SOUTH BEND, Ind. — In the course of a long collegiate hockey season, there are good ties and bad ties. Notre Dame’s 3-3 tie with the Ferris State Bulldogs on Saturday night will probably go into the bad tie column.
The Irish led in the game 3-1 before allowing Ferris State to battle back and tie the game at 5:43 of the third period. While the weekend’s results — three of four points in CCHA league play — pleased Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin, he was disappointed with Saturday’s ending.
“If you look at the weekend, taking three of four points in a CCHA weekend, is great, but the way we tied it wasn’t,” said Poulin following the game. “Tonight was the third time this year we took a lead into the third period and lost it. We really need to have that killer instinct. We told them you have to get that when it’s 3-1 and not 3-3.”
After going 0-4-1 to start the season, the Irish are now 2-1-2 in their last five games and are off to their best start in the CCHA (2-2-2) since 1998-99 when they were 5-1-0 to start the season. Notre Dame is 2-5-2 overall while Ferris State is 4-4-1 on the year and 2-4-1 in CCHA play.
The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard just 1:32 into the game when their top scorers — Chris Kunitz and Rob Collins — combined for the goal. Collins picked up a loose puck along the right wing boards and found Kunitz in front of the net where he redirected the pass behind Irish goaltender Tony Zasowski.
That would be all the scoring until the 4:51 mark of the second period when the Irish scored three times in a 3:29 span with two of the goals coming on the power play.
David Inman tied the game with his sixth goal of the year and third on the power play. The senior forward deflected Tom Galvin’s slapshot from 15-feet in front of the net. The deflection broke through Ferris State goaltender John DeCaro’s pads, trickled through the crease and just made it over the goal line to tie the game 1-1.
Just 1:45 later, defenseman Brett Lebda displayed his tremendous skating ability while the two teams skated four-on-four. After FSU dumped the puck into the Notre Dame zone, Zasowski, making just his second start of the season, left it for Derek Smith who fired it around the left wing boards. Lebda picked up the puck and skated up the left side, cut across the middle at the FSU blue line, cruised down the right side and fired a wrist shot between DeCaro and the near post for his third goal of the season at 6:36.
The Irish looked like they had gained control of the game when Aaron Gill scored on the power play at 8:20. Galvin’s shot was stopped in front by a Ferris State defenseman. Michael Chin got the rebound and was stopped by DeCaro, but Gill jammed the puck home for his fourth of the season and the Irish led 3-1.
Penalties at 16:10 to Rob Globke and 16:37 to Brett Lebda gave Ferris State a two-man advantage and they took advantage of it. Kunitz and Collins set up freshman Derek Nesbitt for his first collegiate goal on the power play at 17:06 and the momentum began to change.
“The five-on-three was a big goal for them,” said Poulin. “Both penalties were in the offensive zone and its frustrating as a coach because they happen 150 feet away from the play. Our penalty killing has been good all year, but they were able to get the goal that got them back in the game.”
Defenseman Derrick McIver got the game-tying goal at 5:43 of the third after center Jeff Legue’s forechecking caused the Irish to turn the puck over at the blue line. Legue came up with the bouncing puck and dropped it behind him to McIver, who moved to the top of the right wing circle and fired. Somehow the puck squeezed through Zasowski’s pads for McIver’s third goal of the year.
Both teams had good scoring chances in the third period but DeCaro and Zasowski slammed the door to preserve the 3-3 tie. On the night, the Irish outshot Ferris State 33-29. DeCaro made 30 saves while Zasowski had 26 saves for the Irish.