KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Behind junior center Aaron Gill’s hat trick and and offensive onslaught that saw 15 different Irish players record points, Notre Dame cruised to an 8-5 victory over Western Michigan en route to a series sweep of the Broncos.
The game was never as close as the score indicated, as freshman forward Tim Wallace’s goal at 13:53 of the first period opened the floodgates for the Irish. ND tallied four consecutive goals and scored twice on a major penalty to junior Dana Lattery to build an insurmountable 7-2 lead at the end of the second period.
Despite receiving little defensive assistance during the game, WMU freshman netminder Scott Foster was yanked midway through the contest in favor of sophomore Mike Mantua after allowing five goals on 19 shots. Mantua wasn’t much better, finishing with six saves on eight shots. ND’s sophomore goaltender Morgan Cey recorded the victory, finishing with 17 saves, including 11 in the third period.
The physical Irish defense pounded the Broncos all night long, holding the high-potent Bronco offense to eight shots through two periods.
The Broncos finally responded after the second intermission by tallying three unanswered goals in the first 11 minutes of the final period before sophomore center Yan Stastny’s empty-net goal put the Broncos away.
WMU’s habit of taking untimely penalties came back to haunt the Broncos as the Irish scored four times on seven power-play opportunities, including junior defenseman Neil Komadoski’s blast from the point past a screened Foster to put ND up 1-0 at 5:54 of the first period.
“I’m very unhappy with our performance all weekend long,” said WMU head coach Jim Culhane. “We go down there, get behind right away 3-1, and have to try to battle back … while tonight, with a big, enthusiastic crowd, we found ourselves behind again. We took ourselves out of the game with the penalties and they scored [on] the power play.”
The Broncos evened the score at 12:07 of the first period after senior forward Ben Gagnon found a streaking Paul Davies with a nice pass that allowed the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. native to deke past Cey and tie the game.
Shortly after the Davies goal, ND took the lead and never looked back as Wallace took a strange rebound off the side boards while standing wide-open in the slot and blew it past Foster to give the Irish a 2-1 advantage.
It was 5-1 before Lattery gave the Broncos some hope at 12:32 of the second period. The captain tallied his second goal of the season by deflecting a blast from Mike Jarmuth past Cey to cut the lead to 5-2.
But shortly after the goal, Lattery found himself in the penalty box after being assessed a major penalty for clipping Irish forward Jake Wiegand. Wiegand didn’t return to the game and the Irish responded by beating Mantua twice with the man advantage. Gill scored the game-winning goal by putting back a rebound off a Globke shot past Mantua at 15:58. Then senior forward Michael Chin continued his outstanding weekend by taking a Connor Dunlop pass and beating the WMU net minder at 17:20, and ND found itself with a 7-2 lead going into the third period.
The Broncos made things very interesting early in the third period by doing what they failed to accomplish in the first 40 minutes: getting quality scoring opportunities and controlling the play in the Irish zone. Freshman forward Vince Bellissimo tallied on a 3-on-1 rush at 1:47 and sophomore forward Pat Dwyer scored top-shelf from the slot at 3:08 of the third period to cut the lead to 7-4.
“I told them we have 20 minutes to save face,” said Culhane. “We’ve embarassed ourselves and the program for the first 40 minutes, and that’s not Bronco hockey. That’s not going to sit well with anybody. You have 20 minutes to get some pride back in yourselves and this uniform.”
WMU defenseman Andy Townsend awoke the 3,559 fans at Lawson Arena at 10:28 when the senior found a loose puck during a mad scramble to the side of the goal mouth and scored to cut the Irish lead to two goals.
Despite the sweep, Culhane tried to calm reporters.
“It’s early in the year … but obviously I’m not pleased with what took place this weekend,” he said.
After starting out 2-0 for the first time in 11 years, the Broncos find themselves right back at .500, while ND remains undefeated at 3-0-1.
The Broncos head to Orono next week to take on Maine in a non-conference series, while Notre Dame sticks to the CCHA action with a series against Ferris State.