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Hockey: Clipped Wings

Sam Werner | Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Irish took down the defending national champions for a third straight season Saturday, handing No. 1 Boston College a 2-1 loss in front of a sellout crowd at the Joyce Center.

“We played a great team and we held our own,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “I thought we played well as the game progressed and it wasn’t like a freebie — we had to earn that one. I’m sure that they’re feeling better about themselves knowing that they could play with a team of that caliber.”

The No. 17 Irish (4-1-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) hadn’t beaten the Eagles since 2008 — the last time Boston College was defending a national championship. Last year, Notre Dame took down Boston University a season after the Terriers raised the trophy.

Senior right wing Calle Ridderwall scored both goals Saturday. Notre Dame overcame a 1-0 first period deficit to earn their first win over a top-ranked team since 2008, when the Irish beat then-No. 1 Michigan in overtime in the national semifinals. Ridderwall also scored the game-winner in the victory over the Wolverines.

“He’s a goal scorer, and that’s where he’s got to elevate and show that he can score when it matters the most,” Jackson said. “He’s had a history of playing well in some of those situations.”

In net, sophomore Mike Johnson stopped 28 of 29 Eagle shots, including 18 over the final two periods to hold the high-powered Boston College offense to just one goal.

“[Johnson] played outstanding,” Jackson said. “If he found a way to bring that level of play on a nightly basis, he could be one of the best goalies in college hockey. The key is consistency.”

The Eagles got on the board first with a power-play goal from senior Brian Gibbons. With just 10 seconds left on a penalty to sophomore Nick Larson, Boston College’s Joe Whitney fired a shot from the point that Gibbons redirected past Johnson to give his team a 1-0 lead at 19:13 of the first period.

“I think our guys were ready to go,” Jackson said. “I think B.C. is just a tremendously talented team, and I think it took us half a period at least, maybe a little longer, to adjust to their speed.”

The Irish rallied back in the second period, and broke through on Ridderwall’s first goal at 6:44 of the stanza. Freshman T.J. Tynan forced a turnover deep in the Eagles’ zone and found Ridderwall in the slot, where the senior fired a wrister into an open net to even up the score.

Later in the period, Ridderwall again found himself in the right place at the right time. With Notre Dame on a 5-on-3 advantage, senior Ryan Guentzel moved the puck to Ridderwall, who drilled a shot past Boston College goalie John Muse for his fourth goal of the year. Guentzel earned his team-leading seventh assist of the season on the goal.

“I thought [Ridderwall] played a great game,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t just the fact that he scored two goals. I thought he did a great job on our penalty kill. He was real solid at the end of the game when they pulled their goalie.”

From that point, it was up to Johnson and the Irish defense to shut the door. Notre Dame held Boston College to just five shots in the final period, including only one on three Eagle power-play attempts.

“It wasn’t a matter of sitting on that lead, it was a matter of continuing to play our game, but maybe with a little more discipline,” Jackson said.

Johnson improved his record to a perfect 4-0-0 on the season, with a 2.00 goals against average and a .933 save percentage.

“The key thing is that to be a great goalie, you’ve got to be kind of like a closer in baseball,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to finish the game. That means sometimes you stand on your head and make a great save to take the game home and he did that on Saturday.”

The Irish play five of their next six games away from the Joyce Center, with a home-and-home series against Western Michigan next weekend followed by road trips to Bowling Green and Michigan.

“It’s not just a matter of winning one big game,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to take care of business during the season. If you just focus on the successes against good teams, it doesn’t have that much value if you turn around and don’t play well the rest of the time.”