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Hockey: Woes continue in loss, tie against Ferris State

Sam Werner | Monday, February 11, 2008

Notre Dame may not have broken out of its Christmas slump just quite yet.

After 6-1 and 4-1 wins over Bowling Green two weeks ago, all appeared to be well with the Irish. But after a 5-3 loss and 2-2 tie to Ferris State this weekend, coach Jeff Jackson’s squad finds itself in a perilous position for the CCHA playoffs.

“That may be one of the worst games we played all season long,” Jackson said after Friday night’s loss. “They were the better coached team, they were the better prepared team.”

Ferris State 5, Notre Dame 3

The Irish got on the board early in the first game, when Kevin Deeth netted a power play goal 11:56 into the first period. Erik Condra passed the puck from the point to Ryan Thang in front of the net. Thang slid the puck across the crease to Deeth, who calmly slid the puck past Ferris State goalie Mitch O’Keefe, who made 28 saves on the night.

The Bulldogs responded quickly when Notre Dame defenseman Kyle Lawson turned the puck over to Bulldog forward Cody Chupp in the Irish zone 4:16 later. Chupp took the puck behind the net and found teammate Blair Riley alone in the slot. Riley wasted no time snapping the puck over Irish goalie Jordan Pearce’s shoulder into the top corner of the net.

The teams went into the first intermission tied 1-1, but Ferris State had all the momentum, outshooting Notre Dame 16-7 in the period.

“The crowd was a little bit silent and that’s something we don’t want,” Deeth said of the period. “We want to energize our building.”

The teams traded goals again in the second period. Bulldog forward Mike Fillinger scored just 1:17 into the period on a puck that appeared to bounce off his stomach and into the net. Notre Dame’s Brock Sheahan evened the score with 34 seconds left in the period on a one-time slapshot from the high slot on a pass from Ryan Guentzel. It was Sheahan’s first goal in 34 games, dating back to last year’s CCHA semifinals.

Notre Dame came out with more intensity at the beginning of the third period, getting consistent scoring chances, but no goals to show for it.

At 6:01 of the period it was the Bulldogs who took the lead after Casey Haines skated down the right of the ice and fired a shot off Irish defenseman Dan VeNard’s stick and past Pearce for the 3-2 lead.

Ferris State got another bounce two minutes later when Todd Pococke’s shot from the slot bounced off Pearce’s right pad and over his shoulder to double the Bulldog lead to 4-2.

Eric Condra brought the Irish back within one after his pass from behind the net bounced off a Ferris State player and in.

Notre Dame would be unable to tie the score, though, and Justin Lewandowski sealed it for the Bulldogs when he scored with just under two minutes left.

“We started playing well in the third, but it was too late,” Deeth said. “We’ve got to stop kicking ourselves in the butt and waiting until the third period to play.”

Deeth received a ten-minute misconduct at the end of the game for unsportsmanlike conduct toward a referee and Jackson benched him for Saturday night’s game as punishment.

“That’s the most ridiculous call I’ve ever had against me,” Deeth said. “But you’ve got to take them as they come.”

Notre Dame 2, Ferris State 2

Notre Dame once again scored early on a power play Saturday night. Irish defenseman Ian Cole moved up from his position at the point to the right circle and slammed a cross-ice pass from Mark Van Guilder into the net before O’Keefe could get across.

“I took a peek before the pass came and it was open. I got pretty excited.” Cole said. “All I had to do was shoot in the open net.”

With two goals, the power play appeared to be one bright spot from an otherwise disappointing weekend. Jackson said the unit looks to have recovered from a 0-for-38 slump that lasted from early December to late January.

“Obviously if you get one power play goal a night it’ll help you,” Jackson said. “I’m just glad that we’re getting some success on the power play.”

The Irish looked to add to their power play scoring when they had a 5-on-3 advantage halfway through the first period. But after Bulldog defenseman Zach Redmond intercepted a pass, he skated the length of the ice and fired a low wrister over Pearce’s stick and in. Jackson called the shorthanded goal given up “the most disappointing thing of the night.”

Both teams scored in the second period, making the game 2-2 heading into the third, but both failed to convert on any chances during the final period and overtime.

The Irish struggled in both games with Ferris State’s trapping defense.

“It’s really difficult to get pucks to the net,” Jackson said. “I’m not a big fan of that system. You might as well have five goaltenders out there.”

Despite the poor results, the team is still confident about it’s postseason chances.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any frustration,” Cole said. “There’s no panic. We’re a pretty complete team.”

Notre Dame has a long week ahead, leaving for two games at Alaska next weekend. The Irish must get back on track if they hope to secure a first round bye in the CCHA playoffs. Nebraska-Omaha is only four points behind them, though Notre Dame has two games at hand.

“We have seven games left and we need to pull together,” junior Christian Hanson said. “We keep on saying ‘It’s going to come, it’s going to come’, but we need to stop talking and just go out and do it.”