By Stefan Kubus
DETROIT – Although the Michigan Wolverines had been rolling since February, Notre Dame has had Michigan’s number lately, and it was no different in the last-ever CCHA Championship game Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
The Fighting Irish record a 3-1 win over Michigan to capture their third Mason Cup and first CCHA postseason title since 2009. Notre Dame is also a perfect 3-0 all-time in CCHA title games against the Wolverines.
“It came down to a 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon game where you’re a little concerned about which team might be really ready and which team might not be,” Berenson said. “We probably had as much momentum as we’ve had all year; we were in a good place, we had a tough game last night against Miami and it was a huge win for our team just to get into this game.”
Notre Dame bench boss Jeff Jackson said his guys did exactly what they needed to in order to triumph.
“It was a great weekend for us,” Jackson said. “The team did everything we asked of them and beyond. The guys deserve all the credit for paying the price, laying 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. I’m happy for these guys.”
Notre Dame came out apparently set on having the Wolverines play at their pace. Taking a commanding 18-6 shot advantage into the locker room after the opening 20 minutes, the Irish actually skated off down a goal, giving up a goal while on the power play.
At the 19:00 mark, freshman Offensive Defenseman of the Year Jacob Trouba (Rochester) saw an opening and led a rush down the ice while on the penalty kill. Trouba dished a pass across the Travis Lynch (White Lake), who gave it to Derek DeBlois. DeBlois let a shot go that Summerhays stopped, but Trouba spun around to give a pass back to DeBlois for an easy tap-in.
For Trouba, the former Compuware standout, it was his second assist in as many games.
Berenson said he knew his team had to play better in the second frame, given they had the lead.
“We knew we could play better than we played in the first and we escaped the first period,” Berenson said. “We were fine with our team; we knew we didn’t have a great period. I watch NHL hockey every night. There’s always a team being outshot 16-6 or 13-4 and then the other team comes back and they outshoot them and so on, and that happens in hockey.”
It took a gorgeous play, but Notre Dame struck with their 23rd shot of the game 10:34 into the second stanza. After a rebound squeaked out to Racine’s right side, junior forward Jeff Costello was there to make a beautiful, no-look spin-o-rama pass right to captain Anders Lee, who made no mistake in tying the game up at one aside.
The Fighting Irish continued to control the tempo with a fortified forecheck down low in the Wolverines’ zone. Shots through two stood at 28-10 in favor of Notre Dame.
A mere 29 seconds into the third period, off a broken play, sophomore Austin Wuthrich broke the tie off a quick side feed from Mario Lucia right in front of Racine.
Late in the game, as Racine was heading to the bench for the extra attacker, Costello broke through the neutral zone with the puck. Racine scrambled to try and get back, but it was too late, as Costello deposited the biscuit into the gaping net.
Jackson called this CCHA title “extra special” to him, considering it was the last one ever to be awarded, reminiscing on the glory days of the league.
“Well, this one’s extra special to me because the first team I ever coached in college hockey in 1991 won this tournament, and this would be the last opportunity to win one of these tournaments,” Jackson said. “There was a day when this thing meant more than being in the NCAA tournament. It was a jam-packed house all the time, it was an exciting place to come, everybody looked forward to going to the Joe.”
Berenson offered up his perspective on the 42-year-old league that he has coached Michigan in for all 29 years of his NCAA coaching career.
“Well, I think it’ll take a while before the smoke clears, but it’s been the only college league that I’ve coached in and when I played in Michigan, I played in the WCHA when Michigan was in that conference,” Berenson said. “The CCHA can be proud of all the team members, all the championships, all the great events they’ve had, the great players that they’ve produced and the great people they’ve produced as student-athletes, and not just NHL players. It’s been a great league, they have nothing to apologize for; it’s just too bad it’s over.”
Notes: T.J Tynan was named tournament MVP… All-Tournament Team: T.J. Tynan, Andrew Copp, Jeremy Wuthrich, Jacob Trouba, Stephen Johns, and Steve Racine.
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