Hockey: Split Decision
Sam Werner | Monday, October 12, 2009
After a tough opening night loss, Notre Dame rebounded like you could only hope the No. 5 team in the country would.
The Irish (1-1-0, 0-0-0 CCHA) fell to Alabama-Huntsville (1-1-0, 0-0-0 CHA) 3-2 on Friday night on a goal with 5.4 seconds left in the game, but came back Saturday and beat the Chargers 3-1.
“We did a much better job in the third [period Saturday], though,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “I thought the guys played with a lot more determination and executed the little things we need to do against this team.”
Things started off well enough for Notre Dame Friday night, as freshman center Riley Sheahan scored a goal on his first collegiate shot 3:02 into the first period. On the powerplay, sophomore left wing Billy Maday fed Sheahan at the left side of the net and the rookie calmly fired the puck past Charger goalie Cameron Talbot for the score.
“I liked what I saw out of [Sheahan] tonight for his first college game,” Jackson said.
The score remained 1-0 in favor of Notre Dame until 13:13 into the second period, when Tom Train tied the score for Alabama-Huntsville. Train collected the rebound from a Vince Bruni shot and slid the puck past Irish junior goalie Brad Phillips, who was making his first start since Jan. 19, 2008, after missing all of last season due to injury.
Jackson said that he was pleased with the way Phillips played, but that the team defensive effort left something to be desired.
“We didn’t do a good job defensively in front of [Phillips],” Jackson said. “I thought we were cheating too much offensively.”
Just under three minutes later, freshman Kyle Palmieri put Notre Dame back on top on a powerplay one-timer from the left circle that got past Talbot’s glove.
The Irish took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission, but 8:01 into the final stanza, Justin Cseter knotted it up at two when he pushed home the rebound from an initial Train shot.
With 2:44 left in the game, Notre Dame senior right wing Ryan Thang got whistled for interference when he got tied up with an Alabama-Huntsville player after the faceoff. The Irish killed off the penalty, but as Thang was skating back to the bench, he slipped and appeared to bring down a Charger player. The referee sent Thang back to the box for tripping, but Jackson was displeased with the call.
This time, the Chargers took advantage of the powerplay. Just when it appeared the game would be heading to overtime, Cody Campbell pushed another rebound past Phillips to give Alabama-Huntsville the win.
“The third one, I just came across, I thought he tried to wrap it around,” Phillips said. “I still don’t know what happened.”
The Chargers took advantage of second-chance opportunities all night, something Phillips took responsibility for.
“They did a good job trying to create rebounds, and I probably should have done a better job controlling them,” Phillips said.
The Irish certainly came out firing Saturday night, outshooting Alabama-Huntsville 51-14.
Notre Dame didn’t waste any time staking themselves an early lead either, as senior defenseman Brett Blatchford lit the lamp 1:57 into the game. Blatchford took the puck at the top of the left circle, skated into the high slot area and fired a wrist shot past Talbot.
The 1-0 lead held until 2:01 into the second period. After Irish sophomore defenseman Nick Condon turned the puck over around the Notre Dame blue line, Alabama-Huntsville’s Neil Ruffini skated in and lifted a backhander over the shoulder of Notre Dame junior goalie Tom O’Brien, who was making his first start of the season.
“Tommy earned the start,” Jackson said. “He worked hard. He’s worked hard since he’s been here. I thought in training camp he was head-to-head with Brad as far as how he was performing.”
Kyle Lawson put the Irish up 2-1 shorthanded at the end of the second period. Ian Cole fired a rocket from the high slot that ricocheted off the back board right to Lawson, who coolly slid the puck past Talbot, who seemed unsure as to where the puck was. The goal came at 19:33 of the period.
“I wasn’t able to play with Cole a whole lot this weekend but I remember from last year that he’s got a big shot and he let one rip,” Lawson said. “To be honest, they got a lucky bounce [Friday] night, we got a lucky bounce tonight. It kicked off one of the seams [in the boards], came right to me, and I got lucky.”
“Just being a part of Notre Dame now, it was a lot of fun my first weekend,” the freshman Palmieri said. “Got my first goal out of the way, got our first win out of the way.”
Saturday night’s game never seemed to find a rhythm, with the teams combining for 25 penalties on the night. Blatchford received a game misconduct in the second period for a hit from behind, and Irish right wing Christiaan Minella was tagged with a ten-minute misconduct for verbally abusing an official. Jackson said that Minella would miss the team’s next game as a team punishment for the penalty.
Jackson said he was much more pleased with his team’s defensive effort Saturday night.
“It’s a little bit more like Irish hockey,” he said. “Last night, we were loose with the puck and gave up 30 shots. Tonight we were much better with the puck and we give up 14.”
Even though the Chargers won only five games last season, Lawson said he was pleased with the way the Irish bounced back in the second game.
“I think they’re ranked 58 out of 58,” Lawson said. “But if that’s the 58th-ranked team, it’s going to be a hell of a season because that’s a pretty good team over there.”
The Irish return to action next weekend with games Thursday and Friday night against Providence College at home.