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Hockey: Summerhays leads ND in sweep of Nanooks

Sam Gans | Sunday, November 13, 2011

The two games the Irish played against Alaska this weekend at the Compton Family Ice Arena could not have started more differently. Friday night’s first period was wide open and free-flowing, while the play in Saturday’s first 20 minutes was much more settled. Yet the end result in each game was the same, as No. 7 Notre Dame overcame a deficit in both contests to edge out a pair of one-goal victories in the final moments.

Irish sophomore defenseman Stephen Johns found the back of the net on the power play with just 47 seconds remaining in regulation as the Irish (7-2-2, 5-1-2-0 CCHA) defeated the Nanooks (3-7-2, 0-6-2-0) on Friday 5-4. Johns received a cross-ice pass from senior co-captain and right wing Billy Maday near the blue line and unleashed a slap shot that eluded Alaska senior goaltender Scott Greenham.

“I had shots all night and the past couple of weeks I kept on shooting from the point,” Johns said. “One really never seemed to go in and tonight I just shot around the screen and got lucky, I guess.”

The goal was a bit of redemption for Johns, who had just finished serving a five-minute major penalty for kneeing given at the 12:11 mark of the third period. Though the Nanooks did not score on that power play, Johns was happy to produce the game-winning goal after putting his team in a difficult situation.

“Taking a five-minute major is obviously something I don’t want to do,” Johns said. “But that’s what this team’s about. One guy makes a mistake and 26 guys have my back.”

Though the goal from Johns was the only one in the third period, the first period marked a different story, as turnovers and odd-man rushes consumed the first 20 minutes. Alaska and Notre Dame combined for seven goals in the first period — including a hat trick by Alaska sophomore center Cody Kunyk — with the Nanooks leading 4-3 at the first intermission, which frustrated Irish coach Jeff Jackson.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen our team start like that in six years,” Jackson said. “It was probably entertaining for the fans [but] it wasn’t too entertaining for me.”

Sophomore goaltender Steven Summerhays replaced junior starting goaltender Mike Johnson at the intermission because of a rough outing for Johnson and the need for a defensive spark, Jackson said. Summerhays responded strongly, finishing the game with 16 saves.

“When you make a switch, that’s what you hope happens,” Jackson said. “You hope that there’s a response and I thought Steven did a good job of responding and that’s good, because he hasn’t played in two or three weeks. It’s really important to have two goaltenders.”

The Irish tied the game early in the second period, partially due to the unique design of the Compton Family Ice Arena’s rink. With the penalty boxes next to the Irish bench instead of across the ice, Maday hopped straight on the ice after Johns was released from a penalty and skated into the offensive zone. Maday received a pass from sophomore right wing Mike Voran and buried the tying goal. Johns’ goal in the third period then won the game.

The Irish also won a nail biter Saturday with a 3-2 overtime victory when Maday scored with 41 seconds left in the extra period. Maday executed a give-and-go with sophomore center T.J. Tynan and scored with a quick shot through the five-hole of Alaska junior goaltender Steve Thompson, resulting in Maday’s fourth goal of the season and Tynan’s 16th assist. The play was a result of a quick change in lines from Jackson.

“[Jackson] made a late adjustment, throwing me out there with Tynan and [sophomore forward] Anders Lee,” Maday said. “I just wanted to get the puck to the net and try to create some opportunities for the other linemates and luckily, it went in.”

The Irish got off to a more composed start Saturday, as Alaska only managed five shots in the first period on Summerhays, who started his third game of the season.

“[Summerhays] finished the game [Friday night,]” Jackson said of his decision to start Summerhays. “I wanted to give Mike a break in the next few weeks anyway, because we have so many games in a two-week period.”

Notre Dame opened the scoring with 3:33 left in the second period when Lee deflected a pass from freshman right wing Austin Wuthrich over Thompson’s shoulder. Though Alaska scored two goals in less than a minute early in the third to take a 2-1 lead, the Irish responded when Tynan scored his third goal of the season with 4:19 left in regulation. Johns shot the puck from the point, which was deflected to Lee. Lee then attempted an off-balance shot toward the goal, which appeared to be heading wide of the net before Tynan got a stick on it to send the game to overtime.

Though both games resulted in wins this weekend, Jackson said he was much more pleased with the Irish’s play Saturday.

“I thought we played a much better game,” Jackson said. “We really did a great job with the puck.”

The Irish are next in action at the Compton Family Ice Arena on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. when they take on No. 5 Western Michigan.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu