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Hockey: Irish take two wins from Spartans

Douglas Farmer | Monday, November 23, 2009

No. 14 Notre Dame improved on a 1-1 shoot out victory at Michigan State Thursday night with a 4-1 rout of the No. 6 Spartans Sunday.

The Irish (6-5-3, 3-2-3-2 CCHA) gained five points in the conference standings over the weekend, the most in a weekend this year.

“It’s the first time we’ve gotten five points in a weekend,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “So that is a positive step for us.”

Thursday’s shoot out was Notre Dame’s third on the season, and second in a row. Ohio State topped the Irish in a shoot out on Halloween, earning an extra point in the CCHA standings, and the Irish gained a point in the same manner by beating Northern Michigan in a shoot out Nov. 15.

“The shoot out points are certainly beneficial in the conference,” Jackson said. “That is what we are playing for right now, getting as many points in the conference as we can.”

Freshman goalie Mike Johnson kept the game tied at one despite facing 12 shots in the final 25 minutes of play as Notre Dame committed two major penalties in the third period, earning five minutes of penalty box apiece.

“Our penalty killers and Mike played extremely well for us to preserve the tie going into overtime,” Jackson said. “The tough thing is that we have been trying to encourage our team to play more physical. … We can’t make those penalties but we do have to stay aggressive.”

Freshman Kyle Palmieri scored the Irish goal during the second period off of an assist from junior Ian Cole. Johnson made 23 saves on 24 Spartan shots.

On Sunday Notre Dame did not risk a shoot out. The four-goal offensive outburst set a new season high for goals in one game.

“I think we played with more urgency in these last two games,” Jackson said of the offensive surge. “We played extremely well in Munn Arena [in East Lansing, Mich.] Thursday night for the first two periods, and then [Sunday] was probably our best 60-minute performance of the season.”

Three of the Irish goals were in even-strength play, a scenario where Notre Dame has struggled to score in all season. Junior Calle Ridderwall and Palmieri both got the Irish on the board in the first period, and freshman Riley Sheahan added another goal in the second. Senior Kevin Deeth sealed the win with a goal on an empty net in the final minute.

Junior netminder Brad Phillips started for Notre Dame Sunday, and held the Spartans (9-2-3, 6-1-2-0) to one goal on 28 shots.

“[Phillips] played well last week against Northern Michigan which allowed us to get that shoot out victory,” Jackson said. “Because of that he deserved to come back out.”

In splitting starts between Johnson and Phillips this weekend, Jackson continued a trend of not clearly picking one as his go-to guy this season.

“As long as they are both playing well [I’ll keep using two different goalies],” Jackson said. “If somebody emerges as the go-to guy you’ll know it when it happens.”

The game was played in Fort Wayne, Ind., as the Irish wanted to get some playing time in at the site of this year’s NCAA Regional, Jackson said.

“It was a good opportunity for us to play in the venue that is hosting the NCAA Regional this year,” he said. “As the host institution, I’m hoping we’re there. We have a lot of work to do before we get there.”