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Hockey: Ryan scores wining goals in two straight

Sam Werner | Friday, March 27, 2009

Back-to-back game-winning goals in the CCHA semifinals and finals would be a special moment for any player, but for Detroit native Ben Ryan, the moment was even sweeter.

“It’s always great playing those guys (Michigan) because you know it’s going to be a fun, fast game,” he said. “Going back to Joe Louis was awesome just because I love the Red Wings and I’d been there for so many games growing up. That was a great experience.”

The sophomore forward netted goals with 1:00 left against Northern Michigan in the semifinals, and 17:55 left against Michigan in the championship to put the Irish ahead for good in both games.

“I just happened to be going to the net at the right time,” Ryan said. “Game to game you want to put yourself in the same position – sometimes you’re gonna get chances and sometimes you’re not. I think I just kind of got lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”

Senior linemate Erik Condra, though, said there was a little more than luck at work for Ryan.

“If he gets his nose dirty and he gets into the play, he’s as a good a player as anybody in the nation,” Condra said. “And he’s getting dirty. He’s getting those dirty goals when we needed them.”

Ryan agreed that his role on the line, which scored a combined 35 goals on the year, is to provide the muscle.

“Ryan [Thang] is a goal scorer and Erik’s a great passer,” Ryan said. “So I need to be in the corners winning those one-on-one battles, getting the pucks to those guys so they can make plays.”

Ryan has made plenty of plays himself this season, as well. He has netted 12 goals, including five game-winners so far this season. Irish coach Jeff Jackson said Ryan has come on as the games have gotten more important.

“He’s been playing pretty solid hockey here in the second half,” Jackson said. “That line is going to be very important to us on Saturday night.”

Saturday night, when the Irish take on Bemidji State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, is a chance for Ryan and his teammates to finish what they started last year.

“We’ve been in the tournament the last two years,” Ryan said “And it kind of showed us what it takes to win it all. We went so far, we came so close, we just didn’t get it. The experience has definitely helped us out, and we know it’ll take four great games to win. I think we’re ready to do it.”

Ryan, who notched only two assists during last year’s NCAA Tournament, said that this year he is ready to rise to the occasion.

“It’s just a result of the situation,” he said. “When you’re playing in the playoffs and you’re playing for the championship, that’s what you work so hard for in the offseason and during the season.”

So can Irish fans expect more game-winning goals from Ryan this weekend?

“I hope so,” Ryan said. “If we get game-winning goals that means we win.”