Cling to History
It wasn't easy, but Notre Dame captured
its first CCHA title
Johnson, T.J. Hensick
Deeth, R. Thang
Regan, B. Blatchford
Billy Sauer, 58:26, 35 saves, 2 GA
David Brown, 60:00, 31 saves, 1 GA
UM 7/14; ND 6/12
Plays: UM 0-5; ND 0-6
David Brown, Notre Dame (MVP)
D: Jack Johnson, Michigan
D: Wes O'Neill, Notre Dame
F: Erik Condra, Notre Dame
F: T.J. Hensick, Michigan
F: Kevin Porter, Michigan
DETROIT – In what was one of the more
exciting days of college hockey played at Joe Louis Arena,
one team made history on Saturday, while the other may have
saved its season.
In the CCHA championship final, Notre Dame
(31-6-3) held on to beat Michigan (26-13-1), 2-1, while
Michigan State (22-13-3) bounced back from a semifinal loss
to Michigan to outgun Lake Superior State (21-19-3), 7-6
in overtime, in the consolation game.
Notre Dame's victory came after Jason Paige's
goal with 8:52 left broke a 1-1 tie and after a Wolverine
shot rang off the post a couple of minutes earlier denying
Michigan the lead.
The victory and the way it came about was
just another example of how the Irish have thrived in close
games this season, a trait that was not lost on Wolverines'
coach Red Berenson.
"That's been the tale of their season,''
he said. "Now whether or not it's helpful or hurtful,
I don't know. All I can tell you is that we expected it
would be a low scoring affair.
"We knew that our chances would be fewer
and that we would have to capitalize. We knew that the first
goal might be the winning goal and it could have been but
it didn't work out that way.''
Despite trailing late though, Michigan still
had a chance to tie the contest and force overtime.
With Michigan pressing for the tying tally,
the Irish's Tom Sawatske took a cross-checking penalty at
18:07 of the third. Michigan gained possession of the puck
and after a whistle stopped play and a timeout, U-M set
its plan in motion.
After winning the faceoff out of the timeout
and getting the puck into Notre Dame's zone, the Wolverines
swarmed the net with three or four solid chances at evening
the score but the Irish stood tall, blocking shots, taking
the body and keeping the puck along the boards as much as
With less than 25 seconds left Irish goalie
David Brown, who made 31 saves on the night, made one more
off a scramble in the crease. A teammate popped out of the
mass of bodies with the puck, sending it down the ice with
five seconds left. One more harmless shot went wide to the
right as time expired, setting off a wild celebration for
a program that finished just 5-27-6 two seasons ago.
"I felt really calm behind the bench,
really comfortable, which told me I thought our team was
ready to play well and that's always a good indication,
Jackson said. "If I feel nervous that's not. I felt
good and the longer we could stay in the game, I thought
the better it would work for us.''
Eventually it did but not before a few scares
threatened Jackson and Notre Dame's dream.
Halfway through the third period, Jack Johnson
beat his man up the ice and cut to the middle between the
circles, taking a pass from behind the Irish net and ringing
one off the post. It was the second time a great setup left
the Wolverines empty.
David Rohlfs had clanked one of the post earlier
in the game when he blasted a shot that beat Brown but deflected
to the left of the intended target.
"We had tons of opportunities there in
the first, I had a couple and I think Rohlfs hit the post.
Jack (Johnson) hits the post there in the third period.
If that goes in I think it's a totally different game,''
U-M's Hobey Baker candidate T.J. Hensick said. "That
gives us a 2-1 lead with 10 minutes left. We had chances,
we just didn't bury them.''
A WILD ONE
Lake Superior State 6
Lawrence, D. Sturges
Lawrence, Z. McClellan
Kennedy, J. Abdelkader
Schwab, J. Sim
Rainville, S. Oleksy
Howells, N. Sucharski
Smith, S. Gysbers
Graham, B. Gentile
Osman, J. Rainville
Mueller, T. Howells
Schwab, D. Smith
Schwab, D. Smith
Vukovic, T. Kennedy
Jeff Jakaitis, 62:13, 29 saves, 7 GA
Jeff Lerg, 63:28, 40 saves, 6 GA
LS 5/10; MS 5/13
Plays: LS 2-4; MS 2-4
In the CCHA's third-place game with two of
the better goalies in the league patrolling the nets, goals
came as easy as those scored in a video game. Michigan State
and Lake Superior State combined for 13 goals in an overtime
thriller that was decided on a power play goal by Spartan
defenseman Tyler Howells.
After Lake State freshman defenseman Ryan
Baird was called for tripping at 3:25 of overtime, Howells
picked up a rebound about 20 feet in front of Jakaitis off
a Daniel Vukovic shot and wristed home the game winner.
It ended one of the wildest and definitely
one of the strangest games in CCHA Tournament history. MSU
goalie Jeff Lerg entered the game with a solid 2.44 goals-against
average, while Jakaitis stepped on the ice with a 2.17 GAA.
"No one thought that these two goaltenders
would be giving up 13 goals but we will take it and look
forward to next weekend,'' MSU coach Rick Comley said.
Despite the sometimes ridiculous offensive
chances that occurred because of poor defensive coverage
and unnecessary penalties that led to power plays, MSU coach
Rick Comley refused to beat his team up, convinced that
the win put his team in the postseason.
"We have scratched and clawed all year.
Winning has not been easy for us (so) I'm just going to
tell them to enjoy it, relax and play,'' Comley said. "I
think that teams are nervous to see if they will get to
the tournament, but once you are there, you calm down. We
will be excited for next weekend.
The game never would have gotten to overtime
if it wasn't for the good fortune the Lakers received late
in the game with MSU up 6-4 with a little under three minutes
left to play.
MSU's Brandon Gentile took a cross-checking
penalty at 18:20 and Lake State's fabulous freshman Nathan
Perkovich scored his third goal of the game at 18:54 after
the Lakers pulled Jakaitis to gain a 6-on-4 advantage.
From there, Lake State pulled Jakaitis again
and Trent Campbell banged home a rebound off a scramble
to the left side of MSU goalie Jeff Lerg with just 20 seconds
left to force overtime.
SEEN AND HEARD AT THE JOE
• "They play that bunny-rabbit
That's what Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson
called Michigan's style of play in the postgame press conference
after his team's 2-1 win over the Wolverines to capture
the CCHA Tournament title. By no means did Jackson mean
the remark as a slight, so he explained himself afterwards
to clarify what he meant.
"That's just something I say to our team
all the time." he said. "We can't play bunny-rabbit
hockey, not yet anyways, but I do want to play more of that
"Michigan's got a talented hockey team.
There's speed, great plays, they find open people, they're
smart. We've got some guys like that but speed makes the
difference. It's not that they don't play great defense
– they do everything well – but they have that
additional element of speed.''
INCH's Three Stars
of the Weekend
Nathan Perkovich, Lake Superior State
an eye on this kid next season. As a member of the
Lakers’ No. 2 line as a freshman, Perkovich’s
hat trick Saturday give his undermanned team more
than a chance to upset MSU. It was just a tease of
what's to come – he is skilled, has savvy and
a nose for the net.
Billy Sauer, Michigan
Although he entered the weekend as the expected
weak link in Michigan's arsenal of talent, the sophomore
distinguished himself with two outstanding tournament
performances. Sauer, who entered the weekend surrendering
almost three goals a game, gave up just four goals
on 57 shots. The quality of the chances he stopped
were even better than the numbers.
David Brown, Notre Dame
As advertised, the senior netminder is an
NHL-caliber goalie. His ability to read shooters and
put himself in near-perfect position was on display
all weekend, as he gave up just one goal in two days.
Time and time again, Brown came up big when he had
to and turned most good scoring chances into easy
and near effortless saves
• In order to capture the school's
first CCHA tourney crown, Notre Dame's players had to buy
into Jackson's philosophy – limiting mistakes, taking
the body whenever possible and methodically wearing down
your opponent to stay close and win the game at the end.
That style of play required some new
commitments from Notre Dame's players once Jackson took
"We were up before the sun many
times (for workouts) on the ice skating, in the weight room,
lifting running all around campus.'' David Brown said. "We
really took the conditioning to a whole new level, which
none of us had ever previously been exposed to.''
Added Erik Condra: "We definitely,
especially the first year, we kind of felt him out and he
felt us out, and there were many a days when we like, 'this
dude's is crazy. He has us up before ... probably when he
gets up regularly but we don't usually get up that early.''
Sports Zone luminary Dave Ellis pointed out shortly after
MSU junior defenseman Daniel Vukovic's second goal on Saturday
that three of the seven goals scored by North York, Ontario,
native have been at Joe Louis Arena. Additionally, Ellis
added that Vukovic's two goals on Saturday gave him his
first multiple-goal game of his career. Vukovic also had
an assist in the contest.
one of Vukovic's teammate feels that after the d-man's first
career multiple-goal performance that he will be unbearable
to deal with over the next few days. He's nicknamed John-Michael
Vukovic (a reference to former Spartan John-Michael Liles
and the offensive prowess he's shown with the Colorado Avalanche)
for the upgrade in offense the normally defensive defenseman
has shown this season.
"Oh God, we're going to have to deal
with all week now. I don't know how we're going to do it,''
Abdelkader said with a laugh. "He'll probably be telling
all of team to come watch the video of both of his goals
because last time he scored a goal like that, he had the
whole team over there trying to watch a video. We'll probably
have to watch both of these goals all week but it's good,
he played real well tonight.''
The quality of play exhibited by the two teams in the CCHA
Championship game. It was billed as a high-energy showdown
for the title between the No. 1 and 2 teams in the league
and didn't disappoint.
Great scoring chances, hard hits and high
quality goaltending from both CCHA Player of the Year David
Brown of Notre Dame and Michigan's Billy Sauer made Saturday's
final an instant classic.
In keeping with that recognition of high quality,
the Irish made history with their first CCHA Tournament
title in school history, led by veteran coach Jeff Jackson,
who had previously won titles at Lake Superior State.
By guiding Notre Dame's program into a higher
echelon of programs nationally, Jackson has given more credibility
to the league as a whole by resurrecting a struggling program.
The effort put in by both the Lake Superior State players
and their fans.
After losing to Notre Dame in the semifinal,
the Lakers came into Saturday's consolation with absolutely
nothing to play for and just a long bus ride back north,
whether they won or lost. To their credit, the Lakers did
themselves and the league proud with their play, attitude
"We spent a lot of time in the postseason
with our backs against the wall. All year long, we've battled
through adversity,'' Laker captain Barnabas Birkeland said.
"The guys poured their hearts out on the ice and it
breaks my heart that they did everything that we have ever
asked of them and we couldn't get the win. They gave everything
they had to give and we just couldn't get it done.''
Although it was understandable, the disappointment expressed
by Lakers coach Jim Roque after a tough loss went a bit
too far. Judge for yourself after reading this quote:
"It was a tough way to lose a game in
overtime on a play that was not really a result of a scoring
chance,'' Roque said of the penalty on Baird. (But) if it
helps Michigan State get in the NCAA Tournament, then so
be it. That's great, I can live with that.''
In keeping with that theme, the tripping call made on LSSU's
Baird was questionable at best. The Lakers deserved to win
or lose the game on their own merits and not have the outcome
determined by a special teams situation.
Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State will
all be moving on to the NCAA Tournament, with their destinations
set to be announced on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Lake Superior State will not move on, although
the team the Lakers beat to get to Detroit –
Miami – is in line for a