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Hockey: Irish split games against east coast foes

Sam Werner | Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Before opening CCHA play this weekend against Ohio State, the Irish got a taste of east coast hockey with four straight games against Hockey East teams over fall break.

First, the Irish split a weekend series at home with Providence on Oct. 15 and 16, losing 3-2 and winning 2-0. The second game marked the debut for freshman goalie Mike Johnson, who notched a shutout in his first career start.

After the split against the Friars, Notre Dame hit the road to take on defending national champion No. 3 Boston University at Agannis Arena in Boston.

After a first period that could only be described as sloppy on both sides, the Irish took a 1-0 lead 15:27 into the second period courtesy of sophomore right wing Billy Maday.

Sophomore defenseman Sean Lorenz got the puck at the point, and fed it to Maday at the top of the left circle. The sniper took his time and fired the puck past Terrier sophomore goalie Kieran Millan, who made 13 saves on the night.

The Irish didn’t waste any time padding their lead, either, as just 12 seconds later Ben Ryan scored on a rebound to double the Notre Dame lead.

The Terriers came out determined in the final period, and certainly had their chances to score. With Notre Dame on the power play early in the stanza, Boston left wing Chris Connolly found himself with a shorthanded breakaway on Phillips. He was unable to get a shot off, though, and the Irish were able to move the puck up to junior left wing Calle Ridderwall, who launched a wrist shot that deflected off Millan’s glove and into the back of the net 2:53 into the final period.

The Terriers continued to threaten as the third period progressed, including one stretch about halfway through the final period that featured heavy pressure on Irish junior goalie Brad Phillips.

“It was all a blur,” Phillips said. “That one shift, I don’t know how long it was, but it felt like forever.”

Phillips was able to hold off the Terriers, making 34 saves en route to a shutout and 3-0 Notre Dame win.

The Irish were especially effective in shutting down the Boston power play, which went 0-for-8 on the evening.

“We’ve got a good group of forwards that understand how to kill penalties,”

 Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We’re trying to break in a couple of young guys in that role. But it really boils down to your goalie and your defensemen.”

Jackson said that, even though Phillips was shaky in his first two starts — both losses — he has confidence in the junior, who missed all of last season due to injury.

“I’ve said from the very beginning, this is Brad Phillips’ job to lose,” Jackson said.
He lost his first two games, but I thought we played horrid in front of him.

“He played big [against Boston.] I thought he did a good job for the most part controlling his rebounds.”

The game also marked the return of the Ridderwall, Maday and Kevin Deeth line. The trio played together for most of last season, with good results. Jackson has been juggling lines since the season began, but put the three back together for this game.

“Going into a game like this, playing a team like BU in their building, we had to have some kind of chemistry,” Jackson said. “I know that line has chemistry. Will they stay together forever? I couldn’t tell you that. But I thought that we needed to establish some kind of chemistry.”

The Irish returned to South Bend for a Friday night matchup against No. 14 Boston College. Notre Dame had won four the previous five meetings between the teams, including a 4-1 win in Boston last season. The only time Notre Dame had lost to the Eagles since 2003 was in the 2008 National Championship game.

The Irish struck first when Deeth found Ridderwall for the junior’s third goal of the season just 4:21 into the game. Boston College rallied though, and evened the score 5:43 into the second when Ben Smith deflected a Phillip Samuelsson shot past Phillips. The Eagles took the lead just a few minutes later, at 9:11 of the second, when Brian Gibbons deked a defenseman and tucked a wrist shot past Phillips on the power play.

The Irish tied the game at two 11 seconds into the final period on Ben Ryan’s second goal of the season, but were unable to hold on to the lead, as Joe Whitney scored for Boston College on another deflection with just 8:31 left in the game.

Notre Dame was able to mount pressure on a power play chance in the final minutes, but was unable to put the puck past Eagle junior goalie John Muse, who made 20 saves on the night. At the other end, Phillips saved 13 shots in the loss.

Despite the loss to Boston College, Irish junior goalie Brad Phillips was named CCHA goaltender of the week for the week of Oct. 19. So far on the season, Phillips is 1-3 with a 2.27 goals against average.