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Hockey: Irish up and down over break

Douglas Farmer | Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Semester break brought Notre Dame both a Shillelagh Tournament title as well as a fall to seventh-place in conference standings.

The Irish (9-10-5, 5-7-4-2 CCHA) beat Colgate 5-2 on Jan. 2 to reach the title game of the Tournament at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The five goals set a new high for Notre Dame this season. Sophomore Billy Maday led the Irish with two goals.

“Five goals on the scoreboard was a product of the team’s enthusiasm to be back playing some high-caliber hockey,” Maday said. “It started our drive and the push we want to make for the second half of the season.”

The next night Maday found the back of the net again as Notre Dame battled No. 6 North Dakota to a 3-3 tie after regulation and an overtime period. Notre Dame won the shootout, and the Tournament, on goals from senior Dan Kissel and junior Ben Ryan.

“I think it was a big game for our team’s confidence,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “I thought our team played very well and showed we can compete with anybody.”

Notre Dame fought back from a 3-1 second-period deficit behind goals from senior Kevin Deeth late in the second period and Maday early in the third. Ryan scored the first goal of the game less than four minutes after the puck dropped in the first period.

“[Coming back] showed character,” Maday said. “As a team, over the course of a long season you are going to have ups and downs, and when you have your downs you need to see how your team responds. It was a real positive the way we hung in there and played against a top team in the country.”

All the confidence Notre Dame gained by beating a top-10 team at a neutral site went out the window after losing two games by a combined score of 9-4 against No. 11/12 Ferris State. The Bulldogs scored more goals than any team has against Notre Dame this season in a 5-2 rout Saturday. Freshman goalie Mike Johnson made 26 saves, and the Irish offense only managed three shots in the third period.

“Ferris State is a good team, and they played well, like a team on a mission,” Jackson said. “I think they had an advantage as far as depth went, and … we didn’t do a good job of managing the puck.”

Senior walk-on Tommy O’Brien started in goal for Notre Dame Sunday and the Ferris State offensive onslaught continued in the 4-2 defeat.

“Tommy started to [give Johnson a break],” Jackson said. “Plus Tommy has been practicing well so I thought he deserved another opportunity. Mike wasn’t coming off a great game so I thought it was time to see what Tommy could do.”

O’Brien gave up two third-period goals in the loss, and Jackson said Johnson will remain Notre Dame’s top goalie.

Late in the third period Ferris State’s Travis Oullette checked junior defensemen Teddy Ruth from behind, and senior Brett Blatchford came to Ruth’s defense by grabbing Oullette. The scrum resulted in 62 minutes of penalties.

“I always tell the team to have each other’s backs,” Jackson said. “When somebody cheap shots a teammate, that is just one of the golden rules of hockey, to step up for a teammate.”

Notre Dame will try to get back into the CCHA race Friday night against Michigan State.