NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Will the real Notre Dame hockey team please stand up?
Less than 24 hours after suffering an 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Yale, the Irish rebounded on Sunday afternoon with a 4-3 win to salvage a weekend split with the Bulldogs.
Notre Dame goaltender Tony Zasowski, who allowed all eight Yale goals on Saturday afternoon, turned in a superb performance with 40 saves, while Rob Globke picked up a pair of goals for the Irish (6-19-5). Dan Lombard stopped 22 shots for Yale (10-9), which saw its four-game winning streak snapped, allowed more than two goals for the first time in four weeks and lost for the first time at home since Dec. 8.
In a year filled with high expectations, the Irish have shown glimpses of the success they envisioned — particularly in taking three points from No. 9 Western Michigan. But there have also been times like Tuesday’s 9-0 loss to No. 7 Michigan and Saturday’s defeat against Yale.
“It’s been a very strange year,” coach Dave Poulin said. “We’ve been in this shape before, and we can rebound. We’ve got a pretty good team.”
His team benefited from the return of top-line center Aaron Gill, who missed Saturday’s game with an injured back. Gill scored the first Notre Dame goal and assisted on another before a sold-out crowd of 3,486 at Ingalls Rink.
“You don’t want to say that one guy can make the difference, but Gill is a big factor in this hockey team,” Poulin said.
Gill brought speed and a scoring touch to Notre Dame’s sputtering top line, and the penalty kill negated seven of eight Yale power plays, but the man who made the difference was Zasowski. He turned in brilliant saves all afternoon, culminating in a robbery of game-tying effort from Yale’s Nick Deschenes late in the third period.
“Coach gave me a lot of confidence by putting me in again today,” Zasowski said. “Yesterday, we gave up a lot of rebound goals. We did a better job around the net today.”
For Poulin, electing to put Zasowski back in the lineup was a no-brainer.
“There was no hesitation about who to play today,” he said. “Our goaltending has really struggled this year, especially at key times. I’m not a guy to play three goalies. Putting Tony in the lineup gives him confidence and the way he played gives the team confidence.”
But on the game’s first shift, it looked like another Yale blowout was in the offing. Deschenes took a pass from Jeff Hamilton into the Irish zone and ripped a slap shot past Zasowski from 20 feet out just 24 seconds into the game.
“I give them a lot of credit,” Yale coach Tim Taylor said. “We scored on the first shift, and they could have folded the tent with the season that they’ve had. … But they didn’t.”
Whereas the Elis scored the first three goals on Saturday, the Irish responded to Yale’s first goal on Sunday with three of their own in the first 20 minutes.
Gill got Notre Dame on the board at the 6:28 mark, pounding a rebound off his own shot past Lombard to even the score at 1.
“We scored the second goal and put ourselves in position to win the game today,” Zasowski said. “We didn’t take ourselves out of the game.”
Though the Bulldogs outshot the visitors 15-9 in the first period, the Irish found ways to beat Lombard. Globke got the first of his two goals off a rebound, poking the puck past the helpless Yale goaltender at 9:28.
Brett Lebda rounded out the Irish freshman goal-scoring triumvirate, beating Lombard with a wrister from the top of the right circle at the 14:14 mark to give Notre Dame a 3-1 lead.
The stunned Bulldogs started to recover and build some momentum midway through the second period. Lee Jelenic took a bad-angle shot from beneath the right circle, and the puck bounded off the side of the net and hard off the end boards. Adam Sauve corralled it and punched it past the sprawling Zaslowski 10 minutes into the second.
Just 18 seconds later, T.J. Mathieson was called for obstruction-interference, putting the Eli power play on the ice. But only seven seconds later, Yale’s Ben Stafford committed a cross-checking penalty in the offensive zone to stop the Eli momentum and quiet the Ingalls Rink crowd.
On the four-on-four, Lebda led a rush into the Yale zone then left a drop pass to Globke at the top of the slot. He fired a wrister from 15 feet out that beat Lombard to push the Irish lead back to two goals at the 11:18 mark.
Throughout the third period, Notre Dame freshmen repeatedly skated to the penalty box, giving the Bulldogs chances to get back into the game.
Yale’s Evan Wax scored a power-play goal with Globke in the penalty box at the 11:18 mark of the final period. After Neil Komadoski gloved a Jeff Dwyer shot at the left circle, Wax pounced on the loose puck and flung it past Zasowski to cut the lead to one.
Lebda kept the parade to the penalty box going only 16 seconds after Wax’s goal, and Galvin went off 1:46 later. The Bulldogs failed to convert on their short five-on-three, the negated the rest of their second power play with a bench minor for two many men on the ice.
The Elis took Lombard off for an extra skater with 1:21 left, but could not get the equalizer.
Both teams return to conference play with Notre Dame traveling to Ohio State for games with the Buckeyes on Friday and Saturday. Yale makes the North Country trip, taking on Clarkson on Friday and St. Lawrence on Saturday.