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Hockey: Irish face continued ups and downs

Douglas Farmer | Monday, November 16, 2009

Notre Dame’s roller coaster ride continued this weekend as the No. 8 Irish lost to Northern Michigan 3-2 Saturday and tied the Wildcats 2-2 Sunday before prevailing in a shootout 2-1 at the Joyce Center.

Sophomore right wing Billy Maday scored both goals Saturday for the Irish (5-5-2, 2-2-2-1 CCHA) and converted his opportunity in the shootout to seal the victory. Nationally, the result will count as a tie, but in the CCHA standings, Notre Dame earned an extra point by winning the shootout.

“Being down two-nothing we needed some kind of spark. It started with a power play goal,” Maday said of his first score of the game, in the second period. “Our team fed off that and played with some more jump and energy. From that point on, we played more like the Irish hockey team everyone is used to seeing.”

Northern Michigan (3-5-2, 2-3-1-0) put the Irish down two goals within 42 seconds in the second period. After a little more than two minutes had passed in the period, senior Ray Kaunisto slipped the puck past Notre Dame junior goalkeeper Brad Phillips. After the ensuing face-off, the Wildcats scored again, using their two shots in the period to that point for two goals.

Maday gave the Irish hope once again six minutes later while the Wildcats were down one man on a power play, and he tied the game after less than three minutes of the third period.

“[My] second goal was a four-on-four situation,” Maday said. “Off of a broken down play I was able to find a loose puck, out-waited the goalie a bit, and I was able to wrap it around [the goal].”

Northern Michigan could not capitalize on numerous chances to score in the third period, including a nearly three-minute long five-on-three power play.

“[Not giving up a goal on that power play] was huge, especially with the guys we had in the box [junior Ben Ryan, senior Ryan Thang and senior Brett Blatchford] because we had some of our top penalty killers in the box,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “That made it much more challenging.”

In the shootout following a scoreless overtime, Maday and junior Calle Ridderwall converted for the Irish, while Phillips only let one of the Wildcats’ three shots get behind him.

“Tonight is the first night that [Phillips] shut them down in the third period,” Jackson said. “You have to finish the game … You have to be at your best at the most important time of the game.”

Freshman goalie Mike Johnson started Saturday’s game, holding the Wildcats to three goals on 18 shots while senior Kevin Deeth and Ridderwall kept the Irish competitive with one goal apiece. Just as they did the next night, the Wildcats put Notre Dame into a two-nothing deficit, and senior goaltender Brian Stewart did not yield the lead.

Notre Dame’s inability to come back the previous night made Sunday’s recovery even more promising to Jackson.

“I give our guys credit for coming back from two-nothing,” he said. “It was a hard fought win, a tough game. Northern Michigan is a tough hockey team. There were some positive signs for us. We grinded it out.”