SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame defenseman Brett Lebda scored with 28.5 seconds left on the clock to give the Fighting Irish a 2-2 tie versus the Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks on Saturday night at the Joyce Center.
Lebda’s goal came with Notre Dame goaltender David Brown pulled in favor of a sixth attacker as time ran down with the Nanooks leading 2-1. Neil Komadoski took a shot from the center point that was blocked in front and popped into the air by the right wing circle. Lebda took a baseball swing at the waist-high puck and slapped it past UAF goaltender Preston McKay to give the Irish the tie.
Both teams had chances in the overtime period with Notre Dame’s Rob Globke coming closest to scoring when he snapped a shot from the slot just over the crossbar.
The tie give the Irish a three-point weekend versus Alaska Fairbanks and moves their record to 13-9-4 on the year and 9-8-3 in the CCHA. The Nanooks are now 12-13-1 overall and 11-10-1 in league play and remain two points ahead of the Irish in the league standings with Notre Dame having a pair of games in hand.
“Anytime you score in the last minute of play, it’s a good tie,” said Irish head coach Dave Poulin. “We took three of four points from a very good team this weekend. I thought we played real well tonight. We got good goaltending, our special teams got a power play goal and we stopped them three times. We got a strong effort from everyone.”
The Irish came out strong early in the game getting several chances early that McKay, who would finish the game with 45 saves was able to stop. The stanza had plenty of end-to-end action but no goals as McKay made 12 stops and David Brown 10 for the Irish.
Notre Dame broke the scoring drought at 17:53 of the second period when Jason Paige scored on a four-on-three Irish power play. Komadoski started the play as McKay stopped his blast from the point. The rebound came out to page at the top of the crease. He out waited McKay moving to the right and flipping the puck over the UAF goaltender for his sixth goal of the season.
The Nanooks evened the score at 1-1 56 seconds later when Cam Keith forced an Irish turnover and got the puck to Aaron Voros at the side of the goal. Voros tucked the puck inside the post for his 11th goal of the season.
UAF would go ahead 2-1 at 9:56 of the third period when Keith got control of the puck behind the Notre Dame net and slid it in front to Curtis Fraser who whipped a shot past Brown for his 11th of the season.
That set up Lebda’s late heroics that salvaged the Irish a tie from what looked like a loss.
“That was a big goal for us. We really worked hard tonight. That’s why I went to the bench to celebrate with the team. Everyone gave a great effort tonight and its a big point for us to get,” said Lebda.
For the night, the Irish poured a season-high 47 shots on goal while Alaska Fairbanks had 31 on the night. McKay’s 45 saves are the most any goaltender has made versus Notre Dame this season. Brown made 29 saves in making his third consecutive start in the Irish goal.