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Hockey: Seniors honored with victory over Michigan

Michael Blasco | Monday, March 1, 2010

The Irish sent out their senior class with a bang Saturday night, downing rival Michigan in a gutsy 5-3 effort in the CCHA season finale. Five players scored for Notre Dame as the Irish rebounded from an early 2-0 hole in the brawling, bruising rivalry match on senior night.
The win sets up a best-of-three series against Ohio State this weekend in the opening round of the CCHA tournament for Notre Dame.

Irish coach Jeff Jackson, whose team snapped a five-game winless streak, said he hopes the win will provide some momentum going into the playoffs.

“I hope we can build upon this,” Jackson said. “We’re going to be on the road in the first round and that’s going to be challenging, but, regardless of who we play, we’re going to have to get goaltending and play good defensively and play with more discipline than we have been.”

The Irish, dressed in Kelly green sweaters for senior night, fell behind only seconds into the game when junior Wolverine forward Louie Caporusso fired a wrist shot over freshman goalkeeper Mike Johnson’s shoulder on Michigan’s first shot of the game. The Wolverines extended their lead with a power-play goal late in the first period, as sophomore forward David Wohlberg flipped the puck over Johnson’s back on a point-blank shot.

The Irish answered with a 4-on-4 goal early in the second when junior wing Calle Ridderwall redirected a quick shot from junior defenseman Teddy Ruth.

“I think getting that first goal was really important,” Jackson said. “Our confidence is so fragile when we give up a goal on the first shift of the game. I think it hurt and we took a step backwards. Michigan is a fast team that will put a lot of pressure on you and force you to make mistakes, and we made some mistakes in the first period.”

The equalizer came only minutes later when senior defenseman Brett Blatchford scored shorthanded with a long slapshot. Exactly one minute later, senior Notre Dame forward Joe Lavin flipped a backhand shot over Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick’s shoulder from the low slot to put the Irish in front.

Freshman wing Kyle Palmieri linked up with senior wing Ryan Thang on a one-timer late in the second, putting Notre Dame up 4-2. Caporusso scored his second goal of the night early in the third to draw the Wolverines within a goal, but senior forward Dan Kissel extended the Irish lead less than a minute later.

Jackson said he was proud that his team picked up the emotional win to send out one of the most decorated groups of Notre Dame seniors in the program’s history.

“This group of kids has been a big part of what has happened to this program in the last few years,” Jackson said. “Regardless of things not going the way we wanted to this year, they’ve have had a huge impact on the success of this program. I’ve very proud of this group of guys, and I’m glad we came out on top tonight for them, to make it a positive finish to the regular season and get some confidence heading into the playoffs.”