DETROIT – It was the type of game defensive-minded Notre Dame knows all too well, and high-flying Michigan sees so rarely: A tense, low-scoring affair in which a single bounce marks the difference between a win and a loss.

And just to make the game a little more palpitating, the contest was for the Mason Cup, the CCHA’s championship trophy.

It wasn’t surprising then, that in a game better suited to their style, the Fighting Irish defeated Michigan 2-1 to capture the program’s first-ever CCHA title on St. Patrick’s Day.

It was just such a crucial carom that led to Notre Dame’s game-winner.

Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer stopped Garrett Regan’s initial shot from just inside the blue line. But he couldn’t stick away the rebound and the puck slipped to Jason Paige who slid it through Sauer’s five-hole for a 2-1 lead with just 11 minutes remaining.

The Wolverines had a power-play chance to tie the game after Tom Sawatske was called for a crosscheck with 1:53 remaining. Seconds into the man advantage, Sauer was exchanged for an extra attacker giving the Wolverines a 6-to-4 edge for the final 94 seconds. But Michigan failed to establish possession and the seconds dwindled away without a scoring chance.

Despite Brown’s solid play and the disappointing result, it was Sauer who looked like a superstar goalie at times last night.

During a Notre Dame second-period power play, Sauer made three impressive saves on point-blank shots. At the next stoppage in play, Sauer could be seen smiling, the puck streaks on his block ‘M’ evidence of his masterful goaltending.

Though the onus for the game-winning goal fell on his shoulders, Sauer’s effort was beyond commendable. The sophomore made 35 saves a night after he stopped a penalty shot in Michigan’s 5-2 semifinal win over Michigan State.

Michigan benefited from a good carom to score the game’s first goal with just five seconds remaining in the first period. Kevin Porter’s top-shelf tally came off one of the rare rebounds Notre Dame goalie David Brown allowed all game. The senior goalie was named the championship MVP after giving up just one goal in two games.

It was Porter’s third goal of an excellent weekend, making one wonder if he’ll keep the mustache he grew for the playoffs well past the season’s conclusion.

Notre Dame’s tying goal came off a rebound, too. Kevin Deeth threw the puck in front of the net where it deflected off Sauer’s pad and the rebound went right to Erik Condra’s stick. Condra buried the chance with less than five minutes remaining in the second period.

Notre Dame dominated the game’s opening minutes. The Fighting Irish pinned Michigan down low for over a minute only to be called for a tripping penalty just as a scoring chance developed.

The game’s physical nature befit its importance. Numerous hits wowed the crowd, perhaps none more that Jack Johnson’s demolition of Notre Dame forward Josh Sciba with six minutes remaining in the second period.

Johnson had an excellent shorthanded chance to give Michigan a 2-1 lead about six minutes into the third. Trailing a 3-on-2 rush, Johnson received the puck just inside the blue line and fired a slapshot. The puck got past Brown but hit the right post.

Michigan will learn of its next opponent tomorrow afternoon when the NCAA Tournament bracket is released.

– For more comprehensive coverage of the CCHA Finals, check out the Daily’s SportsMonday coverage on Monday.

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