Icers split CCHA weekend series against Buckeyes
By MATT OLIVA
The Irish survived a last-second Buckeye penalty shot to remain in fifth place in the CCHA standings. The close victory gave the Notre Dame hockey team (12-14-6, 9-8-5) a split in the weekend series in Columbus, Ohio.
The Irish came back from a 3-1 loss to the Buckeyes on Friday night to pull out a 2-1 overtime win on Dan Carlson's goal with 56 seconds remaining in overtime.
Senior Ben Simon set up the play with a pass from the left side of the crease, where freshman Michael Chin slapped it toward the net. Carlson gathered the rebound and put it past the Ohio State goaltender for his fourth game-winning goal of the season and team leading 12th goal.
The Irish nearly lost the game with time running out in regulation.
OSU's Eric Meloche came into the Notre Dame zone on a breakaway. Tyson Fraser tried to cut the forward off. Meloche beat Fraser to the slot and managed to get a shot off that was denied by Irish goaltender Tony Zasowski.
The referee, however, called for a penalty shot after Fraser had swiped at the puck as he was falling down behind Meloche. With argument from the Irish bench, OSU's leading scorer took the penalty shot and fired wide, with only 16 seconds remaining. The missed shot left the game tied at 1 at the end of regulation.
"The game was unbelievable," said Irish defenseman Sean Molina. "It was huge for us to comeback and win, especially Dan scoring that goal. We were playing well and came from behind in the series to get the win in the second game."
The Irish scored first in the game. Chin put the Irish up 1-0 in the first period, converting on the rebound off of Ryan Dolder's shot. The goal gave Chin six points in the last five games.
The Irish went on to dominate the second period, but failed to add to their lead. They outshot the Buckeyes 17-7, but eventually surrendered the game-tying goal. Ohio State called a time-out at the 13:46 mark and then converted 12 seconds later. Jean-Francois Dufor converted on a pass from Meloche on an odd-man rush for the lone Buckeye goal.
The Irish held a 36-23 shot advantage, marking the sixth-straight game that Notre Dame has outshot its opponent. During the course of those six games, the Irish have posted a 4-1-1 record while amassing a 213-124 edge in shots on goal (average of 36-21).
In Friday night's game, Ohio State boosted their chances for qualifying for the playoffs with a 3-1 win. Senior goalie Ray Aho made 26 saves and Ohio State's offense made the most out of their chances to defeat the Irish.
Notre Dame fell behind 1-0 as sophomore center Mike McCormick converted on the power play midway through the first period. Irish freshman goaltender Tony Zasowski had appeared to smother the puck but it squirted loose to set up McCormick's easy goal. OSU then added to its lead early in the second period on freshman right wing Nic Boileau second goal of the season from.
Carlson scored on a feed from Dolder for a power-play goal early in the third period to put the Irish back in the game. They were not able to tie the game in the remainder of the period, finally giving up an empty-netter as the Buckeyes put the game away.
"Friday was not an indication of Notre Dame hockey," Molina said. "We had to concentrate on coming together more as a team, and we sat down as a team and talked about it on Saturday. I think we did a better job in the second game, it was great to see everyone playing together."
Friday's loss had temporarily left the Irish in a tie for fifth place in the CCHA.
With the win on Saturday, however, Notre Dame moved back into sole-possession of the fifth spot. Notre Dame was helped by Bowling Green's defeat of Nebraska-Omaha, pushing UNO down to sixth place.
The win did not make up any ground on the two third-place teams. Lake Superior State posted a 3-1 win over Michigan State, leaving the two teams tied for third. The Irish can control their fate in the standings with six games remaining. Notre Dame faces Nebraska-Omaha next weekend and Michigan State in the final series of the season.
"It is definitely better for us to be seeded as high as possible," Molina said. "We want to go in on a roll and then we will have a better chance. We hold it in our hands. Nebraska is right behind us and Michigan State is ahead of us. Those games could decide as high as second place in the standings, so if we play well these last six games, there is no end to where we might go."
All Sports Stories for Monday, February 7, 2000