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Irish capture RPI tourney

Dan Murphy | Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No. 9 Notre Dame reeled off four unanswered goals to defeat No. 16 Rensselaer 4-3 Saturday night and win their first Rensselaer Holiday Tournament in Troy, N.Y. The Irish finished fourth in the tournament in 1988 and 2000 – the only other times they participated.

“We started off slow again, which is a bit of a concern, but for the first time with this group, they showed some resiliency,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “To me that is a sign of a team that is focused and strong of character.”

Notre Dame was down 3-0 halfway through the game before they were able to spring a leak in the Engineers defense. Sophomore left wing Kevin Deeth started the scoring on a power play goal. Junior Erik Condra connected with Deeth streaking through the slot and he redirected the pass through goalie Jason Alford’s five hole.

It took the Irish just over a minute to strike again.

This time center Justin White got the goal, burying a shot in the top left corner of the net. The play started when senior Evan Rankin and sophomore Christiaan Minella caused a turnover on the forecheck. The loose puck found its way to the front of the net where White finished the play.

Notre Dame tied the game six minutes into the third period on an unassisted goal from defenseman Dan VeNard, setting up Ryan Thang for the game-winner.

The sophomore right wing got a drop pass from defenseman Kyle Lawson and fired it past Alford with a little more than three minutes remaining on the clock. Condra also picked up an assist on the play, giving him 100 career points for the Irish.

“He’s not only a productive player but he brings all different elements to our team that go unnoticed,” Jackson said about Condra. “He has been a big part of the rejuvenation of our program. Whoever Erik plays with, he makes them better.”

The junior playmaker led the team in points his first two seasons and is at the top of the list again his year with 18 so far. Eight of those points have come on the power play.

Rensselaer also used the power play effectively Saturday night, scoring two early goals with the man advantage to build their 3-0 lead.

The Engineers jumped out to a quick lead on their home ice when center Chase Polacek deflected a shot past Irish goalie Jordan Pearce 5:34 after the opening face off. The goal, Polacek’s third of the year, came at the tail end of an RPI power play.

They picked up their third goal of the night on a 5-on-3 situation when sophomore Jonathon Ornelas stuffed a rebound past Pearce giving RPI a 3-0 lead early in the second stanza.

Notre Dame reached the final after beating Alabama-Hunstville 4-1 the night before. The last time the Chargers and the Irish faced off was in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame won that game 3-2 in a double overtime thriller.

“I don’t think [Alabama-Hunstville] was as deep. They had a freshman goaltender who stood on his head for them,” Jackson said. “Until we eventually scored he was the difference.”

Chargers goalie Cameron Talbot stopped Notre Dame’s first 25 shots before freshman Ian Cole finally broke the drought late in the second period. Deeth, Thang and freshman Ben Ryan added goals in the third to secure a victory.

The Irish got off 41 shots compared to Alabama-Hunstville’s 14. Pearce made 13 saves with Joe Federoff scoring the lone goal for the Chargers. By that time Notre Dame had opened up a comfortable three-goal lead and coasted into the championship game with Rensselaer.

Notre Dame also defeated CCHA foe Bowling Green 2-1 to start their break Tuesday night. Sophomore Kyle Lawson scored the eventual game-winner two minutes into the second period.

Pearce shut down the Falcons for the final two periods, picking up 27 saves in the win.

“Jordan was the difference in the game in my opinion. I don’t think we were as sharp as we needed to be in that game,” Jackson said.