Jan. 24, 1997
Eisler's Big Day, Balanced Scoring Lift Irish to 5-2 Win Over No. 8 St. Cloud StateNotre Dame, Ind. -- Junior goaltender Matt Eisler continued his torrid play--making 37 consecutive saves at one point--and another balanced offensive night featured the first career goal from Edina, Minn. native Neal Johnson as the University of Notre Dame defeated eighth-ranked St. Cloud State, 5-2, in non-conference hockey action Friday at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame (8-15-1) used goals from five different players and points from nine Irish skaters to post its first back-to-back wins of the season (also beating Alaska- Fairbanks, 6-2, on Jan. 18). The Irish--who entered last week's series vs. UAF averaging just 2.8 goals per game--have totaled 15 goals in their last three outings.
St. Cloud State (14-8-0) outshot the hosts, 42-34, and had eight power-play chances but was able to convert on just one of its man-up opportunities, on a power-play goal by freshman Matt Noga with six minutes remaining that provided the final margin.
Eisler allowed a goal by sophomore Jason Goulet in the first two minutes of the game but then turned back 37 straight shots on goal before finishing with 40 saves, including 12 on Huskies power plays. Eisler's season goals-against average now stands at 3.35, which would rank third-best in Irish history and lowest by a Notre Dame goalie since 1971 (his GAA in the last five games is 2.80).
In a telling moment of the game, Eisler wandered out of the crease with 7:20 left in the second period to swat away a bouncing puck but St. Cloud's Matt Bailey intercepted the clearing attempt inside the center of the blueline and quickly sent a shot towards the middle of the net. Eisler was skating back to his right and stunningly completed a full-extension dive before tipping the low shot away with the blade of his stick.
After taking a 3-1 lead into the second intermission, the Irish quickly squelched any thoughts of a Huskies comeback, as junior Lyle Andrusiak and senior Tim Harberts scored early in the third period on similar scramble goals in a span of just 20 seconds to suddenly give the hosts a 5-1 lead and their biggest positive margin of the season.
Notre Dame enjoyed another offensive outburst despite a combined total of just one assist from its co-leading scorers: Minnetonka, Minn. natives Brian Urick and Joe Dusbabek (10 goals, 11 assists each). Urick, a sophomore right wing, did not suit up while serving a game disqualification penalty while Dusbabek assisted on the Irish's third goal (the eventual game-winner).
On the game's opening goal, Noga took a pass off the right boards and sent the puck towards the left circle for Goulet, who beat Eisler for his 10th goal of the season and a quick 1-0 lead (1:47).
Notre Dame capitalized on a Kyle McLaughlin hooking penalty to notch the equalizer midway through the opening period, as junior co-captain Steve Noble scored for the third straight game since moving from left wing to the center position. Noble--who had endured a 15-game goalless drought prior to last Friday's game vs. UAF--sent home a pass from freshman Ben Simon, who had won a faceoff on the left side and circled behind the net before sending a centering pass from the right endline (8:19).
Johnson (Edina HS) netted the most dramatic goal of the game at the 15:07 mark of the opening period for his first career goal, second point of the season and just the third point of his two-year Irish career. Freshman left wing Andy Jurkowski initiated the score by tipping the puck towards mid-ice. Johnson skated onto the puck near the center line and outraced a St. Cloud player to the right side before sending a shot on sophomore goalie Tim Lideen, who stopped the shot with his chest before falling backwards, with the puck, into the net.
Johnson's goal was the third for the Irish fourth line in the last three games, after that line had scored just once in the previous 21 games.
Simon--who played recently on the U.S. junior national team with St. Cloud's Mark Parrish--extended his points streak to seven games with the assist to Noble and set up another goal just 35 seconds into the second period. Simon dumped the puck into the back boards for Dusbabek, who faked a wraparound move to the right side and doubled back to the left before hitting senior center Terry Lorenz at the top of the crease, with Lorenz beating Lideen for his eighth goal of the season.
Irish sophomore Aniket Dhadphale had two assists to push his season total to 15 while Simon is now tied for fifth on the team in scoring with 15 points, including 11 assists (second only to Dhadphale).
Note: In other action Friday involving CCHA teams, Michigan (13-1-2) downed Miami (5-1) to claim sole possession of first place while fifth-place Bowling Green hung an 8-5 loss on Lake Superior, dropping the Lakers (12-5-2) into a second-place tie with Miami (13-5-0). BG (8-9-2) now has 18 points, seven ahead of the Irish (5-11-1). Also Friday, fourth-place Michigan State (11-2-3) downed Ohio State (4-13-0) to maintain its seven-point cushion on BG.
Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin: "At this juncture, it's refreshing to play a non-conference opponent because you know your opponents and sometimes you are so focused on your opponents that you don't focus on yourself. At this stage we need to focus on our own game. On the first period: "We gave up the first goal but we came right back and scored. That was really important to our psyche. To come back immediately and get that goal ... and it was a power- play goal, which was a double-positive for us. ... We got a huge goal from Neil Johnson. That line didn't play as much as the other lines, but that fourth line needs to be a plus line. You need to have the confidence to put them out there. That hasn't been the case all year, but Johnson, Dwyer and Jurkowski did a real nice job for us tonight. On Ben Simon: "He's coming. I think when a player that young gets that kind of high profile because of the USA Junior team, he sometimes thinks he has to play differently. ... But they were named to that team for a reason and they don't have to play differently to show that they deserved to be there. I think once he decided that, he has been a force. He's been doing what he does when he plays for the junior national team, not what he thinks he has to do. His offense is going to come." On Eisler's play: "I think one of the biggest factors of the game was Matt Eisler. He made big saves at critical times. ... One thing that is a factor is that he's a goaltender for a better team. We've talked to the goaltenders about them not needing to win the game, but to be a part of the team. He was huge at critical times.