SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Northern Michigan’s Matt Hunter and Bryce Cockburn each scored third-period goals to snap a 1-1 tie on the way to a 3-1 win over Notre Dame on Friday at the Joyce Center.
The win extended Northern’s mastery over the Irish to five games (4-0-1) dating back to March 13, 1999. Northern improved to 7-4-3 and 5-4-1 in the CCHA. Notre Dame dropped its second in a row to fall to 3-7-2 and 1-3-1 in league play.
The night started strong for the Fighting Irish as they played one of their best periods of the season in the first stanza.
David Inman, back in the lineup after missing two games with a concussion, rifled home his fifth goal of the season at 4:46 of the first period to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead.
Inman’s goal came off a faceoff as Ryan Dolder took the loose puck along the left-wing boards and dropped it to Rob Globke, who passed across the ice to Inman for the power-play goal.
Notre Dame outshot NMU, 10-5, in the first, but had just the one-goal lead.
“I was pleased after the first period, I thought we played as well as we have all season in the first period,” Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin said.
“Our special teams were good, we got the power-play goal and killed off three Northern power plays. We have this barrier to get over, we just have to get over it somehow. If we do, we’ll be a pretty good hockey team.”
Northern came out in the second and was able to grab the momentum, reeling off nine of the first ten shots on the way to a 17-shot second period. The Wildcats scored just once, though, at 15:40 when Sean Owens scored his first of the year from in front of the goal.
“I don’t understand how the momentum changes like that,” Poulin said. “We had some chances in the period, especially on the late power play. Still, 1-1 going into the third period, that’s where we want to be.”
The Irish got their offense going in the third period, but could not solve Wildcat goaltender Dan Ragusett. The senior goaltender stopped all 12 Notre Dame shots for a total of 31 saves in the game. Northern, on the other hand, scored twice on five shots.
Strong forechecking by sophomore Dan Donnette forced an Irish turnover in their defensive zone and the Wildcat forward fed the puck to freshman Matt Hunter in front who deposited the puck behind Notre Dame’s Tony Zasowski for the eventual game winner at 8:38 of the third period.
Cockburn added the insurance goal at 11:31 as his first shot in the slot was blocked by the Irish defense, but he got his own rebound and fired it under the crossbar for his eighth goal of the season.
The loss left Poulin looking for answers.
“We can’t be satisfied with playing a good game, it’s not good enough,” he said. “We went into the third period tied and gave up five shots, that should be good enough to win the game. We need individuals to step up and make plays. We’re getting our chances, now we have to start scoring goals.
“We have to win this game.”
Notre Dame outshot Northern Michigan by a 32-27 margin. Zasowski, who saw his record fall to 1-5-1 on the year, made 24 saves on the night for Notre Dame.
The Irish ran their penalty-killing streak to four straight games as they stopped Northern Michigan’s four power play chances. Notre Dame has now killed off 20 consecutive penalties, dating back to the Nov. 3 game at Miami.