ESTERO, Fla. — The Notre Dame Fighting Irish scored just one goal at the Everblades Classic, but junior goaltender Morgan Cey made sure it proved to be a game-winning goal.
Cey, making his first appearance for the Irish since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in early December, stopped all 32 shots he faced as Notre Dame shut out third-ranked Maine, 1-0, in Sunday’s third-place game.
Sophomore left wing Mike Walsh scored the lone goal of the game on a power-play deflection at 9:03 of the second period and the Irish defense made it stand up as Maine outshot the Irish, 32-22 on the afternoon, including 25-13 over the final two periods.
Cey’s return to action was just what the Irish needed as they snapped a three-game losing streak to improve to 9-6-2 on the year. The Black Bears fall to 12-4-1.
“This was an enormous win for us this afternoon,” said Irish head coach Dave Poulin. “We talked before the game about building on all the things we did well last night. Morgan’s return was a big boost. This win gives us a big boost going into the second half of the season.”
The first period started slowly as both teams worked to get their legs going in the 1:05 p.m. start. The Irish had a couple of good chances on two first-period power plays but failed to beat Maine’s Frank Doyle.
Cey came up with the stop of the period with under a minute left when Maine’s top goal-scorer — Todd Jackson — raced in on a breakaway.
“That was a big save for us. He made a good move but I was able to get a leg on it,” said Cey.
“I think it gave the team a bit of a boost going into the intermission. For me, it was great to be able to get back in the lineup and help the team out.
For Poulin, the save proved that his junior goaltender was back.
“After he made the save, I thought, ‘He’s okay.’ I had a perfect angle on it, and he gave him (Jackson) room to shoot, and then made the big stop,” said Poulin.
In the second period, Walsh would provide the Irish with the only goal of the game. Maine’s Prestin Ryan was whistled off for elbowing at 8:08 and the Irish capitalized 55 seconds later at 9:03.
Off a faceoff in the right wing circle, the Irish controlled the draw on the left-wing boards. Cory McLean moved it back to the right point to Brett Lebda, who fired a wrist shot towards Doyle in the Maine goal. Walsh was parked on the hash mark of the right-wing circle and got the blade of his stick on it to deflect it over Doyle’s glove hand for his eighth goal of the season and third game-winning goal.
“This was an outstanding hockey game today. There was plenty of scoring chances and both goaltenders were outstanding. Doyle (Frank) played great and made some great saves on Rob Globke and Tim Wallace to keep it a one-goal game,” said Poulin.
The Irish tightened up on defense after Walsh’s goal and Cey held the Black Bears at bay the rest of the way.
“I was a little nervous coming in to this game. I really wanted to get back in the lineup,” said Cey. “We really wanted to come out of this game with a win. Maine’s got a great team. The team really stepped up especially in the third period. I got to see the shots and I kept seeing guys getting knocked down in front. They really played great in front of me.”
The Black Bears pulled Doyle (21 saves in the game) with 2:11 left for a sixth attacker, but time and again, the Irish defense was able to clear the puck.
For Cey, the shutout was the fifth of his career, giving him the most shutouts any Notre Dame goaltender has recorded in his career.