College Hockey:
Wuthrich breaks tie for Notre Dame, which claims final CCHA title and denies Michigan

— With goals from Anders Lee, Austin Wuthrich and Jeff Costello, and a 20-save performance by Steven Summerhays, Notre Dame beat Michigan 3-1 Sunday in the 2013 CCHA championship game to become the league’s final Mason Cup winner.

“This one’s extra special to me because the first team I ever coached as a head coach in college hockey in 1991 won this tournament,” Fighting Irish coach Jeff Jackson said, “and this will be the last opportunity to win one of these tournaments.”

2013 CCHA Championship

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The title is the second for the Irish in program history. Notre Dame also beat Michigan in 2009 for the playoff championship.

“It’s pretty special,” said Lee, the junior forward who had the tying goal for Notre Dame in the second period. “For everyone in the locker room, it’s our first one. We played hard, we played well, and we kept together as a team.

“The reason why we were in this game [is] because we faced a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season but we were so close in the locker room that it wasn’t going to get to our heads.”

The Irish captured their title by completely smothering their competition for two consecutive games while solving two of the league’s toughest goaltenders.

They also came from behind in both contests. In Saturday’s 3-1 semifinal win over Ohio State, the Irish outshot the Buckeyes 44-17 and answered OSU’s only goal in the first period with one of their own a minute later.

In Sunday’s contest, Notre Dame badly outshot the Wolverines in the first period 18-6 yet came out of the first behind a goal as Michigan goaltender Steve Racine turned away the Irish onslaught and Derek DeBlois scored short-handed for Michigan at 19 minutes.

It was Lee’s goal at 10:34 in the second that finally gave the Irish hope that they’d be able to get something past Racine, who was named to the all-tournament team.

“He was a wall at the beginning of the game pretty much all tournament,” Lee said of Racine. “For us to get that first one, it was a relief, get us on the board, tie up the game and just kind of give some confidence to the boys because we were pumping shots left and right. For us to finally get one was definitely a huge break.”

Michigan coach Red Berenson said that although the Wolverines struggled to keep pace with the Irish through the first two periods, he thought his team had a fair shot going into the third.

“Even though the game was tied, they were all over us,” Berenson said. “They didn’t give us much and we didn’t get much. Even though after two periods, I thought our team would bounce back in the third and they tried. But that first goal in the first shift — goals were precious tonight and we knew there wouldn’t be many of them and giving up that goal, that was a tough one. We just couldn’t get it back.”

Wuthrich scored the game-winning goal 29 seconds into the third, a one-timer from just inside the right circle, fed by Mario Lucia.

Said Michigan senior captain A.J. Treais, “Obviously, it’s really deflating when you’re in the locker room and talk about what you’re going to do in the period and the first shift you come out and you get scored on, but I still don’t think we lost hope.”

The Wolverines outshot the Irish 11-5 in the third but couldn’t get the puck past Summerhays. At 18:53, with Racine attempting to get to the Michigan bench in favor of an extra skater, Costello stole the puck and shot into the wide-open net with Racine throwing himself to the ice 20 feet in front of the net in an attempt to make the save.

“Obviously, we’re thrilled,” Jackson said. “It was a great weekend for us. The team did everything that we asked of them and beyond. I thought the guys deserve all the credit for paying the price, laying it on the line, doing what they had to do to be successful against two good teams. We’re just proud to be able to raise another banner at the Compton Center. I’m happy for these guys.”

The Fighting Irish (25-12-3) will play in the NCAA tournament next weekend but the Wolverines (18-19-3) find themselves on the sidelines for the tournament for the first time in 23 years.

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