March 16, 2007
CCHA Semifinals
Capitalize into the Championship
Notre Dame, Michigan take advantage of opportunities in semifinals

By Ricardo Cooney

Notre Dame 3,
Lake Superior State 0
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-ND Wes O'Neill (3) PP
9:46 M. Van Guilder, N. Babin

Second Period

2-ND Brock Sheahan (3) EV
8:46 E. Condra, R. Thang
Third Period
3-ND Christian Hanson (6) EN
17:33 R. Thang, E. Condra
LS: Jeff Jakaitis, 59:17, 26 saves, 2 GA (1 ENG)
ND: David Brown, 59:46, 17 saves, 0 GA
Penalties: LS 4/8; ND 5/10
Power Plays: LS 0-5; ND 1-4

DETROIT – Opportunities gained, chances lost.

It wasn't difficult to figure what separated the two teams that will battle for the Mason Cup at the end of Friday's CCHA Tournament championship semifinals.

It was simply the two teams that didn't squander their opportunities.

Those two teams were CCHA regular-season champion Notre Dame and second-place finisher Michigan. The Irish, sticking to their close-to-the vest, tight-checking philosophy, waited out a game but less talented Lake Superior State team for a 3-0 victory on Friday at Joe Louis Arena.

Michigan, on the other hand, with their wide-open, racehorse style, ran Michigan State ragged for much of the night after the first period, scoring two goals within 1:04 in the second period to take control of the contest en route to a 5-2 triumph. Both goals ended in pretty passing plays but began thanks to Spartan turnovers.

The Spartans, who had the chance to take a 2-0 lead in the opening period after establishing momentum early, with the help of some ill-advised Michigan penalties, never capitalized on their chances and were left with the prospect of a must-have win on Saturday afternoon in the consolation game against Lake Superior State.

"We played very well in the first and probably had a couple of goals that weren't counted but that's the breaks of the game,'' MSU head coach Rick Comley said. "They are a very good team and they deserved to win, but if you shrink the ice then they're really going to hurt you. We needed to get the puck in the first and we didn't and their upper level players are really, really good.''

In that first period Jay Sprague's backhand shot beat Michigan goalie Billy Sauer cleanly but deflected off the post. Although the red light came on signifying a goal, it didn't take long for off-ice officials to rule it a no goal after looking at the tape.

MSU's next opportunity came shorthanded when the normally sure-handed defenseman Matt Hunwick turned the puck over at the blueline and MSU's Justin Abdelkader took off for what seemed like a breakaway chance against Sauer.

Abdelkader, who had cleared both Wolverine defensemen – Hunwick and Jack Johnson – was hooked down in the clear as the puck seemed to roll into the net before the Spartan forward went crashing into the cage, dislodging the net at 12:20.

After a review, the apparent goal was waved off and the puck was set at center ice for a penalty shot chance.

Abdelkader, a Detroit Red Wings second-round draft pick in 2005, was stopped easily as he tried to deke and slide the puck between Sauer's legs.

"That’s probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in a game like this,'' Abdelkader said. "I came down, faked the shot and I kind of saw the five-hole open up. I went for the five-hole and it just got a little bit too high, otherwise it would have been in.
"Give (Billy) Sauer credit on that though, he made a great save.''

Sprague's near-miss and Abdelkader's penalty-shot opportunity amounted to what would be MSU's best scoring chances of the game until they made it 3-1 on junior forward Jim McKenzie's 10th goal of the season at 13:37 of the third.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, U-M came right back with a goal from junior Chad Kolarik on yet another Spartan turnover followed by a nice passing play at 14:27.

"I think our lack of respect with the puck burned us four times,'' MSU senior captain Chris Lawrence said. "You got to give them credit but we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and it really hurt us."

In the opener, with both teams preferring to wait to pounce on the other's mistake, it was all Notre Dame.

Laker goalie Jeff Jakaitis kept his team afloat with some nice acrobatic and athletic saves but eventually was no match for the number of quality chances the NCAA Tournament-bound Irish created throughout the contest.

"When you're going up against a goaltender like Jeff Jakaitis, you have to make sure you shut them down because you may only win 1-0,'' said Irish head coach and CCHA Coach of the Year Jeff Jackson. "And that is just about what it was.''

The once-proud Lakers, winners of the CCHA tourney crown in 1991, '92, '93 and '95 put up a valiant fight and should be commended for their efforts, especially after earning a spot in the league's final four despite an eighth-place finish in the CCHA regular season.

"Tomorrow will be our last day together with this team,'' LSSU coach Jim Roque said." (We) will show up. (We) owe it to (Jeff Jakaitis) and the rest of the seniors.''


Michigan 5,
Michigan State 2

Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
No scoring

Second Period

1-UM Chris Summer (5) EV
3:07 T. Miller, J. Johnson
2-UM Kevin Porter (21) EV
4:11 T.J. Hensick, J.Johnson
3-UM Kevin Porter (22) EV
15:47 D. Rohlfs, T.J. Hensick
Third Period
1-MS Jim McKenzie (10) EV
13:37 T. Howells
4-UM Chad Kolarik (18) EV
14:27 A. Cogliano
2-MS Tim Kennedy (15) EV
16:04 T. Crowder, J. Abdelkader
5-UM T.J. Hensick (21) EN
19:52 unassisted
MS: Jeff Lerg, 58:53, 16 saves, 4 GA (1 ENG)
UM: Billy Sauer, 60:00, 18 saves, 2 GA
Penalties: MS 8/16; UM 7/14
Power Plays: MS 0-5; UM 0-6
Attendance: 13,238

Forget any hooey you've heard in regards to the CCHA not being as talent-rich as other conferences.

Four of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award come from the CCHA and two didn't disappoint on Saturday.

Notre Dame goalie David Brown effortlessly brushed away 17 shots for his 28th victory and sixth shutout of the season, while Michigan's T.J. Hensick – who entered the nation first in assists – added two more helpers and a goal to stake his claim on the Heisman Trophy of college hockey.

Additionally, two high-scoring CCHA wingers will receive consideration when the Hobey Hat Trick of three finalists are announced on March 28, and the Hobey Baker Award winner is announced on April 6 in St. Louis, during the NCAA Frozen Four.

Nebraska-Omaha's Scott Parse, a senior forward, rolled up 52 points (fourth in the nation) in his final season to rank as UNO's all-time scoring leader. Miami's Nathan Davis closed out his junior campaign in Oxford, Ohio, with 49 points in 40 games – finishing fourth in league scoring, while winning the CCHA's Best Defensive Forward Award.


• MSU coach Rick Comley gave the media the impression he was going to pull a Herb Brooks and make his team skate sprints until someone screamed for mercy after his team's turnover-filled effort in the second and third period against the rival Wolverines.

It was definitely the quote of the day.

"I told them just to sit tight in that locker room until I get back because this is disappointing, but we have to play tomorrow's game like it's a very big game. I want to make sure some people are accountable who cost us some goals there tonight. So I don't want them out of this building. I told them to turn their cell phones off, put them in their hip pocket because right now they're going to talk to me."

• Kudos to the young Laker fan in the front row during the first semifinal. The boisterous lad periodically held up a sign that read "It's time 4 the Perk ulator,'' referring to LSSU's freshman right wing Nathan Perkovich. The Canton, Mich., native's jersey also is No. 4, making the tribute all the more clever. What was unclear was whether the kid came up with that tribute all by himself or if he benefitted from the guidance of adult supervision.

• With both Notre Dame and Michigan having players on their teams who happen to go by the initials T.J. instead of the first and middle names spelled out, the question came up: what does the T.J. stand for in the Irish's T.J. Jindra and the Wolverines T.J. Hensick?

Mystery solved: Jindra is Taylor Jon, while Hensick is Timothy James.

• Give the Laker fans credit. Even though their numbers weren't strong, their game worn and game-issued jersey wearers far outnumbered the Irish.

Some of the LSSU jerseys that were sprinkled throughout the stands: Present-day players Dominic Osman, Dan Eves and Barnabas Birkeland, along with former players Bo Cheeseman (2001-05), Aaron Phillips (1999-2002) and Tim Krueckl (2003-04) could be read on the backs of some LSSU loyalists.

• The Notre Dame band did a great job of filling the arena with great song selections, modern and old.


Let's face it, no matter how you look at it, Ryan Thang may be the coolest name in college hockey.

The Edina, Minn., native and freshman winger is not a bad player either, picking up two assists Friday to boost his total to 20 as a member of the Irish's top line, which, by the way, consists of two freshmen and a sophomore.

Think those guys will collect a few more points before leaving South Bend?

Light-scoring Irish defenseman Brock Sheahan got his third career goal in the Irish's victory. The junior, who went goaless his first two seasons, snapped an even-strength shot past LSSU's Jeff Jakaitis at 8:46 of the second period.

Of his recent offensive outburst, Sheahan said: ''I think (it's) just shooting the puck on the net.''

Now that is wisdom.

Lake Superior State did not bother to send their band down for the early semifinals game on Saturday. Although a small contingent of eight, according to the Lakers SID, it would have been nice to hear them during the opener. The band was expected to show for the consolation game on Sunday.

Maybe there's a large number of Spartan fans in Winston Salem, N.C., with the men's basketball team but the enthusiasm and numbers of the Michigan fans dominated the Spartan contingent, much like the hockey team did in the second and much of the third period. A look through the Joe Louis stands didn't garner much Green and White but did feature a sea of Maize and Blue.

The atmosphere and enthusiasm that permeated the building for the Feb. 10 3-3 tie between the rivals sounded and appeared much better.


Don't mistake Saturday's 7 p.m. championship matchup between the Wolverines and Irish with a Saturday football showdown in Ann Arbor or South Bend, Ind. Even if it lacks the national spotlight, both teams will be going after a coveted title..

U-M will be seeking to reclaim the title it last won in 2005, while Notre Dame will be looking to make school history with their first-ever league tourney title.

U-M coach Red Berenson knows what he's facing on Saturday night.

"They play so well defensively, so well in their own zone. They certainly don't give you much.''

The Spartans' 3:30 p.m. matchup against the Lakers could determine if they have any chance of copping a spot in the field of 16. Win and MSU is probably in. Lose and – along with Lake Superior State – it's time to break out the golf clubs.

"This is disappointing, but our season isn’t over,'' said Comley, of the mistake-filled loss to U-M.

"If we win tomorrow then we’ll be in the national tournament for sure so it’s a very big game for us tomorrow.''