March 14, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Junior defenseman Tyler Barabonoff's first goal of the season held up as the game-winner and sophomore Dan Ragusett completed a solid weekend by making 30 saves, as visiting Northern Michigan emerged with a 3-2 victory over Notre Dame to win the best-of-three Central Collegiate Hockey Association series Sunday night at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.
Northern Michigan (21-13-5) advances to Detroit's Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semi-finals, where the Wildcats will face regular-season champion Michigan State in the 5:00 p.m. game on March 19. Notre Dame (19-14-5) likely saw an end to its 1998-99 season, pending the announcement of the 12-team NCAA tournament field following the conclusion of next week's conference tournaments.
NMU claimed leads in the early moments of both the second and third period, behind goals from junior left wing Tyson Holly and freshman defenseman Sean Connolly, but the Irish twice netted the equalizer on goals from senior defensemen Benoit Cotnoir and senior right wing Brian Urick.
The game-winning goal came after a freak play, as Notre Dame was attempting to send the puck around the boards behind the Irish net. The puck hit a seam in the boards and NMU freshman center Chad Theuer skated onto the puck, behind the net and to the right of Irish senior goaltender Forest Karr. Theuer fired the puck into the slot area, where junior right wing J.P. Vigier was unable to get his stick on the puck. But Barabanoff was backing up Vigier and knocked home a shot from the top of the crease for the 3-2 lead (8:46).
Each of NMU's first two goals were set up by faceoffs in the Irish zone. Senior center Brad Frattarolli won a leftside faceoff early in the second period and slid the puck back to the point. Barabanoffwho had just three assists in his 25 previous games this seasonthen fired a shot that was blocked by the Irish defense. But Barabanoff knocked the loose puck over to the right circle and Holly beat Karr for his 13th goal of the season (1:33).
The Irish tied the game on a power-play goal midway through the second period, after failing to convert on their first 14 man-up chances of the series. Cotnoir caught an NMU clearing attempt at the right point and pushed the puck to his left while skating across the blueline before surprising Ragusett with a low shot for his seventh goal of the season (9:36).
NMU went back ahead at the 3:07 mark of the final period. Senior center Buddy Smith won a leftside faceoff and worked the puck to Connolly, who buried a shot from the top of the left circle for his second goal in as many games and just his third goal of the season.
The Irish forged a 2-2 tie at the 5:37 mark, just as a power-play chance was ending. Junior defenseman Tyson Fraser notched his 16th assist of the season by passing the puck to his fellow point man, sophomore left wing Dan Carlson. Ragusett saved Carlson's shot from the right circle but Urick was waiting at the left side of the crease and quickly slapped the rebound into the net for his 16th goal of the season and the 57th of his career (giving him 126 career points).
Notre Dame's chances at forcing overtime appeared to fade when junior right wing Joe Dusbabek was sent off due to a hitting-after-the-whistle penalty with 4:56 left to play. But the Irish nearly converted a shorthanded chance 30 seconds later, after sophomore right wing Ryan Dolder anticipated a pass and poked the puck away before racing down the right side and dropping a pass back into the slot. Sophomore left wing Chad Chipchase was trailing on the play and fired a low shot from the left side of the crease, but Ragusett was there for the point-blank save.
The Irish pulled Karr with 1:22 left to play and then had a 6-on-4 advantage when NMU junior left wing Roger Trudeau was called for interference with 0:55 left on the clock. But Irish junior center Ben Simon was called for an interference penalty of his own with 20 seconds to play and Notre Dame failed to produce its third equalizing goal of the night.
NOTES: Urick became the eighth Notre Dame player ever to appear in 146 career games ... Cotnoir's goal represented his 88th career point, just one behind former All-American Bill Nyrop (17G-72A, 1970-74) for ninth all-time at Notre Dame among defensemen ... 46 of Cotnoir's 88 career points have come on the power play (11 PPG, 35 PPA) ... NMU advances to the CCHA for the second straight season since rejoining the CCHA in 1997-98 and again will face MSU in the early semi-final (the second semi-final also will be a rematch, between Michigan and Ohio State) ... Ragusett stopped 87 of 93 Irish shots in the series ... the teams combined for 50 penalty minutes in Sunday's game, including eight times when coincidental penalties were called.
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH DAVE POULIN: "It was a great hockey game. I told our team it would be a battle to the end and it was. I told them after the game to keep their heads held high. We had our chances. It was a battle to the end and we fought to the end. ... Last night was an aberration. We have been one goal apart all season. Friday night and tonight show how close our teams are. You can throw last night out. ... We had a lot of great chances. I loved our chances. (Senior left wing Aniket Dhadphale) had good chances. Urick had good chances. ... (The last goal) took a strange bounce off the wall. You work hard all season, all weekend, and all game and if that is what beats you, what can you say? (we) played it off the wall. It was a play we make 100 times. It just hit a seam. That is just how close our teams are: a seam apart. ... This was a special senior class. Their goal has always been to make it to Joe Louis Arena. Part of the work they put in will be what (ultimately) gets us there. They were just part of the program at a different time. They brought our hockey to the next level. I am disappointed that they will not be playing with us when we do get to Joe Louis."
NMU HEAD COACH RICK COMLEY: "This is as big a win for us as a program that we've had for quite a few years. ... Our guys gave a gutty effort and battled hard the entire game. ... Dan Ragusett was awesome for us tonight and came up with quite a few big saves. ... The game tonight was typical for the entire season series versus Notre Dame. We are two very evenly matched teams.
NORTHERN MICHIGAN (21-13-5) 0 1 2 - 3 NOTRE DAME (19-14-5) 0 1 1 - 22ND: NMU 1. Holly 132 (Barabanoff, Frattaroli) 1:33; ND 1. Cotnoir 7 (unassisted) 9:36.
3RD: NMU 2. Connolly 3 (Smith) 3:07; ND 2. Urick 16 (Carlson, Fraser) 5:37; NMU 3. Barabanoff 1 (Theuer) 8:46.
SHOTS: NMU 7-7-7/21, ND 13-12-7/32.
SAVES: NMU (Ragusett) 13-11-6/30, ND (Karr) 7-6-5/18.
POWER PLAY: NMU 0-for-2, ND 1-for-6.
PENALTIES: NMU 14 for 28:00, ND 11 for 22:00.