SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame hockey season ground to a halt as Western Michigan’s Ryan Crane and Mike Bishai scored twice and Jeff Campbell added a goal and three assists in the Bronco’s 7-2 win on Saturday night.
The loss, snapped Notre Dame’s six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2) and ended Notre Dame’s late season playoff drive on the final night of the regular season.
The Irish loss coupled with Bowling Green’s 3-2 win over Ferris State moved the Falcons into a tie for ninth with Alaska-Fairbanks in the final standings. By virtue of the first tiebreaker (league wins, BG – 8, UAF -7), Bowling Green moves into ninth with UAF taking the 10th and final spot. Notre Dame and Lake Superior State finished 11th and 12th respectively.
The loss ends the Irish season with a 10-22-7 overall record and a 7-15-6 mark in league play. Western Michigan finishes the year at 19-11-6 and 12-10-6 in the CCHA. The Broncos finish sixth in the standings and open the playoffs next weekend at Northern Michigan.
“This is a huge disappointment for all of us,” said a dejected head coach Dave Poulin following the game. “We really put on a great late season run. We played on the road and we played well to get back to the point where we controlled our own destiny. You want to be looking to do it yourself, not looking for help from someone else to make it. We just didn’t get it done tonight.
Western Michigan scored the only goal of the first period as Crane got his first of the night and second of the year at 12:48. The Irish had plenty of chances, but failed to dent Bronco goaltender Jeff Reynaert who made 13 of his 42 saves in the first period.
“We had plenty of great chances early in the game, but couldn’t put them away. Reynaert held us off the scoreboard. He was the difference early,” said Poulin.
The Broncos broke the game open with three second period goals, getting two on the power play. Campbell beat Jeremiah Kimento from in close with the man-advantage just 20 seconds into the second stanza and Bishai got his first of the night at 4:33 to give WMU a 3-0 lead.
Crane got the game winner at 18:28 as his centering pass deflected in off Kimento off a scramble around the Irish net.
“Special teams have been a problem all year long and we saw it in the second period,” said Poulin. “They capitalized on their power play and we didn’t. We got great movement and some great opportunities, but couldn’t score. We struggled all year in that area and its fitting that that’s what ended it for us.”
In the third period, the Irish were forced to open things up and take chances gambling to get back in the game. Aaron Gill cut the lead to 4-1 with his 11th of the season at 3:09 and the Irish offense came to life.
Any hopes of rallying were quickly stopped by Reynaert who faced 20 third period shots and made 18 stops. Western scored three times in a 2:09 span of the third. Bishai made it 5-1 with his 20th at 13:44, Brett Rumble got his seventh of the season at 13:44 and David Gove closed out the Bronco scoring with his 20th at 15:53.
Notre Dame’s Sam Cornelius closed out the game, scoring off a face-off win by senior Chad Chipchase for his first goal of the season at 19:06 for the final of 7-2.
“This is a tough way to go out. We are losing a very good senior class. They are really special kids and not making the playoffs is a hard way to finish out you career,” said Poulin.
“I told them after the game, that the lesson to be learned here is don’t leave until the last game. Every point is important and means something. You just can’t turn it on at the end and make it that way.”