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Hockey: Sheahan scores two to beat WMU

Matthew DeFranks | Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The foghorn at the Compton Family Ice Arena went off once during the first period. The only problem was that Notre Dame hadn’t scored. The false alarm was simply a sign of things to come for the Irish in Notre Dame’s 3-2 win over Western Michigan on Tuesday night.

“I was pretty happy with our game tonight,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “It’s a tough Tuesday night game. I give our guys credit because I thought they played a pretty focused game.”

The Irish almost got on the board when freshman right wing Peter Schneider followed up the rebound from freshman defenseman Robbie Russo’s slap shot. Schneider’s backhand hit the post and the horn sounded. The goal was reviewed and the call was upheld.

No. 4 Notre Dame (8-2-2, 6-1-2-0 CCHA) came close again when sophomore right wing Mike Voran received a pass at the top of the left face-off circle, evaded a Bronco defender and beat freshman goaltender Frank Slubowski over his left shoulder. The puck, however, hit the post and the Irish were denied again.

“Western plays a little different than they did last year,” Jackson said. “They’re a much more patient team. They wait until you make a mistake and then they capitalize.”

At the 9:30 mark in the second period, the Irish made that mistake. Western Michigan senior forward Ian Slater beat Irish junior goaltender Mike Johnson with an open wrist shot from the center of the offensive zone.

“It was a tough game for a goalie,” Jackson said. “Not a lot of work, but when he had to make a save, he made a save. I thought he did fine.”

Johnson made 23 saves on the night, while Slubowski stopped 18 of Notre Dame’s 21 shots on goal.

Less than 30 seconds after Western Michigan’s goal, sophomore defenseman Shayne Taker led an odd-man break for the Irish, holding the puck before beating Slubowski with a close-range wrist shot. The goal was Taker’s first of the season.

“We were all surprised [Taker] didn’t have a point,” Jackson said. “He’s got better puck skills and poise than a lot of guys. It just worked out that he found his way to the net and scored a big goal for us.”

Taker said the goal was a result of working with associate head coach Paul Pooley on his stick-handling.

“I told the boys never to count on me doing that again,” Taker said.

To compound things for the No. 10 Broncos, sophomore forward Dennis Brown was called for interference, sending the Irish on the power play. The penalty proved costly when Russo fed junior center Riley Sheahan at the top of the left face-off circle for a one-timer that found the back of the net. The goal marked Notre Dame’s 14th power play goal this year.

Irish sophomore T.J. Tynan also assisted on Sheahan’s score, giving Tynan his 17th assist of the season, a nation-high.

Sheahan added his second goal of the game — and fourth of the season — when senior defenseman Sean Lorenz sent a shot on goal from the point. The shot was deflected in front of the net and trickled through before Sheahan banged home the rebound from within feet of the goal.

“That’s something I was trying to focus on more this year, shoot more and get some more offensive chances, so tonight was a good night for that,” Sheahan said.

Western Michigan (6-4-3, 4-4-1-1) responded with a goal from sophomore forward Shane Berschbach at 13:23 in the third period. The Broncos won the face-off, and senior forward Kyle O’Kane centered the puck to Berschbach, cutting the Irish lead to one.

Despite pulling the goalie with one minute remaining, the Broncos could not muster a tying goal as the Irish survived a couple late flurries from Western Michigan to collect their sixth win in the past eight games.

“I still say we’re a work in progress,” Jackson said. “I still believe we have more. We need to find more secondary scoring and we still need to shore up certain parts of our game. I’m really happy with where we are right now, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The Irish look to continue their winning ways against No. 3 Boston College on Friday at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu