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Hockey: Icers split with nation’s top squad

Kyle Cassily | Monday, November 12, 2007

Irish goalie Jordan Pearce turned away 64 shots from the nation’s most potent offense in two games this weekend, and No. 12 Notre Dame split a road series with No. 1 Miami (Ohio).

The Irish (7-4, 5-2 CCHA) delivered the RedHawks (9-1, 7-1 CCHA) their first loss of the season in a 2-1, 1-3 weekend split at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio. It was the second year in a row that Notre Dame has upset an unbeaten No. 1 team on the road, after the Irish obliterated Boston College 7-1 in October 2006.

“We’re making progress,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said of his young team. “I think we were out-chanced both nights. We have to do a better job of generating five-on-five scoring chances. Right now that’s my biggest concern.”

Two-and-a-half months after the Irish knocked off Boston College last season, they took over the No. 1 spot for the first time in school history. To date this season, Notre Dame has played five of its 11 games against top-15 opponents and has a 2-3 record in those contests. The team sits in third place in its conference, four points behind now one-loss Miami and two points behind one-loss Michigan.

But the early going this year has been slowed by a top-heavy schedule with several mid-week games that severely limited practice time for a team playing freshmen and sophomores up and down the lineup.

Pearce, a junior who is second in the nation in minutes played behind Michigan’s Billy Sauer, surrendered only four goals in two games to a Miami offense that has averaged five goals per game while missing its top goal-scorer from last season in senior Nathan Davis.

“I give Jordan Pearce a lot of credit,” Jackson said. “It’s the first time he’s played in that kind of game, and he handled it extremely well both nights.”

Davis scored Miami’s only goal in the RedHawks 2-1 loss Friday night in his first game back after he was injured in the season opener. The goal came in the second period and was the only puck Pearce allowed to go past him on 33 shots.

The Irish took a 2-0 lead in the first period on Christian Hanson’s second goal of the season and Dan Kissel’s first after missing time earlier in the season with a groin injury. Jackson called Kissel’s tally “a great second-effort goal,” after the sophomore took the puck out from a defender’s skates before he beat Miami goalie Jeff Zatkoff.

“We have to get production from our entire lineup,” Jackson said. “When we’re playing four lines, we’re a better team. I think that we have depth in our third and fourth line, where [those lines] can contribute.”

On Saturday night the Irish found themselves down 3-0 after two periods, and Zatkoff stopped 27 of Notre Dame’s 28 shots to split the series.

“Miami was not going to be beat twice,” Jackson said. “They played with a tremendous amount of energy. They were skating at full-throttle.”

The RedHawks’ Nino Musitelli and Tommy Wingels scored first-period goals, and Pat Cannone added a third in the second to take the three-goal lead. Irish right wing Evan Rankin cut the lead to 3-1 when he jammed a rebound past Zatkoff just over two minutes into the third period – and a period after he had to leave the bench to get stitches after a center-ice hit.

“[Steve Cady] is a loud building, so they got a lot of momentum from that,” Jackson said. “As time progressed, our defense got a little bit tired. I think that eventually they wore us down in certain parts of the game.”

The Irish will play a home-and-home series this weekend against Western Michigan. The first game will be played Friday night in the Joyce Center.