into the Championship
Notre Dame, Michigan take advantage of
opportunities in semifinals
Lake Superior State 0
Van Guilder, N. Babin
Condra, R. Thang
Thang, E. Condra
Jeff Jakaitis, 59:17, 26 saves, 2 GA (1 ENG)
David Brown, 59:46, 17 saves, 0 GA
LS 4/8; ND 5/10
Plays: LS 0-5; ND 1-4
DETROIT – Opportunities gained, chances
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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.''
Miller, J. Johnson
Rohlfs, T.J. Hensick
Crowder, J. Abdelkader
Jeff Lerg, 58:53, 16 saves, 4 GA (1 ENG)
Billy Sauer, 60:00, 18 saves, 2 GA
MS 8/16; UM 7/14
Plays: MS 0-5; UM 0-6
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
SEEN AND HEARD AT THE JOE
• 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
• 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
• The Notre Dame band did a great job
of filling the arena with great song selections, modern
PLUSSES AND MINUSES
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
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
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
"If we win tomorrow then we’ll
be in the national tournament for sure so it’s a very
big game for us tomorrow.''