Underdog Irish Ready For Wolverines
by Mike Machnik/CHN Senior Editor
DENVER Notre Dame finds itself on the short end of most pundits' predictions as the biggest underdog in the 2007 NCAA Frozen Four, going against top seeded Michigan in one semifinal.
But the Fighting Irish have already dispatched fellow CCHA foe Michigan State, the defending NCAA champion, on the road to Denver. And drawing Michigan next — the Wolverines swept Notre Dame, 3-2 and 5-1, back in January — gives the Cinderella Irish a chance at some redemption as well against a familiar opponent.
In particular, the one-goal loss at Michigan sticks in the craw of the Irish. Notre Dame saw a 2-0 first period lead vanish, with the game winner coming in the final minute of play.
"I think we played such a good road game at Yost," said senior forward Mark Van Guilder after Wednesday's practice at the Pepsi Center. "We got up early, and we defended well, we did a lot of things well that we had planned on going into the game.
"So those losses hurt when you execute well but a couple of mistakes cost you the game.
"We can bring a lot of confidence from that series, we did a lot of things well, but we can also learn from the mistakes we made in the last minute, the PK."
Stopping the Wolverines' Kevin Porter, the odds-on favorite to receive the Hobey Baker Award on Friday night, will mean a concerted effort up and down the lineup.
"I think it basically takes all five guys," Van Guilder said. "We're not gonna put one guy on him. I think it takes three forwards coming back hard back-checking, a whole group of five to stop that whole line.
"Just being aware in our defensive zone when they've got the puck, and being aware of where he is when he doesn't have the puck."
In general, there won't be a lot of room for error for Notre Dame.
"We have to make sure we minimize our mistakes because they're talented and they've got guys who can put it in the back of the net," said senior defenseman Brock Sheahan.
Junior goaltender Jordan Pearce summed up the task for the Irish.
"We know we have to play the best of our games, collectively, if we want to beat Michigan."