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Hockey: Comebacks mark win, tie with No. 6 Spartans

Douglas Farmer | Monday, January 18, 2010

Twice this weekend Notre Dame faced multiple goal deficits against No. 6 Michigan State. Instead of essentially throwing the towel in on the season, the Irish fought back in both games to win 5-2 Friday at home and tie the Spartans 4-4 Saturday on the road.

“I give our kids credit both nights,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We could have put our heads down and given up playing for ourselves, but we came out and played hard. … To come out with four points against a top-10 team is pretty good.”

The four points moved Notre Dame (10-10-6, 6-7-5-2 CCHA) from a three-way tie for seventh place to a two-way tie for sixth in the CCHA standings. The Irish sit only five points out of fourth place in the conference.

Even though Notre Dame managed 19 shots on goal in the first period Friday, Michigan State led 2-0 after only four minutes had passed in the second period. Three minutes later an Irish shot finally found the back of the net when freshman Nick Larson scored off of an assist from fellow freshman Kyle Palmieri and senior defenseman Kyle Lawson. Larson tied the game later in the second period with another goal, his fourth on the season.

“[Larson] happened to be in the right place after a bad change by Michigan State,” Jackson said of Larson’s first goal. “He got a breakaway and he stuck with the puck … He got a great look at the net and let a good shot go.”

Seniors Ryan Thang and Dan Kissel sealed the game for Notre Dame in the final period; Thang scored twice and Kissel notched one goal.

“Our seniors played extremely well on the weekend; they played with a lot of passion,” Jackson said. “Those guys really looked like enough was enough.”

Notre Dame took 46 shots on goal in the contest, compared to Michigan State’s 26. The 46 shots by the Irish were the most since the second game of the season on Oct. 10 in a 3-1 victory over Alabama-Huntsville. Freshman goalie Mike Johnson made 24 saves.

Notre Dame fell behind three goals Saturday before finding the back of the net. The Spartans scored two goals on Johnson in the first period and then a third less than five minutes into the second period.

“I thought the first two goals on Mike were weak, both bad angle shots,” Jackson said. “I have to get him out of this nervous mindset about being able to come back on the second night of a two-game series.”

After the third goal, Jackson put junior goaltender Brad Phillips into goal. In the remaining 35 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime, Phillips only gave up one goal, on a power play with 2:21 left in regulation.

“[Phillips] came in and made some good saves, held the fort for us, and gave us a chance to peck away,” Jackson said. “I told him at the end of the first period if Michigan State scored another goal he was going in. I think one of his issues has been a mental issue as far as thinking about it too much and he didn’t have a chance to think about it.”

With Phillips in goal, the Irish offense clicked again, with goals from junior Calle Ridderwall and Thang in the second period, and from junior Ben Ryan and Thang again in the third.

“Our guys stepped up,” Jackson said. “When we scored the second one going into the third, we actually thought we could come out and win this game.”

In the shootout all of Notre Dame’s shots were denied. One Spartan attempt made it past Phillips, giving Michigan State the shootout win.