SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On a night when Notre Dame honored its seniors and raised its first ever CCHA championship banner, it was only fitting that their star senior stole the show.
Hobey Baker candidate David Brown made 15 saves to lead the Irish to a 2-0 victory on Senior Night. The shutout was Brown’s fifth of the season, a new school record.
Senior Jason Paige and junior Mark Van Guilder registered goals for the Irish, who managed to record their fifth straight win after a loss.
The story of the night, though, was the celebration surrounding the CCHA championship. After a ceremony honoring all the seniors, CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos presented the Irish with the championship trophy, and captain T.J. Jindra flipped a switch which unfurled a banner in the upper corner of the Joyce Center.
“I’m proud of this group of guys. We still have hockey to play, but [its pretty special] for us to win the championship in our second year together,” said Irish coach Jeff Jackson.
Brown echoed his coach’s feelings, saying “We’ve accomplished a lot so far and we’re very proud of that, but we know that there’s still a lot out there that we want to accomplish.”
As expected, the Irish came out flying after their first home conference loss the night before, and Ferris State matched their intensity. The first period featured 30 penalty minutes largely due to several after the whistle scrums.
The biggest one came 13 minutes into the first period when Ferris State winger Matt Verdone shoved Christian Hanson from behind after the whistle. The officials handed out 20 penalty minutes on the play, including 14 to Notre Dame’s T.J. Jindra.
Throughout the first half of the game, Ferris State netminder Derek MacIntyre matched Brown shot for shot. MacIntyre made 33 saves on the night, including a highlight reel stop early in the second period.
Notre Dame’s Mark Van Guilder found himself all alone in front of the net, but MacIntyre made a headfirst dive across the crease to keep the game scoreless.
A little under halfway through the game, Notre Dame’s power play finally got a shot past MacIntyre. Eric Condra took a shot from the point that was stopped by MacIntyre, but the rebound went up into the air and came down right in front of the net.
A five player scramble ensued, and eventually Jason Paige was able to get his 9th goal of the season. Freshmen Kevin Deeth and Ryan Thang were awarded assists on the play. The goal was the fourth power play goal for the Irish in their last three games.
With Notre Dame still clinging to a one goal lead late in the second, Brown made his best save of the night on Bulldogs forward Blair Riley. Riley skated in on a two on one and deked Brown to the ice, but Brown flashed out his right pad at the last instant to preserve the Irish lead.
Notre Dame doubled its lead just 1:25 into the third period when junior winger Mark Van Guilder scored his team leading 17th goal of the season. Jindra fed Van Guilder in the slot, and he took a snapshot that beat MacIntyre to the blocker side. MacIntyre got a piece of the shot, but the puck fell over his shoulder and behind him into the net.
Ferris State coach Bob Daniels thought his team’s forechecking was the difference in last night’s and tonight’s games.
“We had a difficult time getting in on the forecheck. I think a lot of credit belongs to Notre Dame, and a little bit on our end too. We didn’t work hard enough to get in on the forecheck.”
With the loss, Ferris State finishes the season at 13-20-3 and 10-16-2 in the conference, good for ninth place. The Bulldogs will travel up to Sault St. Marie to take on eighth place Lake Superior State in a best of three series next weekend in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame improved to 27-6-3 and 21-4-3 in the CCHA. The Irish have a bye next weekend, and will host the second round of the playoffs March 2-4 at the Joyce Center.