By Karl Henkel/at the CCHA Championship
DETROIT - In a game with huge and bizarre NCAA Tournament implications, Northern Michigan played spoiler, well, sort of, as they defeated Notre Dame, 2-1, to take third place in the CCHA Tournament.
According to USCHO.com, Notre Dame would have to either win or lose Saturday's consolation game – not tie – in order to make it to the big dance. This is by virtue of the number of comparison wins, and the Irish would fall one short if a draw occurred.
“I don't believe anything until I see it on paper,” a peeved Jeff Jackson said after the game. “At this point it is just all speculation."
Notre Dame came out and tested Wildcat netminder Reid Ellingson early on. Ellingson, who was playing in place of Brian Stewart, turned aside 13 first-period shots.
The game was suspiciously similar to the Notre Dame-Miami game from a day ago, in that the game continued to remain scoreless – at least until Christian Hanson sped down the left wing and backhanded a low shot underneath the pads of Ellingson. The play was set up off a tape-to-tape pass from Christian Minella. Dan VeNard also added an assist.
Early in the third at the 1:15 mark, Matt Siddall fired a shot that was stopped by the right pad of Jordan Pearce. The rebound came right to a streaking Tim Hartung, who fired a bullet into the back of the net.
Just 1:16 later, Siddall picked up a tally of his own, and suddenly NMU was on the bright side of a one-goal lead. It was potentially Siddall's final game for NMU, as he and teammate Andrew Sarauer are the only outgoing seniors
The Wildcats then sustained a flurry of Irish scoring chances, but Derek Janzen, who came in for Ellingson midway through the game, managed to keep the puck from crossing the goal line.
“By then I was all warm,” Janzen said. “The puck just looked huge to me today.”
For the game, Janzen made 25 saves, while Ellingson made 14.
“I'm so proud of this team,” a joyous Walt Kyle said, “Both of these guys (the goaltenders) deserve a lot of credit, but this guy deserves it most (pointing to Janzen).”
Notre Dame's fate for the NCAA Tournament will become clearer with the conclusion of other conference tournament games later today.