March 27, 2011
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MANCHESTER, N.H. - Notre Dame sophomore goaltender Mike Johnson stopped 37-of-38 shots on the night and got all the offense he needed on goals by Stephen Johns and Billy Maday as the Fighting Irish downed New Hampshire, 2-1, on Sunday night in front of 5,906 at the Verizon Wireless Arena. The win gives Notre Dame the NCAA Northeast Regional championship and a trip to the Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn., on April 7th.
Johnson, who was selected to the all-region team and the regionals most valuable player, was the key for the Irish as he held the Wildcats off the scoreboard early in the game and then withstood their third-period comeback attempt. The Verona, Wis., native finished the weekend with 69 saves and a pair of wins.
The lone New Hampshire goal came with 6:23 left in the game and was scored by Mike Sislo.
The victory improves ninth-ranked Notre Dame to 25-13-5 overall while 11th-ranked New Hampshire finishes the year with a 22-11-6 mark. The Irish will face Minnesota Duluth in one semifinal game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday, April 7 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2. This will be Notre Dame's second trip to the Frozen Four as the Irish played in the 2008 edition, advancing to the finals where they lost to Boston College in the title game. Michigan will face North Dakota in the other semifinal game.
"Obviously, we're thrilled to death," said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
"For this group to accomplish what they have this year with as many young players is incredible. It's an exciting opportunity for all of us and we are looking forward to it."
New Hampshire dominated the first seven minutes of the game, out shooting Notre Dame by an 8-1 margin. Following a television timeout at the 7:11 mark of the period, the Irish got their second shot of the period and it found the back of the Wildcat net.
Johns got Notre Dame on the scoreboard first, scoring on the second Irish shot of the night at 7:26 as he hammered a shot from the center point past UNH netminder Matt DiGirolamo's stick hand.
Notre Dame broke into the Wildcat zone with Anders Lee carrying the puck down the right boards. The freshman left wing left the puck at the blue line for Riley Sheahan. The sophomore center moved towards the right face-off circle before dropping the puck to Johns who entered the zone late. Johns put his 6-4, 221-pound frame into a slap shot that beat DiGirolamo between his blocker and the left post for a 1-0 Irish lead.
"Riley Sheahan came up the boards on my goal and made a great pass," said Johns.
"He showed great patience with the puck and it showed what a great player he is."
The Wildcats out shot the Irish, 13-7, in the first period.
The Irish gained an edge in the play in the second period but could not get the puck past DiGirolamo until there were just five seconds left in the period.
With time running down, the Irish dumped the puck into the New Hampshire zone where Sheahan took control. He worked his way down to the goal line before centering a pass in front. The puck found Maday at the bottom of the left circle where he got off a backhander that beat the Wildcat goaltender over his blocker and under the crossbar at 19:55 to give the Irish a 2-0 lead. The goal was Maday's second of the weekend and 10th of the season.
"It all started from a great forecheck," said Maday.
"I was the high guy and I saw Riley (Sheahan) had the puck and I saw the opportunity to go to the net. He made a great pass, and I was able to put it in."
For the second period in a row, Johnson kept New Hampshire off the scoreboard, stopping all 16 shots he faced. He robbed Wildcat right wing Mike Sislo who was all alone in front with 5:45 left in the second blocking a shot off his blocker. He then turned in a pair of big glove saves off the stick of Kevin Goumas in the waning moments of the middle period.
"Mike's (Johnson) biggest challenge is that he wants to do well so bad that he ends up thinking it too much," said Jackson.
"I keep reminding him of all the goalie drills we do that it's more about just getting into the game and stopping the puck. You don't think, you just play. Tonight, he just played."
New Hampshire broke up Johnson's shutout bid at 13:37 of the third period on a goal by Sislo from right in front to make it a 2-1 game.
Defenseman Matt Campanale moved up the right wing boards and carried the puck behind the net. From there he centered it in front to Sislo who was all alone below the hashmarks where he one-timed the puck past Johnson for his 15th goal of the season.
From there the Irish held off the Wildcats, including a penalty kill in the final four minutes. Johnson was quick to credit his teammates for his success in the win.
"They did a great job, the forwards and defense in front of me," explained Johnson.
"They got sticks in passing lanes and did a good job of deflecting pucks and blocking shots. I have to credit them. They were unbelievable tonight with the back pressure that allowed the defense to stay on the blue line and not allow them (UNH) into our zone as easily. They played a great game in front of me and we couldn't have won without their hard work."
On the night, Notre Dame was out shot by New Hampshire, 38-36. DiGirolamo finished with 34 saves in the Wildcat goal.
The win improved the Irish to 6-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament games.
Four Notre Dame players were selected to the all-Northeast Regional Team. Johnson was selected as the all-tourney goaltender with Johns on defense. Maday and Anders Lee were selected as forwards on the squad. New Hampshire defenseman Blake Kessel and forward Mike Sislo rounded out the team with Johnson being named MVP of the tournament.
** IRISH NOTES **
** With back-to-back one-goal wins in the Northeast Regional this weekend, the Irish are now 10-5 on the season in one-goal games.
** Notre Dame's 25 wins this season are the fifth-highest total in the program's 43-year history.
** Notre Dame has played one other time in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. That came on Oct. 7, 2000 when the Irish faced Minnesota in the Hall of Fame Classic. The Gophers defeated Notre Dame, 7-3, in that game.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 - F
#11/#11 New Hampshire (22-11-6) 0 0 1 - 1
#9/#9 Notre Dame (25-13-5) 1 1 0 - 2
First Period: ND: Stephen Johns 2 (Riley Sheahan, Anders Lee), 7:26.
Penalties: UNH: 0 for 0 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Second Period: ND: Billy Maday 10 (Sheahan), 19:55.
Penalties: UNH: 1 for 2 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Third Period: UNH: Mike Sislo 15 (Matt Campanale, Damon Kipp), 13:37.
Penalties: UNH: 1 for 2 minutes; ND: 1 for 2 minutes.
Shots On Goal:
New Hampshire 13 - 16 - 9 - 38
Notre Dame 7 - 15 - 14 - 36
UNH: Matt Girolamo (60:00) 6 - 14 - 14 - 34
ND: Mike Johnson (60:00) 13 - 16 - 8 - 37
UNH: 0 for 3
ND: 0 for 2