Detroit, Mich. -
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish sent the CCHA off in style on Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena as they won their third CCHA championship since 2006-07 and the final one in the league's 42-year history with a 3-1 win over Michigan.
The win was the fifth straight for Notre Dame against the Wolverines this season and the Irish have now won all three of their CCHA titles by beating Michigan in the championship game.
Sophomore right wing Austin Wuthrich snapped a 1-1 tie just 29 seconds into the third period to put Notre Dame ahead to stay with a 2-1 lead. Junior captain Anders Lee tied the game in the second stanza with his 20th goal of the year and Jeff Costello sealed the victory with an unassisted tally with 1:07 left in the game.
The Wolverines took the lead in the game on a short-handed goal by Derek DeBlois. For the second night in a row, the Irish outshot their opponent, this time by a 33-21 margin, including 18 shots in the first period. Michigan's Steve Racine made 30 saves while Steven Summerhays had 20 in the Notre Dame goal, with two outstanding saves in the third period while the game was 2-1.
The win, the sixth straight for the Irish in March improves Notre Dame's record to 25-12-3 overall and gives the Irish a top-seed in the NCAA Tournament pairings later today. Notre Dame is unbeaten in its last nine games (7-0-2) since Feb. 17. The loss ended Michigan's season with an 18-19-3 record and snapped a nine-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1) and the Wolverines streak of 22 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Championship.
"Obviously we are thrilled. It's a great weekend for us," said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
"The team did everything that we asked of them and beyond. I thought it got us just about ready for (the NCAA tournament). You know, paying the price and putting it on the line, and doing what they had to do to be successful against two good teams. We're just proud to be able to raise another banner at the Compton Center. So, I'm happy for these guys."
Notre Dame dominated the first period as they out shot Michigan by an 18-6 margin but it was the Wolverines who scored the lone goal of the period and they did it short-handed at the 19:00-minute mark.
With Irish on the power play, Michigan went on the offensive with Kevin Lynch carrying the puck into the Irish zone. His shot attempt was blocked with the rebound going to Jacob Trouba on the goal line to the right of Summerhays. His centering attempt across the crease was redirected by DeBlois inside the left post for his 11th of the season and gave Michigan the 1-0 lead.
Notre Dame got the equalizer midway through the second period as Lee beat Racine from in front for his 20th goal of the year at 10:34.
Defenseman Stephen Johns fired a shot from the right point that went off the backboards to the left goal line where Costello stopped it. As he spun away from a Michigan defenseman, he centered a pass to Lee in the slot and he tucked a shot inside the right post to tie the game at 1-1.
"(Steve Racine) was a wall in the beginning of the game, and pretty much the whole tournament," said Lee.
"For us to get that first (goal) was more than a relief. It got us on the board to tie up the game and give some confidence to the boys, because we were pumping shots left and right, so for us to finally get one was definitely a huge break for us."
The Irish took the lead for good just 29 seconds into the third period as the trio of T.J. Tynan, Mario Lucia and Wuthrich combined for a great passing play with Wuthrich getting his fifth of the season and the eventual game winner.
Tynan carried the puck down the left boards into the Michigan zone and moved towards the middle where he found Lucia in the right circle. The Michigan defense slid over to Lucia who redirected the puck to Wuthrich who was left alone in the slot. The right wing wasted little time as he snapped a shot over Racine's blocker and under the cross bar for his fifth of the year to make it 2-1.
From there, the Notre Dame defense stiffened as the Wolverine's pressed for the tying goal. Summerhays made two stops on tip-ins late in the period to keep the Wolverines off the scoreboard.
As time ticked down near the one-minute mark, Michigan looked to pull their goaltender for a sixth attacker. Racine got caught in no-man's land trying to get off the ice just as Costello stole the puck at center and raced into the Wolverine zone. Before Racine could get back in the cage, the junior from Milwaukee, Wis., snapped a shot into the empty goal for his 11th of the season and the 3-1 victory and a CCHA championship.
"It's pretty special. For everyone in the locker room it's our first opportunity to raise a banner and we played hard and we played well," said Lee.
"We stuck together as a team, and that's been the reason why we were in this game today. We faced a five-game losing streak during the middle of the regular season, but we were so close in the locker room that it wasn't going to get to our heads. For us to go out there and win the last CCHA Championship is very special to us."
For head coach Jeff Jackson, the CCHA championship was his seventh as he has four with Lake Superior State and now three with the Irish. That ranks him third all-time behind Ron Mason (13) and Red Berenson (9).
"This one is extra special to me," said Jackson.
"The first team I ever coached as a head coach in college hockey (Lake Superior) in 1991 won this tournament and this will be the last opportunity to win one a CCHA tournament."
The Irish will now hop on the bus and return to South Bend for tonight's 9 p.m. NCAA selection show on ESPNU to see where they will play next week as they return to the NCAA's for the sixth time in the program's history.
IRISH HOCKEY NOTES:
** The Irish placed three players on the CCHA All-Tournament Team - junior center T.J. Tynan, sophomore right wing Austin Wuthrich and junior defenseman Stephen Johns. Michigan's three players were all freshmen - forward Andrew Copp, defenseman Jacob Trouba and goaltender Steve Racine.
** With his goal, Anders Lee reached the 20-goal plateau for the second time in his Notre Dame career. He had 24 in his freshman season of 2010-11 and now has 61 for his career.
** Notre Dame's current six-game winning streak (March 1 to March 24) equals the previous best streak this season that came from Nov. 24 to Dec. 15.
** The Irish finished with an all-time record of 31-35 in CCHA playoff games. Notre Dame is 7-9 all-time at Joe Louis Arena and 6-9 against Michigan in CCHA playoff games. The Irish are 3-0 versus the Wolverines in CCHA Championship games.