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Hockey: Irish sink Omaha-Nebraska twice

Kyle Cassily and Dan Murphy | Monday, December 3, 2007

No. 7 Notre Dame swept Nebraska-Omaha in a two-game series at home this weekend to leapfrog both No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Michigan into first place of the CCHA.

The Irish (14-4, 10-2 CCHA) defeated the Mavericks 5-4 Friday and 5-0 Saturday to win their sixth and seventh straight games and bypass an idle Miami and a Michigan team that split two games with Ohio State.

In Friday’s series opener, Notre Dame came from three goals behind to win late for the second straight game. Notre Dame erased a 3-0 deficit to RPI a week earlier in a 4-3 victory.

“I’m concerned about how we’ve been starting,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “That’s two games in a row where we spot the opponent three goals and I don’t think we were emotionally or physically sharp at all in that game.”

Nebraska-Omaha freshman Joey Martin scored the first two goals of his career to give the Mavericks a 2-0 lead. Sophomore Dan Swanson then found his linemate JJ Koehler in the low slot, and Koehler sneaked it through Irish goalie Jordan Pearce’s pads.

“When you get down 3-0, you’re looking to do anything. Whether it’s scoring a goal, getting a shot on net or starting some trouble after the whistle you have to do whatever you can to try to get everybody going,” Irish sophomore center Kevin Deeth said.

Deeth picked up a coincidental minor on his shift after Nebraska-Omaha’s third goal when he was caught mixing it up with a Nebraska defenseman in the corner. The scrum gave the Irish the spark they needed.

Deeth broke up the shutout on an Irish power play with just under four minutes left in the second period. Junior center Erik Condra slipped a pass to Deeth, who found himself all alone and beat DuPont with a backhander. It was Deeth’s third goal of the season.

With time running out in the second, the Irish caught a lucky break. Junior center Christian Hanson attempted to dump the puck from center ice, but it ricocheted off a glass partition and went directly at the net. DuPont was off his line looking to play the puck in the corner so he couldn’t make the save.

“That’s my go-to move,” Hanson joked. “I faked, got the goalie to bite, went to dump it in the corner and it went in.”

Notre Dame took advantage of the good fortune, taking the lead in the third period with goals from Condra and sophomore Dan Kissel. Condra extended his scoring streak to six games with the goal.

The Mavericks’ leading scorer, senior Mick Lawrence, tied the game again with 12 minutes to go. The goal was Lawrence’s eighth of the year.

But with a little over two minutes left, Irish junior Garrett Regan put the Irish ahead for good when he scored on a deflection in front of the net. Senior center Mark Van Guilder took the initial shot from the point and Regan was able to get a stick on it in front.

“I was just glad to step back in the lineup and keep helping the team,” Regan said.

Regan returned to action Friday night after being sidelined with an ankle injury for several games.

“I don’t think he is at 100 percent yet, but he’s a great energy guy and it’s good to see him back on the ice,” Jackson said.

On Saturday, the Irish played with a sense of urgency that was absent Friday and let the Mavericks know they couldn’t stake another 3-0 lead when Van Guilder scored a short-handed goal just 3:31 into the first period.

The center corralled the puck along the right-side boards in the neutral zone and fed a pass to Deeth, who was streaking down the left side. Deeth got Mavericks goalie Eric Aarnio to commit himself to Deeth’s side, and then fired a pass to Van Guilder in the low right slot for an open-net goal.

The Irish out-shot Nebraska-Omaha 12-4 in the first period, including five shots on a pair of fast-action power plays. On its power plays, Notre Dame worked the puck around the offensive zone with speed and accuracy, in contrast to the play-it-safe, plod-the-puck- around-the-defense approach the Irish have taken most of the season on the man advantage.

Jackson said that facet of the game looked more active because a third power play unit was created in practice, increasing competition and performance.

Notre Dame extended its lead to 2-0 with 17:25 remaining in the second period on an odd redirection by Hanson in the high slot. Freshman defenseman Teddy Ruth took a one-timer from the left point that changed paths after it deflected off Hanson’s skate and slid untouched into the open right side of the net.

The Irish had the comfortable lead Nebraska-Omaha held the night before.

“It’s nice to play the game where you’re not in fear of breaking down,” Jackson said.

Ruth scored his first career goal to put the Irish up 3-0 less than a minute into the third period. Left wing Ryan Thang and defenseman Ian Cole then each added a tally to secure Notre Dame the 5-0 win.