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Hockey: Irish bite Wolverines

Sam Gans | Sunday, March 24, 2013

DETROIT – Notre Dame came from behind in the last CCHA championship game ever played to win the Mason Cup with a 3-1 victory over Michigan on Sunday in Joe Louis Arena and clinch a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Irish sophomore forward Austin Wuthrich scored the go-ahead goal 29 seconds into the third period on a one-timer between the faceoff circles off a feed from freshman forward Mario Lucia, who received a pass from junior center T.J. Tynan. The game winner gave Notre Dame its third CCHA championship in program history.

“We’re just proud to be able to raise another banner at the Compton [Family Ice Arena],” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said.

Wuthrich’s tally came after two periods which saw the score knotted at one despite Notre Dame owning the shooting margin, 28-10. Michigan coach Red Berenson cited the timing of the goal just out of the second intermission as one that was deflating to the Wolverines.

“After two periods, I thought our team would bounce back in the third, and they tried, but that first goal in the first shift. Goals were precious tonight, you knew there wouldn’t be many of them, and giving up that goal, that was a tough one,” Berenson said.

The Irish dominated play in the first period but it didn’t show on the scoreboard. Despite an 18-6 advantage in shots, Notre Dame trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes. An Irish power play turnover with just over a minute left in the first period led to a 3-on-2 Michigan rush.

Irish junior goaltender Steven Summerhays stopped Wolverines junior forward Derek DeBlois’ initial shot, but Wolverines freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba corralled the rebound and passed back to DeBlois for an easy shorthanded finish on the crease past the scrambling Summerhays.

The goal seemed like it could have swung momentum in Michigan’s favor, but Tynan said Notre Dame’s experience in rallying from deficits gave the Irish confidence.

“Obviously, that was a bad one to give up, but the same thing happened [Saturday in a 3-1 semifinal victory over Ohio State],” Tynan said. “We were down a goal, we know what we’re capable of. We just came back harder. I thought we had a ton of chances all game long.”

Notre Dame capitalized on one of those chances in the second to tie the game when junior captain and center Anders Lee scored his team-leading 20th goal of the season at the 10:35 mark. Junior defenseman Stephen Johns’ slapshot sailed wide of the net, but rebounded off the boards to junior forward Jeff Costello who backhanded a pass to Lee in front of the goal.

“Our whole practice on Friday was all board play, because [Irish assistant] coach [Paul] Pooley and myself have been [to Joe Louis Arena] for a number of years, so we know how the boards are lively,” Jackson said. “We were having our defense work on it, we were having our forwards work on cycling low. Everything we did was basically board related.”

With 1:20 left in regulation, Summerhays made a difficult pad save on Wolverines senior defenseman Lee Moffie to keep the Irish ahead. Just 13 seconds later, Costello made the lead two goals when he scored past diving Wolverines freshman goalie Steve Racine, who had started to skate toward the bench for an extra attacker and couldn’t make it back to the net in time after Michigan turned the puck over.

The Summerhays save against Moffie was one of 20 on the day for the Alaska native, who allowed just five goals in four CCHA tournament games.

“Obviously, your goaltender makes a big difference,” Jackson said. “[Summerhays] didn’t have a lot of work early on. I’d rather have him maybe get some shots early on, so he gets into his comfort zone. He made some great saves when we needed him in the end, and that’s what you need to win a championship.”

Tynan, Wuthrich and Johns were each named to the all-tournament team, with Tynan earning tournament MVP honors. Michigan freshman center Andrew Copp, Trouba and Racine rounded out the all-tournament team.

Notre Dame’s victory ended Michigan’s season and prevents the Wolverines from participating in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990.

“They obviously had to win the [CCHA] tournament to continue their season and for us to [end their season is] very difficult,” Lee said. “Any time you’re trying to take someone out of their season, it’s going to be hard. They put up an absolute fight.”

It also marked the final game in CCHA history, something particularly meaningful to Jackson, who coached fellow CCHA member Lake Superior from 1991-1996 before his tenure at Notre Dame began in 2005.

“This one’s extra special to me, because the first team I ever coached as a head coach in college hockey in 1991 won this tournament and this will be the last opportunity to win one of these tournaments,” Jackson said. “I’ve said many times over the last couple months when people asked me is that there was a day when this thing meant more than being in the NCAA tournament. … Obviously we all want to play for a national championship, but winning a conference tournament should be special and I think the CCHA’s done a great job in making this event special.”


Bolstered by their conference championship, the Irish were awarded the top seed in the Toledo regional, and will take on St. Cloud State in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Contact Sam Gans at [email protected]