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Hockey: Irish split against tough rivals

Sam Gans | Sunday, January 22, 2012

A pair of evenly-matched teams in front of two hot goaltenders played to a split this weekend as No. 6 Notre Dame defeated No. 10 Michigan 3-1 on Friday before falling to the Wolverines 2-1 Saturday.

The Irish (14-9-4, 9-6-3-0 CCHA) got off to a quick start against the Wolverines (15-9-4, 9-7-4-1) in the first game when junior defenseman Sam Calabrese opened the scoring at the 15:39 mark of the first period.

Calabrese pinched in toward the net from near the blueline and received a pass from behind the net from sophomore center T.J. Tynan before putting the puck past Michigan senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick.

“It’s fun playing with T.J. Tynan,” Calabrese said. “I saw him with the puck and I saw my winger sleeping a bit there. I got behind him and T.J. put it in a perfect spot. I just had to send it towards the net and luckily it went in.”

Calabrese and Tynan both added to their point totals on Notre Dame’s second goal with 9:41 remaining in the second period. Once again, a crashing defenseman — this time senior captain Sean Lorenz — put a goal on the board.

The Wolverines pulled within one 4:30 into the third period when freshman forward Alex Guptill deflected a slapshot by senior defenseman Greg Pateryn past Irish sophomore netminder Steven Summerhays. But that was as close as Michigan would get as Irish senior captain and right wing Billy Maday iced the game with an empty-net goal with 25 seconds remaining.

Summerhays was the star of the game for Notre Dame, finishing with 30 saves on 31 shots. Though the sophomore played well individually, he gave much credit to his defenders.

“The guys did a good job blocking shots and letting me receive pucks and it makes my job a lot easier,” Summerhays said. “It wasn’t the easiest game to get into a flow. Games like that can be a lot harder. You’ve got to stay mentally engaged.”

Irish coach Jeff Jackson was proud not just of the victory, but of the performance as well.

“It’s an important win as far as our team goes, let alone the hype and rivalry stuff,” Jackson said. “It’s more important we play well and I thought we played well for most of the game.”

Summerhays was awarded the start in Saturday’s contest after his standout performance Friday. While he once again played strongly, he was only the second-best goaltender in the rematch.

Hunwick stopped 38 shots for the Wolverines on Saturday, including 16 saves in the second period. Despite numerous chances, the Irish could sneak just one by him, when freshman right wing Austin Wurthrich converted a one-timer off a cross-ice pass from sophomore forward Anders Lee early in the second period.

“[Hunwick] saw the puck well this weekend,” Lee said. “We tried to get in his face and we probably didn’t do a good enough job of that. But he’s a good goaltender and he was able to see around our screens and find it.”

The Wolverines raced out to a 2-0 lead with two first period power play goals. Michigan’s first goal bore a striking resemblance to its only goal on Friday, as Guptill again deflected a Pateryn slapshot into the net. With just 23 seconds remaining in the period, Michigan junior forward A.J. Treais scored on a wrist shot from the faceoff circle past Summerhays. The two goals would be all the Wolverines would need.

The Irish were notably without one of their top penalty killers Saturday in junior center Riley Sheahan. Sheahan was controversially suspended for one game by the CCHA for what the league deemed an “illegal hit” Jan. 13 against Western Michigan. The Irish appealed the suspension, allowing Sheahan to play Friday night. But the decision was upheld, forcing Sheahan out of Saturday’s game, to Jackson’s distaste.

“It was more about the process. It wasn’t so much about the call,” Jackson said. “A 20-year old kid — I hope they take a hard look at the official that was involved and give him the same kind of a suspension.”

The Saturday loss dropped the Irish to sixth in the CCHA standings at 30 points. However, Notre Dame is only five points behind conference-leader Ohio State in the standings and has played two fewer games. Michigan State, No. 8 in the conference, trails the Buckeyes by just six points.

“It will go to the last night and you may have four teams competing for first place and four teams competing for fifth place,” Jackson said. “That’s the way our league is right now. You’ve got eight teams in the top-20 in the country. Things don’t get easy around here.”

The Irish now travel across the continent for a crucial CCHA series at Alaska on Friday and Saturday.

 

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu