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Hockey: Irish take two from BGSU

Kyle Cassily | Monday, November 13, 2006

No. 9 Notre Dame picked up two league wins against Bowling Green this weekend and extended its unbeaten streak to eight games on the eve of a crucial two-game series with No. 5 Michigan State that will have conference – and national – implications next weekend.

The Irish (8-1-1, 3-0-1 CCHA) defeated Bowling Green 5-2 and 4-0 at the Joyce Center to move into a tie for fourth place in the league standings – only three points behind first-place Miami, despite having played in four less conference games.

“I don’t think that we’re that much further ahead of teams than we’re playing right now,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “I think we can be over time, but I think that we made a lot of progress [Saturday] over [Friday].”

The Falcons (3-6-1, 1-5-0 CCHA) split their netminding duties between freshman goaltender Eddie Neville (28 saves, five goals allowed) and sophomore goalie Jimmy Spratt (22 saves, four goals allowed), but neither could stop the diverse Irish attack that saw six different players score and another six add at least an assist.

Irish goalie Dave Brown stonewalled the Falcons for his eighth career shutout Saturday and made 52 saves on the two games to improve his nation-leading – and Hobey Baker-attracting – goals-against average and save percentage.

“The bounces were a little bit more fortunate [Saturday], as opposed to going in off guys’ skates – some of the unfortunate stuff that was going in [Friday],” Brown said. “So it was a little bit better [Saturday] for sure.”

The Irish penalty kill shut down 11 Bowling Green chances, while the power play proved to be the deciding factor in the series’ first game.

The score was tied 2-2 at the beginning of the third period in Friday’s game after Notre Dame had given up its lead with an early second-period goal.

Falcons right wing Brandon Svendsen was whistled for hooking at 3:39 and Irish freshman Ryan Thang used the man advantage to score his sixth goal of the year and second of the game at 5:39. Thang buried a rebound past Neville off a shot from the left-circle dot by right wing Erik Condra for the 3-2 lead.

The Irish added two more power play goals at 7:54 and 17:58 in the third from left wing Josh Sciba and center Kevin Deeth for the 5-2 final. Sciba received a pass in the slot through a Falcons defenseman’s legs from center Mark Van Guilder and sent in a low, stick-side wrist shot just inside the post. Deeth found the right side of the net open after a quick Condra pass from the left side put Neville out of position on the other side of the crease.

“The power plays were a result of we moved our feet in the third period and drew the penalties that gave us the power plays,” Jackson said.

Bowling Green got the 1-0 lead at 10:14 in the first period – the first time this season the Irish have not scored first. But the Irish answered 14 seconds later when Van Guilder batted a puck out of mid-air with the heel of his stick into the net to tie it 1-1.

The Irish then took the 2-1 lead at 16:20 on a solo rush by Thang, Thang broke down the left side of the ice after a Falcon turnover was relayed from Condra to Thang along the Irish blue line. He muscled his way around a Falcon defender and cut in toward Neville in the low circle before he deked left, then shifted right. As he began the shift he was tripped up from behind, but managed to slide the puck around Neville’s left pad while sprawled on his right side.

Falcons right wing Tomas Petruska tied the game at 2-2 with a garbage goal at 6:24 in the second period. Brown made the initial save on a Jonathan Matsumoto breakaway, but the puck was not cleared out in time during the ensuing scramble.

“There was a lot of scrums going on in front [of the net],” Jackson said. “That’s a weakness of ours that we need to improve. I thought we were playing gritty in front of their net tonight – we still need to play gritty in front or our own.”

The second game saw yet another Irish freshman make a significant impact, as Christiaan Minella scored a goal in his first career game and added a bone-crunching open-ice body check on a Falcon player.

Minella’s goal came on a three-on-one at 9:04 in the first period to put the Irish up 2-0. Sciba carried the puck into the Falcon zone on the left side of the defender, while Minella hung back and center Jason Paige attacked the right flank. Sciba drop-passed the puck back to Minella, who put a low wrist shot past Spratt on his stick side.

Condra scored first for the Irish at 6:19 with a one-timer off a pass from the right circle boards by defenseman Dan VeNard. Condra added his second of the night on a power play in the third period for the 4-0 final with a one-timer fed from Deeth.

“[Condra’s] a great playmaker,” Thang said. “He did it last year and he’s doing it again this year. Our line is clicking really well – Kevin Deeth, Erik Condra. We just know where each other are at – it’s just working really well this year.”

Van Guilder got the third Irish goal with a glove-side snap shot in the second period.

Notre Dame will host Michigan State at home Friday at 8:05 p.m. before heading to Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing for the finale of the home-and-home series.