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Hockey: Squad breaks out of scoring slump, reaches 20-win mark

Sam Werner | Monday, January 28, 2008

Notre Dame broke out of its lengthy offensive slump this weekend, beating Bowling Green 6-1 and 4-1 in the Joyce Center. The 10 goals are two more than the Irish had scored in their previous six games combined.

“We got some lucky bounces, which we haven’t been getting for the last three weeks,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. “It felt good to get a few goals in the net.”

In the process, the Irish (20-9-1, 13-6-1 CCHA) busted out of an 0-for-39 power-play slump that extended back to a 7-0 thrashing of Princeton on Dec. 8.

The two wins give Notre Dame 20 on the season, marking the first time the Irish have had back-to-back 20-win seasons in the program’s 40-year history.

Sophomore Dan Kissel took a shot from the left circle that was saved by Falcon goalie Nick Eno 8:23 into the first period of Friday night’s game. Junior Erik Condra attempted to put home the rebound, but his shot was swatted away by Bowling Green defenseman Tim Maxwell. The third try was the charm for the Irish as sophomore Ryan Thang received Maxwell’s attempted clear in the slot and slammed it past Eno to put the Irish up 1-0 and end the power-play drought.

“We were doing the simple things,” Thang said. “It’s just hard work and they’re finally starting to come in.”

Thang added another power-play goal at 18:58 of the first period to give Notre Dame a 3-0 lead. Erik Condra had put the Irish up 2-0 with a laser from the right circle that banged off the crossbar and over Eno’s glove.

The Irish outshot Bowling Green 16-2 in the first period and did not give up any real scoring chances.

“It was good sign for us to come out and play a strong first period,” Thang said. “We hadn’t been doing that at the beginning of the year.”

And Notre Dame didn’t stop after the first period. Senior captain Mark Van Guilder, freshman Calle Ridderwall, and junior Christian Hanson added goals before the final horn sounded.

With the outcome no longer in doubt in the third period, the play took on a more physical tone. Bowling Green forward Todd McIlrath took an apparent cheap shot at Irish goalie Jordan Pearce 8:11 into the period. Notre Dame senior Brock Sheahan stood up for his teammate, sparring with McIlrath. Both players received two-minute roughing penalties.

The violence escalated nine minutes later, when Sheahan was whistled for a slash on McIlrath. Players from both teams exchanged blows in front of Bowling Green’s bench. When all was said and done, six players received 10-minute misconduct penalties for their involvement.

“I think that something should have been done [after Pearce was run over],” Jackson said. “Our team will protect our goalie if the referee doesn’t.”

Though Jackson expected the emotions to spill over to Saturday night, only two penalties were called in the first period of the second game, neither for excessively violent conduct.

Notre Dame’s newfound power-play spark continued as the Irish netted another two goals with the man advantage, both from freshman Ben Ryan.

Ryan put the Irish up 1-0 4:33 into the first period after he slammed home a rebound of a Kyle Lawson slap shot.

After freshman Ian Cole beat Falcon goalie Jimmy Spratt on his glove side to put the Irish up 2-0, Bowling Green mounted a comeback when forward Dan Sexton beat Pearce on a shorthanded breakaway at 11:58 of the second period.

But any Falcon hopes were quickly put to rest by Ryan, who tallied three points total on the night. Ryan received Kissel’s pass all alone on Spratt’s right side and buried a shot under the crossbar.

An empty net goal from sophomore Kevin Deeth wrapped up the scoring for the Irish, who said they are relieved to have regained their offensive rhythm.

“We’re pretty excited,” Thang said. “To finally get some goals is a big sigh of relief.”

Notre Dame will be in action again Friday when it takes on the U.S. Under-18 National Team in the Joyce Center. The Irish do not have another CCHA game until facing off against Ferris State on Feb. 8.