SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Cory McLean scored two goals, goaltender Morgan Cey made 29 saves in his first start of the season, and Aaron Gill had a goal and two assists as Notre Dame downed Nebraska-Omaha, 5-3, at the Joyce Center on Thursday night.
The win gives the Irish a three-game winning streak and improves them to 4-2-0 overall and 3-2-0 in the CCHA. The Mavericks fall to 0-4-1 on the year and 0-2-1 in league play.
For Cey, it was his first appearance of the 2003-04 season after having knee surgery in July. His last action came at the CCHA Super Six on March 20 in a 3-2 loss to Ohio State. He made 29 saves in his opening-night performance that was cut short with 1:53 left in the game as he banged up his shoulder in a scramble that resulted in Nebraska-Omaha’s second goal. Freshman David Brown finished off the game making one save.
“Morgan’s okay, he just got a little dinged up on their last goal. With less than two minutes left, we just pulled him out as a precaution,” said head coach Dave Poulin. “It was good to have Morgan back. He made some big saves after they cut the lead to 2-1 in the second. I thought our defense played really well, especially early in the game.”
While Cey was turning in a stellar effort in his return engagement, Notre Dame’s line of Mike Walsh (two assists), Gill (a goal and two assists) and McLean (two goals) combined for three goals and four assists on the night.
McLean’s first goal came off a rush by defenseman Brett Lebda at 11:36. Aaron Gill made a quick pass to the senior defenseman in the neutral zone and Lebda did the rest as he weaved through the Nebraska-Omaha defense before getting a shot on goaltender Brian Haaland. The netminder made the first save, but McLean went to the front of the net to bang home the rebound for his third goal of the season.
“My goals tonight just show that when you put the puck on the net, good things happen,” said McLean. “Brett (Lebda) made a great effort on the first goal. I just went to the front of the net for the rebound.”
Second effort by Gill gave the Irish a 2-0 lead with just eight seconds left in the opening stanza. Lebda again started the play by banking the puck off the glass at the Maverick blue line. Mike Walsh beat the UNO defense to the puck and threw a shot towards the net. Gill knocked the shot down at the bottom of the right wing circle and fired a shot that Haaland stopped. The rebound squeaked through his pads and Gill slid it over the line for his second of the year.
“Aaron (Gill) really used his speed on the second goal to get to the loose puck in the crease for our second goal,” said head coach Dave Poulin.
Nebraska-Omaha broke Notre Dame’s shutout streak at 154:24 (since the third period of the Oct. 17 game versus Bowling Green) when freshman Brent Kisio got his first career goal with help from Scotty Turner at 10:02.
“When they made it 2-1, I thought the momentum was starting to turn,” said Poulin. “Morgan came up big for us with a couple of stops and the two quick goals helped us get the momentum back.”
Rob Globke teamed with freshmen Mike Bartlett and Jason Paige at 11:52 to make it a 3-1 lead. Paige put his linemates in on a two-on-one with Bartlett finding Globke between the hash marks. The senior right wing whipped a shot past Haaland for his fifth goal of the season.
McLean closed the Notre Dame scoring 29 seconds later when he took a pass from Gill near the left wing circle. He then headed for the middle of the ice as he fought off a UNO defender. As he was being pulled down, he got off a shot that eluded Haaland to give the Irish a three-goal lead at 4-1.
Andrew Wong closed the scoring as he steered the rebound of a Kaleb Betts shot under Cey for his first goal of the season at 18:07.
For the Irish, the win may not have been pretty, but they’ll take it.
“It was a workman-like effort. There was nothing pretty about it,” said Poulin. “This was a typical, hard-working, hard-fought CCHA game. I was happy with the way we responded after the big win last week (1-0 win at Boston College). You always worry how the team will follow-up. If you told me that we’d win 4-2 like we did tonight, you would take it.”
This game only featured one penalty, a third-period interference call to UNO’s Dan Knapp. The Irish went 0-for-1 on the power play.
For the night, Notre Dame outshot Nebraska-Omaha, 33-32. Haaland finished with 29 saves for the Mavericks.
The two teams will meet in the series finale on Friday night at the Joyce Center.