Hockey: Seniors finish with sweep
Matt Gamber and Sam Werner | Monday, March 2, 2009
Erik Condra’s senior night had pretty much everything. With a pair of goals, a shutout win, a picture with a big trophy and the opportunity to unfurl a championship banner, there really isn’t too much more he could have asked for.
“I’m excited,” the senior captain said after the game. “It’s an exciting thing being a senior and having a big ordeal.”
Notre Dame’s six seniors – Condra, goaltender Jordan Pearce, center Christian Hanson, defenseman Luke Lucyk, left wing Garrett Regan and center Justin White – were honored after Friday’s 5-0 win over Michigan State.
CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos also presented the team with the 2009 CCHA regular-season championship trophy, which the Irish clinched last weekend. At the end of the festivities, Condra flipped a switch that unveiled another CCHA regular season championship banner to the Joyce Center rafters.
“It’s about what we’re trying to build here,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “Banners create traditions, and the only way we’re going to build a tradition is after a long period of time.”
The Irish (26-5-3, 20-4-3-3 CCHA) wasted no time putting the game out of reach. Condra scored the first of four opening period goals just 1:48 into the game with a wrister over Spartan goalie Drew Palmisano’s blocker. Palmisano was starting in place of senior Jeff Lerg, who sat out due to injury.
“They had three guys in my lane, and I was just trying to get it past them.” Condra said. “I couldn’t see the net and I don’t think the goalie could see the puck.”
White doubled the lead at 9:41 of the period, and freshman Billy Maday got into the scoring act just eight minutes later, firing a blistering one-timer just under the crossbar on Palmisano’s stick side.
Condra closed out the period with his second goal of the night, and 12th of the season.
The score stayed 4-0 until the third period, when junior right wing Christiaan Minella added one more goal for good measure.
Pearce was rarely tested until the last two minutes of the game, when the Irish were killing a Patrick Gaul penalty.
“That power play at the end really made me work for it,” Pearce said.
The shutout was Pearce’s second in a row and 10th of his career. He said he wasn’t as active in this one as some others.
“You’re not facing as many shots so you’re not as into the game,” he said. “You’ve just got to try and stay ready and not fall asleep, I guess.”
After the game, the seniors reflected on a career that went from just 13 wins in their freshman year to strong national championship contenders four years later.
“As seniors, we look back and see what a wonderful career we had, but when we came in we had no idea,” Condra said. “They had just come off a terrible season. We had no idea we would do it this quickly.”
Pearce said that previous upperclassman paved the way for the success this team is experiencing.
“Good things will come if you work hard,” Pearce said. “And after all the work we put in over the past four years trying to change our culture, we’re starting to see the benefits.”
Pearce added that, while he enjoyed the senior night festivities, he planned to add a few more banners to the rafters before the end of the season.
“There’s a lot more to accomplish this year,” he said. “It’s nice to have this night, but there’s going to be a lot more special nights for us.”
Saturday’s 2-1 win at Michigan State wrapped up the regular season for the Irish and also marked the first time any of Notre Dame’s current seniors had won in East Lansing, Mich. The Irish hadn’t beaten the Spartans on their home ice since Feb. 9, 2002.
Condra and Hanson each scored for Notre Dame, and Pearce stopped 19 of 20 shots in a game the Irish dominated, outshooting Michigan State 37-20.
The Irish will now have a week off as the CCHA tournament begins this weekend. Notre Dame will host a best-of-three series on March 13-15 for the right to get to the conference’s semifinals in Detroit, Mich., on March 20-21.
uJackson said he was trying to get all six seniors on the ice for the final shift of Friday’s game, but Gaul’s penalty with two minutes remaining made it impossible.
uBefore Friday’s game, a moment of silence was observed for radio play-by-play man Mike Lockert, who passed away in his sleep Thursday night at the age of 43. Lockert had called Irish games on Cat Country 99.9 FM and und.com for the past seven years.
“It was just devastating to me. I got to know Mike real well,” Jackson said. “Today, I can say it’s not just about the voice, but the man behind the voice, and he was a tremendous man.”