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ND HOCKEY: Irish finish break at 2-2-2

Chris Khorey | Wednesday, January 18, 2006

So close and yet so far.

Notre Dame had its chances to upset No. 3 Miami University (Ohio) Saturday night at the Joyce Center, but the Irish couldn’t turn enough opportunities into goals as they dropped a 3-2 decision to finish Christmas break 2-2-2.

“The difference [between us and Miami] is finding a way to win,” Notre Dame forward Wes O’Neill said. “Miami’s a good team, but we let it slip away [Friday] and [Saturday]. We had some bad bounces.”

The Irish and Redhawks tied 2-2 Friday at the Joyce Center.

Saturday night, in front of a sellout crowd including Notre Dame’s hockey alumni and several pro scouts, the Irish had early chances to open up a commanding lead on the CCHA-leading Redhawks but couldn’t find the net on several breakaway opportunities.

Then, 4:08 into the second period, Miami defenseman Andy Greene was called for hooking, and just over a minute later, teammate Matt Christie was sent to the penalty box for high sticking.

Irish coach Jeff Jackson said he was frustrated by the early missed opportunities.

“We’re in there chirping the same things the fans are,” he said. “Shoot the puck, get to the net. I can’t score for them.”

Still, after playing yet another close game against a top-ranked opponent, Jackson said he saw improvement in his squad.

“I think our team’s playing better than [our record],” he said. “Our four games against Miami were all decided in the last five minutes.”

The winning goal came with 4:32 left on Saturday, despite the Irish coming back to full strength.

The game was marked by several after-the-whistle skirmishes, including one in the third period that sent five players to the penalty box – three from Notre Dame.

“The fact is that they’re playing on the edge,” Jackson said of his players’ emotions. “I’m happy that they’re playing on the edge, but they have to keep from going over the edge.”

The Redhawks took a 1-0 lead soon after killing off the Irish 5-on-3 early in the second period.

Notre Dame responded after two more Miami penalties left them with their second 5-on-3 of the game at 10:40 of the second period. This time they capitalized as O’Neill rocketed home a shot from the point.

“I just got a good pass from [freshman Erik] Condra, and the puck found the net,” the junior said.

The Redhawks took the lead again two minutes later, which lasted until the 9:54 mark of the third period when Irish defenseman Noah Babin slapped a long rebound in from the point to tie the game at two.

The loss dropped the Irish to 7-12-3 overall and 5-8-3 and seventh in the CCHA. Their 2-2-2 mark during Christmas break included a four-game unbeaten streak bookended by frustrating losses.

The break began with a 4-0 home defeat to Lake Superior State Dec. 17, but Notre Dame bounced back the next day to beat the Lakers 4-3.

After heading home for Christmas, the Irish were next in action Jan. 6 and 7 at Nebraska-Omaha. Notre Dame went home with a 4-1 win and a 2-2 tie.

The Irish stretched their unbeaten streak to four games with the 2-2 tie against Miami Friday before falling to the Redhawks the next day.