College Hockey:
Fighting Irish Crush Tigers

Ninth Straight Win For Notre Dame

— Sophomore forward Dan Kissel scored two goals and set up two others and freshman goaltender Brad Phillips made 28 saves for his first career collegiate shutout as No. 6 Notre Dame earned its ninth straight win overall with a 7-0 victory at Princeton before 2,218 at Hobey Baker Rink. Seniors Dan VeNard and Evan Rankin also tallied three points each.

“Anytime you can win two on the road, against any conference, it’s challenging,” said third-year Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “We knew coming in that this would be a tough weekend.”

VeNard opened the scoring at 10:05 of the first period when he dropped down from the point into the right circle on a Notre Dame power play, received a cross-ice feed from Calle Ridderwall, and fired the puck inside the far post.

Brock Sheahan rang a shot off the crossbar just after a Princeton power play had concluded with some seven minutes left in the first session, but the Irish kept the puck in the offensive zone and made it a 2-0 affair at 13:18. Rankin shot from the left point and Kissel was there to put the puck home at the right post for his fourth of the year.

The Irish got a slight scare when sophomore sniper Ryan Thang went down on a hard hit near the Notre Dame bench with 3:15 left before intermission, but he got up under his own power and returned for the second stanza, in which the Irish scored four times in less than seven minutes to put the game away.

“We pride ourselves on being well-conditioned and playing with discipline,” said Jackson. “Your conditioning can give you an advantage the second night against the same team if you play with discipline and make good decisions.”

The Tigers couldn’t capitalize on 33 seconds of two-man power-play time early in the middle period when Christiaan Minella and Thang were sent off for a hit from behind and interference, respectively. Princeton then fell further behind when Kissel converted a shorthanded rush down the left side at 7:08, as he fought off a last-second hook and then put the puck up and over Reynolds’ right shoulder.

Princeton forward Kevin Kaiser was whistled for tripping at 8:52 and emerged from the box two minutes later for a breakaway attempt, but was denied by Phillips with some help from his Irish teammates.

“Our guys were coming back hard,” said Phillips. “I didn’t know where the rebound was, and they got it for me. We’re always harping on playing defense, and it’s a goalie’s dream to have such a strong defensive team.”

Notre Dame went down the other end on the ensuing rush following the Kaiser breakaway and made it a 4-0 game, as Christian Hanson swept in a rebound off the back boards at 11:18. Garrett Regan put an end to Reynolds night (11 saves) when he took a pass in the slot from Robin Bergman on the right boards and roofed a backhander at 12:48 for his sixth score of the season.

Junior Thomas Sychterz entered the contest in relief for the Tigers, but VeNard victimized him soon after when he fired the puck through the junior netminder’s pads at 14:04 for a six-goal Irish advantage. Five of VeNard’s seven career goals have been scored this season.

Rankin closed out the scoring with 3:30 left in regulation when he took a short forward pass from Kissel in the right circle, skated towards the net, and slid a shot between Sychterz’s knees as the goaltender dropped to the ice.

The Irish weathered a four-on-three disadvantage in the final two minutes of play to preserve their second shutout in their last three outings, Phillips’ first-ever in a Notre Dame uniform.

“It felt good out there,” said Phillips, who faced as many shots in the final period (12) as he did over the first 40 minutes. “They came out hard in the third period, and they had some good shots at the end.”

Princeton is idle until Dec. 28, when it travels to Minnesota State, while Notre Dame will return to action on Dec. 29 when it faces Massachusetts in the first round of the Lightning College Hockey Classic in Tampa, Fla.

“We’re dinged up right now and have some guys playing hurt,” said Jackson. “We’ve had an intensive first half, with four exempt games (in two tournaments), and we’re already up to 20 games. It’s good to get a break, as long as we don’t lose our edge.”

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