By Stefan Kubus
DETROIT – Stingy defense on one end of the ice and a red-hot netminder at the other ultimately told the tale of the first of two last-ever CCHA championship semifinal games.
Notre Dame forced Ohio State senior goaltender Brady Hjelle – named CCHA Goaltender of the Year Friday evening at the CCHA Awards show – to make 41 saves, yet the Irish still clinched a spot in the CCHA championship game Saturday with a 3-1 win at Joe Louis Arena Friday afternoon.
On the flip side, the Irish only allowed a mere 17 shots, making life easy for junior goalie Steven Summerhays.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased with our effort tonight,” ND head coach Jeff Jackson said. “I thought we played a good 60-minute hockey game.”
From the get-go, Notre Dame controlled the pace, forcing the Buckeyes to play their game, as they tested Hjelle early with eight shots through the first half of the opening frame.
Yet it was the Buckeyes who struck first, and on their first shot of the contest, no less. Sophomore forward and leading scorer Ryan Dzingel finished off a beautiful 3-on-1 passing play to sneak a puck past Summerhays for the 1-0 lead.
But less than a minute later, sophomore Peter Schneider tied things up with a pretty, 3-on-1 goal of his own, showing patience and poise to rip a wrister past Hjelle. That’ the way the first frame ended, with the Fighting Irish holding an 11-5 shot advantage.
“Peter’s goal after Ohio State scored was huge for us,” Jackson said of Schneider’s responding goal. “Sometimes responding after having that first goal against is one of the most important things.”
Junior Alex Lippincott came centimeters from breaking the tie early in the second stanza, as he made a great deke to his right, snuck a backhand shot off the left post that bounced straight across the goal line, but Summerhays kicked it out from underneath him to keep it a tie game.
With that close call aside, the rest of the period calmed down, with Notre Dame still controlling the tempo and Hjelle still shutting the door. The teams also exchanged fruitless power play opportunities, and the game stood at 1-1 after two, with the Irish extending their shot advantage to 28-12.
T.J. Tynan finally found a way past Hjelle, ripping a shot past his blocker to make it a 2-1 Fighting Irish lead. Tynan’s tally held up despite a late surge of energy from the Buckeyes, largely in thanks to the Notre Dame’s stingy defensive play.
“We emphasized all week on getting pucks to the net,” Tynan said. “Obviously, [Hjelle] is an unbelievable goaltender.”
OSU head coach Mark Osiecki said after the game that, although it was not the finish he hoped for, he was thrilled with the battle his guys put up.
“We couldn’t be more proud of the way these guys responded to each other,” Osiecki said. “It was a great step for our program.”
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