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March 28, 2008 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Notre Dame's Special Teams Extra Special in Upset

by Mike Donovan/CHN Reporter

While every NCAA hockey tournament has its fair share of upsets, it didn't take long for this year's Cinderella to emerge. Heavy underdog Notre Dame had come into the game having won only three of its last 10 games and was without the services of its leading scorer, Erik Condra.

But the Fighting Irish lived up to their nickname as they fought their way to an eye-popping 7-3 victory over No. 1 seed New Hampshire. In an all-around team effort, the Irish were able to dominate special teams and overcome an early goal by the favorites, on their way to five goals in the last 40 minutes.

Despite Notre Dame's lack of shots in the first period (six), it was able to score on both of its power-play chances to stay even with the Wildcats after 20 minutes of action.

"We were able to put it in on the power play, and that was huge for us. The Power play definitely affected the way the game was played," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said.

Notre Dame was also able to kill all of four of its penalties against New Hampshire. Notre Dame came into the game ranked in the top five nationally in the penalty kill and did not disappoint.

"I have to give my hats-off to my associate coach, Paul (Pooley), he does a fantastic job with our special teams, getting them ready to play," Jackson said.

Senior forward Mark Van Guilder also cited the team's power play, especially the team's first goal, as one of the reasons they were able to handily put away the top seed.

"It was huge responding like that, the way we did," the senior captain said. "We've been down a lot this year, so it was nice to respond the way we did.

LACK OF CONDRA NO PROBLEM

After losing its leading scorer, Condra, during the first round of the CCHA tournament, many wondered if Notre Dame had enough goal scorers to compete with the upper echelon of teams. The Irish did that and more. Six different players scored goals for Notre Dame, while 12 total players notched a point on the scoresheet.

Jackson was not surprised by his team's spread out offensive output following Condra's injury.

"This season, we had nine guys with double digit points," Jackson said. "We are where our team was before Condra got hurt. We have had other players pick up our game."

LESSER KNOWN GOALIE OUTSHINES STAR

Heading into the game, New Hampshire's goalie Kevin Regan was considered one of the best in all of college hockey, having just been named Walter Brown Award winner for top American college player in New England. After his performance against Regan, many will wonder if Notre Dame's Jordan Pearce deserves the same recognition.

Pearce had a career performance, turning away 32 of the Cats' 35 shots on goal. His counterpart, Regan, finished with 27 saves and five goals allowed.

"I just pretend we're always down one, so I know I can't let anymore goals in," Pearce said. "If I let one in, then I think we're down two. It's definitely nice to have a cushion, to have a two goal lead, but you can't get complacent or you'll let one in.

IT'S NOT OVER YET

After Notre Dame's 2-1 loss to Northern Michigan in the CCHA third place game, some of the players thought their careers were over.

"It's definitely been a roller coaster. I thought my career was over after the Northern game. It's like getting a second chance," senior defenseman Brock Sheahan said.

Van Guilder, who finished the game with two assists, echoed his fellow senior's thoughts.

"We thought we might have been done, but it feels good to be here," said Van Guilder, who was named player of the game.

ONE MORE WIN (AT LEAST) WANTED

Despite the shocking win, Van Guilder was already looking ahead to the next round.

"We won the first one, but if you lose the second one, it's still a long offseason," Van Guilder said.

FINAL NOTES

Notre Dame's seven goals were scored by Christian Hanson (2), Ian Cole, Kyle Lawson, Dan Kissel, Ryan Thang and Kevin Deeth. Both Hanson's second goal and Deeth's tally were of the empty net variety.

The crowd was mostly mixed in their support until the second period. Then Colorado College supporters who had arrived for the second game of the regional made their voices heard, cheering for the underdog Notre Dame.

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