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20 and counting

Dan Murphy | Monday, January 19, 2009

No. 1 Notre Dame needed two comebacks and a shootout to do it, but the Irish stretched their unbeaten streak to an even 20 games this weekend against Lake Superior State.

After a 3-2 win Friday night, Notre Dame (19-3-3) found itself in a two-goal hole in the first period. The Irish came from behind twice to force overtime and eventually won 2-1 in a shootout.

The Irish pick up two points for the shootout victory in the CCHA but the NCAA officially counts it as a tie because the CCHA is the only league that currently has shootouts.

“Our league is being proactive and trying to eliminate ties from the game, just to try to create a situation where it will work in the future,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said.

Jackson said that he was pleased with his team’s comeback effort Saturday.

“That’s the sign of a little bit of a more mature team just in the fact that our guys don’t panic when we don’t score first or when we fall behind,” he said.

The Lakers also struck first on Friday night when Will Acton scored 10 minutes into the game. The Irish quickly bounced back with goals from senior Justin White, sophomore Calle Ridderwall and junior Christiaan Minella to secure a win.

The last time Notre Dame trailed by more than a goal was Oct. 25 to Miami – the last game they lost.

After the Lakers’ Steven Kaunisto and Chad Nehring scored early in the first period, the Irish began to mount a comeback. Sophomore Ben Ryan scored his seventh goal of the season with two and a half minutes left in the period to pull the Irish within one.

Senior captain Erik Condra tied the game at the start of the second with a shorthanded goal. Condra went coast-to-coast, split a pair of defenders and then snuck a shot past LSSU goalie Pat Inglis for his second shorthander of the season.

Lake Superior took the lead one more time before Kevin Deeth and the Irish powerplay tied the game for good midway through the second period.

After scoreless third and overtime periods, young guns Billy Maday and Calle Ridderwall scored in the shootout and Pearce was able to stop all but one Laker attempt. For the 20th time in a row, the Irish left the rink on top.

“It’s not really about the streak,” Jackson said. “It’s about each game having its own importance and we really try to focus on the day-to-day process and not the results.”

Jackson knows from experience that a mid-season streak does not mean much when it comes to crunch time. While coaching for Lake Superior State in 1991, he led his team to a 28-game streak in the regular season only to see them lose in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s going to end at some point,” he said.

Notre Dame will have its hands full in the weeks to come. After a one-week hiatus the Irish will play a home-and-home series with No. 6 Michigan.

The team will use the week off to heal up the usual bumps and bruises and focus on some parts of their game that have been lacking. Jackson said he hopes to strengthen his team’s play around the net on offense and defense.

“Just working on winning those one on one battles at both nets really,” he said. “Those are things we can spend a little more time on this week. Driving to the net more because we haven’t been scoring a lot of goals over the last several games.”

Notre Dame has been able to to knock off team after team with good defense and solid goaltending from senior Jordan Pearce, but the Irish will need some extra firepower to keep their streak alive.