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Hockey: Irish beat U-18 team in OT

Kyle Cassily | Monday, February 4, 2008

It was a nostalgic game for one person and an introduction for others.

No. 8 Notre Dame defeated the U.S. National Under-18 team 2-1 in overtime Friday night in an exhibition game. It was the first time Irish coach Jeff Jackson coached against the program he forged a decade ago, and it was the first time three future Irish players laced up skates in the Joyce Center.

Jackson was the first coach of the National Development Program team, which he led in 1997 to a silver medal in the World Junior championships. It was the best finish by a U.S. team in the tournament ever.

Jackson said he was struck by memories of his time running the national team during the national anthem, even more strongly than when he first coached against Lake Superior State – the team with which he won three national championships.

“When I was in the NHL walking around rinks and every team had graduates from that program, that makes me proud,” he said. “So many kids have come from that program that have helped Notre Dame and helped a lot of college hockey programs. Those kids come in much more complete to play.”

Sean Lorenz, Patrick Gaul and Kyle Palmieri – three U.S. national players – had the chance to play against their future team. Lorenz and Gaul will join the Irish as a defenseman and forward, respectively, next season, while Palmieri will enroll in the fall of 2009.

Lorenz said there was a little trash talk between himself and former national players, such as freshmen defensemen Ian Cole and Teddy Ruth.

“The guys are great on the ice, off the ice,” Lorenz said of his future teammates. “You can’t go wrong with that group of guys.”

Gaul had family who went to Notre Dame and said the Irish coaching staff was the main reason he gave his verbal commitment to the Irish, a reason echoed by Lorenz as well.

“They’re not an easy team to play against,” Gaul said of the Irish. “I’m happy I’m going to be on the other side of that meeting next year.”

Irish senior Evan Rankin scored the winning goal 2:24 into overtime when he beat U.S. goalie Joe Cannata from the bottom of the right circle.

“They tried to catch our guys off guard because they don’t think we’re not going to come out as serious,” said Irish goalie Brad Phillips, who made 10 saves in his two periods of work.

Sophomore goalie Tom O’Brien played in his first collegiate game when Jackson put him in net for the third period, while the game was tied 1-1. O’Brien wasn’t told at any point during the week that there was a chance for him to enter the game, and he had to pop a couple Tums to settle his nerves.

“I had no idea,” said O’Brien, who made seven saves in the third period, allowed no goals and earned the win. “[Jackson] came in after the second period and he points at my helmet and is like, ‘Are you ready?’

“Uhhh, I guess,” O’Brien joked.

The Under-18s scored first 15 minutes into the first period to take the 1-0 lead. Vinny Saponari, a Boston University commit, sent a one-timer into the top shelf over Phillips’ shoulder off a pass from Ryan Bourque, son of former NHL star Ray Bourque. Bourque has committed to the University of New Hampshire, the school that the top U.S. national player and second overall draft pick last year, James van Riemsdyk, now attends.

The Irish tied the game 1-1 three minutes later in the first when a wide shot took a large bounce off the boards back to the front of the U.S. net. Irish left wing Garrett Regan picked up the carom and slid it into the net.

“I knew that by playing these guys it would be a high tempo game because they are extremely fast,” Jackson said. “And by playing a team like that, they’re not overly physical to where it’s going to put us in a position to get injured.”