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Hockey: Irish defend home ice with pair of victories

Chris Allen | Monday, November 22, 2010

In their final season at the Joyce Center, the No. 11 Irish continued to defend their home ice with two wins over Michigan State in a weekend series. Notre Dame defeated the Spartans 6-2 Friday night and 4-2 Saturday night to extend their win streak at home to six.

“We were a little excited to play in front of our home crowd,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “It was a great crowd and the students were awesome. It’s nice to be home.”

Returning home after a five-game road trip, the Irish (9-3-1, 7-2-1-1 CCHA) opened play with the No. 17 Spartans (4-5-3, 2-5-1-0 CCHA) in a scoreless first period. Both teams had their share of chances early but neither team could break through.

In the second, the Irish opened scoring three minutes into the period, as senior defenseman Joe Lavin took a pass from senior center Ben Ryan and netted a shorthanded goal from the right slot.

“We like to move the puck on the penalty kill. We like to play it just like it’s 5-on-5,” Lavin said. “I think we have an advantage because we work on it so much in practice — we use each other really well. Especially on the penalty kill, it [a goal] takes the wind out of their sails. When you’re on the power play you’re expected to score, so to give one up — that’s pretty big for us.”

The Irish pushed the lead to 2-0 on an even-strength slap shot goal from senior wing Calle Ridderwall three minutes later. The Spartans halved the deficit just seven seconds later when forward Derek Grant beat Irish sophomore goaltender Mike Johnson through the legs after Johnson dropped the puck.

The action didn’t let up from that point, as Irish freshman wing Jeff Costello and Spartan freshman wing Greg Wolfe traded goals through the middle stretch of the period to put the score at 3-2. A power-play goal from the point on a slap shot from freshman center T.J. Tynan put Notre Dame up 4-2.

Fellow freshman and line-mate Mike Voran scored an unassisted goal a minute later to put the Irish up 5-2 as the period closed. All in all, there were seven goals in a wild period that saw Notre Dame pull away.

“The second was just a matter of them making a few mistakes and us capitalizing,” Ryan said. “I think we’re much more explosive this year.”

A lone goal from freshman wing Anders Lee and a strong defensive effort highlighted the third period, as the Irish cruised to a 6-2 victory.

“All in all, the kids played pretty well,” Jackson said. “I was really pleased that we played a smart third period — that makes all the difference to me.”

Action started quickly Saturday, as Ryan was tripped just seconds into the game and was awarded a penalty shot, which he missed. The senior redeemed himself seven minutes later, scoring the game’s first goal off a pass from Ridderwall on a breakaway. The Spartans answered as the first period drew to a close when Dean Chelios, son of NHL great Chris Chelios, beat Johnson to even the score.

After a series of goals to push the tie to 2-2, senior Calle Ridderwall received a five-minute major for boarding, ensuring that Notre Dame would spend the rest of the game on the penalty kill. With their backs against the wall, the Irish found some late-game magic again­­, as junior defender Sean Lorenz broke free and buried a short-handed goal to put the Irish ahead with 2:23 remaining in the game.

“We were on the PK, [senior wing Ryan Guentzel] found a seam,” Lorenz said. “I don’t know how he found it, but it was a great look by him. I guess you get lucky when you close your eyes and shoot.”

Tynan added a late-game empty-net goal to put the Irish clear at 4-2 and ensure the weekend sweep.

“We didn’t have it tonight [Saturday]. I think that was evident from the start,” Ryan said. “We didn’t have the same jump we did last night. It’s a character win. Those are the games we didn’t win last year.”

The win gave the Irish six points on the weekend to maintain their one-point lead over Michigan in the CCHA. Notre Dame will travel to North Dakota to take on the Fighting Sioux Friday and Saturday in a weekend series.