March 20, 2009

Detroit, Mich. - Sophomore center Ben Ryan scored with 1:00 left in the game to give Notre Dame a 2-1 win over Northern Michigan in the first semifinal game of the 2009 CCHA Championship at Joe Louis Arena.

Ryan's goal came 23 seconds after the Wildcats' Nick Sirota deflected a shot past Irish goaltender Jordan Pearce to tie the game at 1-1 in the third period.

Prior to the final 1:23 of the game, Kyle Lawson had the only goal of the game as he scored on a first-period power play to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead. Other than that, Pearce and Northern Michigan's Brian Stewart, who had 34 saves, took over the game.

"It was a hard-fought game that had a lot of tempo to it," said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.

"I expected Northern to be quite a challenge today because it's always tough to beat someone five times during a season, especially a team of that caliber. Walt's (Kyle) an outstanding coach and we got to see the (Brian) Stewart tonight that everyone else has seen all season. We were fortunate to score some goals on him in the last series but tonight was much more what I expected."

The win runs the current Irish winning streak to nine straight games as they improve to 30-5-3 on the season and advance to the CCHA championship game for the second time in the last three years. Notre Dame will play in the championship game on Saturday at 7:35 p.m. versus the winner of the Alaska-Michigan game.

Northern Michigan falls to 18-17-5 on the year.

The Irish started fast in the game, taking the play to the Wildcats with the help of three power-play chances and out shot them, 15-6, in the period.

Notre Dame broke through on Stewart on their second power-play chance as Lawson snuck in from the right point and snapped a wrister over Stewart from the bottom of the right circle.

Defenseman Ian Cole moved the puck from the right point to the left boards to Condra. The senior captain then passed across the slot to Lawson who picked up his fourth goal of the season to give Notre Dame the 1-0 lead.

Neither team could push one across in the second period as the Irish out shot the Wildcats by a 9-5 margin. Northern had the best scoring chance of the period when center Jared Brown raced down the left wing and blasted a shot that got by Pearce but hit the right post and bounced away.

In the third, the Wildcats pressed the play and with time winding down got the game-tying goal that took a review by the officials before it counted. Center Jared Brown won a faceoff back to the left point to defenseman Erik Gustafsson who fired a shot towards the goal. The puck deflected in front and then appeared to go off the leg of Sirota in the slot and deflect past Pearce.

"I didn't see the shot at first, then I caught it in my peripheral vision," explained Pearce.

"It looked like it was going wide, but then went off a leg in front and into the net. There wasn't a whole lot I could do on it. I thought that they might wave it off. I have such confidence in our guys to come back, I didn't think it would happen so fast, but I knew they would come back."

Comeback the Irish did as 23 seconds later Ben Ryan became the hero as he followed up a Ryan Thang shot, tucking the puck between the left post and Stewart's pad for the game winner and his 11th goal of the season.

"It was a broken play as they turned it over in the neutral zone," described Ryan.

"(Erik) Condra put the puck in wide of the net and we chipped it back to Ian (Cole). We talked all game about getting guys to the net and getting in his face. Cole put the shot on the net and (Ryan) Thang was there. I just had to put his rebound in the net."

The Irish out shot Northern Michigan, 36-22, in the game and Pearce saw his CCHA playoff shutout streak end at 178:37 minutes after posting back-to-back shutouts last week in the second round versus Nebraska-Omaha. He has now surrendered just two goals in his last six games.

Saturday's championship game will be televised live by FSN Detroit beginning at 7:35 p.m. That game will mark the second time in the program's 41-year history that the Irish will play for the CCHA championship.

Game Summary 1 2 3 F Northern Michigan (18-17-5) 0 0 1 1 Notre Dame (30-5-3) 1 0 1 2

First Period - ND: Kyle Lawson 4 (Erik Condra, Ian Cole), PPG, 4:15.

Penalties: NMU - 3 for 6 minutes; ND - 2 for 4 minutes.

Second Period: No Scoring.

Penalties: NMU - 1 for 2 minutes; ND - 1 for 2 minutes.

Third Period: NMU: Nick Sirota 11 (Erik Gustafsson, Jared Brown), 18:37; ND: Ben Ryan 11 (Ryan Thang, Ian Cole), 19:00.

Penalties: NMU - 1 for 2 minutes; ND - 1 for 2 minutes.

Shots On Goal: 1 2 3 F Northern Michigan 6 5 11 22 Notre Dame 15 9 12 36

Saves: 1 2 3 F Northern Michigan: Brian Stewart (60:00) 14 9 11 34 Notre Dame: Jordan Pearce (59:54) 6 5 10 21

Power Plays: Northern Michigan: 0 for 3 Notre Dame: 1 for 5