s shoulder and did a slow, end-over-end arc into the back of the net 15:48 into the third period to cut the Irish lead to 2-1. Marshall then skated into the low slot and beat Brown with a wrist shot to the low stick side with 1:43 left in the game to tie it.

“That’s a big tie for us,” Dupont said. “We knew that how close we were last night, we knew if we continued to play a full 60 minutes tonight, we’d have a good chance to have a good outcome.”

Babin got the Irish on the board first – and prevented a repeat of Friday’s scoreless first two periods – with his goal 4:23 into the first period. Right wing Christiaan Minella took a shot from the high slot that went wide right of the net, but deflected off the boards back to the front. The puck was swatted away by a Mavericks defenseman to the top of the right circle where Babin waited and ripped a shot past Dupont.

Irish right wing Erik Condra gave Notre Dame a 2-0 lead 4:44 into the third period when he roofed a loose puck into the open left side of the net.

The Mavericks struggled in the first period to generate any offense, getting their first shot of the game off with one second left in the period – a long dump-in from beyond the blue line that Brown easily handled.

“We weren’t getting much offense because [the Irish] were doing such a good job defensively against us in the first two periods,” Mavericks coach Mike Kemp said.

Brown stopped 34-of-38 shots faced during the weekend, while Dupont made 49 total saves.

u Notes:

A large portion of Section 6 of the Joyce Center – the Notre Dame student section – was roped off with yellow police tape for Saturday’s game, while ushers kept students from entering. A routine inspection of the bleachers after Friday’s game revealed that several rows of seats had been damaged following the late-game celebration, Assistant Sports Information Director Tim Connor said.