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Irish win final CCHA Championship

Notre Dame will be the last college name to hang from the rafters of Joe Louis Arena. The Irish ended the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s final season Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 win over Michigan in Detroit to claim the school’s third conference title.

Sophomore Austin Wuthrich scored the game-winning goal on the first shift of the third period, taking advantage of a fortuitous bounce to zap the last of the tidal wave of momentum Michigan rode into the weekend. The Wolverines (18-19-3) had not lost in nine games and were scoring in bunches prior to running into the Irish. Notre Dame whittled away the final 19 minutes of the championship game by keeping control of the puck and playing strong in its own end.

“We were looking to hang banners and make memories, and that’s what we did here today,” said T.J. Tynan who won the tournament’s most valuable player award after scoring the game-winning goal Saturday against Ohio State and adding an assist on Wuthrich’s goal Sunday.

Tynan helped spearhead an offense that landed 76 shots on net during its two games this weekend. Like they did in a similar 3-1 win Saturday, the Irish kept a steady stream of pressure in the offensive zone, especially early in the game. Notre Dame outshot the high-flying Wolverines 18-6 in the first period.

Despite controlling much of the first 20 minutes, Notre Dame trailed 1-0 heading into the locker room for the first intermission. Michigan’s Derek DeBlois gave his team the early lead on a shorthanded goal with one minute remaining in the period.

An Irish turnover at the blue line led to a 3-on-2 rush for Michigan. Irish goalie Steven Summerhays (20 saves) stopped the initial rush, but Jacob Trouba corralled the rebound behind the net and fed DeBlois who was waiting at the edge of the crease.

“That was a bad goal to give up, but the same thing happened yesterday,” Tynan said. “We were down and a goal and we know what we’re capable of. We just came back harder I thought.”

Irish captain Anders Lee started the comeback with his 20th goal of the season at the halfway point of the second period. Junior defenseman Stephen Johns started the play with a shot that jumped off the Joe Louis Arena boards and on to Jeff Costello’s stick. Costello fed his line mate in front of the net, and Lee was able to finally squeeze one past Michigan goalie Steve Racine.

“He was a wall at the beginning of the game and pretty much all tournament,” Lee said. “For us to get that first one it was a relief.”

The Wolverines freshman stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced and made the CCHA All-Tournament team.

Wuthrich, who took the place of an injured Mike Voran on Notre Dame’s second line this weekend, found another gap behind Racine early in the third period. Tynan fed sure-handed freshman Mario Lucia with a pass on the door step, but Lucia lost control when trying to stickhandle. The puck rolled directly in front of a hard-charging Wuthrich who fired it in.

“It’s a little deflating when you’re in the locker room and you’re talking about what you need to do to win the period and you come out and get scored on,” Michigan defenseman Lee Moffie said.

Irish junior Jeff Costello finished the game with his second empty net goal in as many days. He stepped in front of a Michigan pass near center ice just as Racine headed to the bench. Costello took a few strides and buried the goal, the CCHA and Michigan’s NCAA Tournament hopes in one swift shot.

The Wolverines' loss snaps a 23-year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances. Notre Dame will likely be a No. 1 seed in its region next weekend. The NCAA selection show will reveal the brackets Sunday night at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.

Irish head coach Jeff Jackson didn’t want to comment on his team’s NCAA standing following its win over Michigan. For Jackson, Sunday was about putting to rest a conference that has been home since he played for Michigan State in the late 1970s.

The win was Jackson’s seventh Mason Cup victory and his third at Notre Dame. The Irish also won the conference tournament in 2007 and 2009, both of those wins came against the Wolverines.

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