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Hockey: Irish advance to final CCHA weekend

Sam Gans | Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No. 8 Notre Dame defeated Lake Superior State 4-2 Sunday night to earn a berth in the CCHA semifinals after splitting the first two games of the best-of-three quarterfinal series.

The Irish (23-11-5, 18-7-3-2 CCHA) started strong in the series with a 3-2 overtime win over the Lakers (13-17-9, 8-12-8-5) thanks to freshman wing Jeff Costello’s game-winner 4:52 into the extra session.

Senior defenseman and captain Joe Lavin carried the puck into the offensive zone before dropping it to Costello near the top of the left faceoff circle. The freshman left wing gathered the puck and thought one thing: just get it near the goal.

“It was a hard ‘throw it at the net,'” said Costello, who notched three points Friday night. “It was a little bit harder than a pass, but [I was] just trying to get it in the general vicinity [of the goal] and maybe someone gets a stick on it or a deflection.”

Instead of a deflection, the puck sailed untouched past Laker goalie Kevin Kapalka and into the net.

“Every shot’s a good shot in overtime,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “[Costello] got the puck to the net and [junior right wing] Billy Maday was driving to the back post so the goalie might have been cheating a little bit, but we’ll take it.”

Costello’s goal helped make up for his earlier mistake. State’s Chad Nehring tied the game at one for the Lakers at 9:28 of the second period on the power play after Costello was sent to the penalty box for tripping. With new momentum, Rick Schofield put LSSU on top 2-1 less than two minutes later.

“I kind of felt responsible for it,” Costello said. “When they did score, it was just extra motivation to go harder and make sure that nothing like that happened again.”

With added determination, Costello assisted on the tying goal for his second point of the night. After receiving a pass in the slot from freshman center T.J. Tynan, Costello found freshman left wing Anders Lee wide open at the top of the crease. Lee backhanded a shot off the outstretched Kapalka’s pad and into the net to even the contest 2-2 with 2:18 left in the second period.

“Tynan made a great play to Costello. Costello saw me and no one else did, and that was a nice, easy play,” Lee said. “My teammates set that up for me.”

Notre Dame opened the scoring just 6:48 into the game by taking advantage of a power play. Costello received a pass from sophomore defenseman Sam Calabrese after entering the zone. He then dropped a pass for Tynan, who unleashed a shot from the slot that beat Kapalka.

Sophomore goalie Mike Johnson’s strong 24-save performance gave Costello the chance for his overtime goal, and provided the backbone to Notre Dame’s 1-0 series edge.

“I told them we have to bring it back down and be ready,” Jackson said. “Because [game two] will probably be even more difficult.”

At the beginning of the second game, it seemed the Irish took their coach’s advice to heart, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first 11 minutes off goals from Tynan and sophomore left wing Nick Larson. But the Lakers dominated play after the second goal, emerging 4-3 winners and tying the series at one game apiece.


LSSU got back into the game with 1:23 left in the first period, when Kellan Lain scored off a deflected puck in front of the net.

“I’ve said my entire career the two goal lead’s the worst lead in hockey,” Jackson said. “It’s just enough for them to come back, which they did, and it’s just enough for us to relax enough to allow them to come back.”

The Lakers tied the game at the 16:07 mark of the second period when Fred Cassiani found the net. Only 23 seconds later, Irish senior left wing Calle Ridderwall skated down the right hand side and buried a wrist shot to put Notre Dame up 3-2. But with 1:05 remaining in the second, Nehring scored to even the score at three.


Cassiani then notched his second goal of the game with 12:20 left in the third. Notre Dame pressured throughout the final 20 minutes, but none of the Irish’s 15 third period shots found their way past Kapalka.

Though the Irish did not sweep, there was not much discouragement coming from the locker room after the loss.

“It’s a series,” Ridderwall said. “Obviously, we’d prefer to win tonight, but all we have to do now is play an extra game. If we win tomorrow, we’ll forget about this loss.”

And the Irish did just that. Notre Dame once again raced out to an early lead after goals 22 seconds apart by sophomore center Riley Sheahan and Costello put the Irish up 2-0 less than four minutes into the game. But this time, the Irish scored the critical third goal of the contest, when Lavin shot the puck from the point on the power play after a cross-ice feed from Ridderwall. The shot beat Kapalka, and put the Irish up by three with less than one minute left in the first period.

“Scoring the third goal was the key,” Jackson said. “Getting a 2-0 lead, like I said last night, is the worst lead in hockey. 3-0 is a little more challenging to come back from.”

Cassiani made the score 3-1 with less than three minutes remaining ni the second period, but Irish freshman right wing Bryan Rust responded just 41 seconds later with a great individual effort, nimbly eluding a Laker defender in between the faceoff circles before scoring. Though Colin Campbell added another goal late in the period for LSSU to make it 4-2, the Lakers would get no closer.

After letting up 39 shots on Saturday, Notre Dame allowed only 15 on Sunday, due in large part to Jackson adjusting the defensive pairings to increase depth.

“I felt the first two nights, we played four guys too many minutes,” Jackson said. “I was concerned that if I didn’t do something that maybe they would burn out.”

With the quarterfinals passed, the Irish now turn their sights to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and the glamour that comes with it.

“Play for that little kid that wanted to play in this position,” Lavin said he would tell his teammates. “Obviously, Joe Louis is going to be an awesome environment. Guys are going to be really jacked up, so it’s going to be a matter of keeping our cool and playing our game.”

The Irish play Miami at 4:35 p.m. Friday and either Michigan or Western Michigan in the championship or consolation game Saturday.