February 26, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame junior center Ben Simon scored a memorable goal late in the second period and then assisted on the game-tying score by senior left wing Aniket Dhadphale with 3:43 left in regulation, as the Irish and visiting Northern Michigan skated to a 3-3 tie Friday at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse, extending the drama of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association season with three regular-season games left to play.
Friday's tie leaves Northern Michigan (18-10-5, 13-9-5 CCHA) a point ahead of Notre Dame (16-11-5, 13-10-4) in the race for the fourth and final home-ice spot in the first round of the eight-team CCHA Tournament. Ferris State (12-10-5) remains a point behind the Irish, after skating to a 1-1 tie at first-place Michigan State.
Notre Dame and NMU (which played to a 3-3 tie at NMU on Jan. 22) will play the final game of their season series on Saturday at the Joyce Center. Home ice will not be determined until next week's action, which features Notre Dame at Miami for a pair, Ferris State at MSU twice and NMU playing host to Western Michigan and Michigan. FSU owns the head-to-head tiebreakers with both the Irish and the Wildcats.
Notre Dame held two leads Friday, after goals by sophomore right wing Ryan Dolder and Simon, but NMU answered on scores by freshman center Chad Theuer and junior left wing Tyson Holly before surging ahead with 6:27 left to play on an unassisted goal by senior center Buddy Smith. Irish senior Forrest Karr made 27 saves while NMU sophomore Dan Ragusett stopped 33 Irish shots. The game featured no power-play goals, with the Irish going 0-for-3 to extend their power-play drought to 0-for-30 over the last five-plus games (NMU was 0-for-1).
In other CCHA action Friday, Michigan (15-7-5) came closer to clinching a third-place finish with a 6-1 home victory over eighth-place Miami (8-15-4). The Wolverines trail idle Ohio State (17-8-3) by just two points. Western Michigan (5-14-8) kept alive its hopes for a CCHA playoff spot, moving two points behind Miami, while ninth-place Lake Superior (7-16-3) was playing the night's late game at last-place Alaska Fairbanks.
The night's action assures OSU of at least a third-place finish while NMU and Notre Dame can finish no lower than sixth and Ferris State can finish no lower than seventh. Notre Dame's possible playoff opponents still include OSU, Michigan, NMU and FSU (with a slim chance of playing Bowling Green).
Dolder-who has scored two of his four goals this season versus NMU-opened the scoring at 4:36 of the second period, with sophomore left wing Dan Carlson providing the assist on a pass from the left corner before Dolder beat Ragusett with a shot from between the circles (freshman center David Inman provided the secondary assist).
NMU tied the game eight minutes later, when Theuer took a pass from junior defenseman Kevin Schmidt near the NMU blue line and angled into the Irish zone from the right side. Theuer kept the puck as he skated through the slot before beating Karr with a low, stick-side shot that tucked inside the far left post (12:31) for his eighth goal of the season.
Simon then provided one of the biggest plays of his highlight-reel career, which has included 96 points (29G-67A) in 98 games. Senior defenseman Benoit Cotnoir was credited with the assist, after making a diving poke in the Irish zone that sent the puck off the back boards. Simon then took the puck at the Irish endline and skated all the way down the left side on a quick counter-attack before tucking inside freshman defenseman Sean Connolly. As Simon neared the slot, the trailing Connolly grabbed Simon's left skate and lifted it into the air. But the one-legged Simon kept his balance on the right skate and-as he was falling forward-wristed a shot over Ragusett's left shoulder for his team-leading 16th goal of the season (17:28).
NMU tied the game early in the third, with senior center Brad Frattaroli initiating the score on a pass to sophomore right wing Fred Mattersdorfer, who sent a shot on net that Karr kicked to his right. But Mattersdorfer tracked down the loose puck behind the net and quickly fired back into the slot for junior left wing Tyson Holly, who beat Karr for his 10th goal of the season and a 2-2 game (1:42).
The visitors claimed their first lead at the 13:33 mark, when Smith emerged with one of NMU's many faceoff wins at the left circle in the Irish end. Smith crossed with the puck to the right circle before sending a fluttering shot on net that found its way through traffic before flying over Karr's right shoulder.
Simon set up the final goal after again bringing the puck from the Irish zone, this time after a pass from junior defenseman Tyson Fraser. Simon angled in from the right and circled near the left corner before zipping a pass between the circles for the trailing Dhadphale, who beat Ragusett with a low glove-side shot for his own 16th goal of the season (16:17).
The Irish had an unusual 4-on-1 break with 2:40 left in regulation, with sophomore left wing Chad Chipchase putting a shot on net from the left circle. Ragusett batted the puck to rushing junior defenseman Nathan Borega, who was denied by Ragusett on what would have been Borega's fourth career goal.
Dhadphale had the only Irish shot on goal in overtime, when he led a rush that ended with Ragusett making the save (NMU also had just one overtime shot). Notre Dame had a power-play chance with 3:10 left in overtime but managed no shots on goal and just three total shots (each of which were blocked by the defense).
NORTHERN MICHIGAN (18-10-5, 13-9-5 CCHA) 0 1 2 0 - 3 NOTRE DAME (16-11-4, 13-10-3 CCHA) 0 2 1 0 - 32nd: ND 1. Dolder 4 (Carlson, Inman) 4:36; NMU 1. Theuer 8 (Schmidt) 12:31; ND 2. Simon 16 (Cotnoir) 17:28; NMU 3. Holly (Mattersdorfer, Frattaroli) 1:42.
3rd: NMU 2. Smith 8 (unassisted) 13:33; ND 3. Dhadphale (Simon, Fraser) 16:17.
Shots: NMU 10-9-10-1/30, ND 15-10-10-1/36.
Saves: NMU (Ragusett) 15-8-9-1/33; ND (Forrest Karr) 10-8-8-1/27.
Power Play: NMU 0-for-1, ND 0-for-3.
Penalties: NMU 6 for 12:00, ND 4 for 8:00.