SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Freshman center Jason Paige came up with the biggest goal of his rookie season when he beat Western Michigan goaltender Eric Marvin at 12:35 of overtime to give Notre Dame a 5-4 win and the Irish the series, two games to one.
The win sends Notre Dame to the CCHA Super Six for the third consecutive season and fourth time in five years. The Irish will face Ohio State at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.
On the goal, Cory McLean carried the puck into the Western zone and flipped the puck to Wallace coming down the middle of the ice. The sophomore, who had already scored twice in the game, headed for the goal and at the last second slid a pass to Paige, who raced down the right side.
Paige wasted little time as he fired a shot from the bottom of the right wing circle that beat Marvin for the deciding goal.
“Wally (Tim Wallace) was breaking wide, so I just went hard to the net and he dropped it back to me. I just shot it quick and it went in,” said Paige.
“Cory gave me the puck and I went toward the goal,” said Wallace. “I knew the guy who was back was a forward and I saw Jason coming to my right. I just slid it over and he took care of the rest.”
After winning 4-0 on Saturday night, Western Michigan jumped out to a 1-0 first-period lead on a goal by Dana Lattery at 17:57.
Notre Dame finally broke through on Marvin after the sophomore goaltender had blanked the Irish in the first four periods he played in the series. Aaron Gill collected his 13th goal just as a minor penalty to Jeff Campbell expired. Rob Globke fed the Irish center from the left wing and Gill snapped a shot under the crossbar just 1:42 into the second period to tie the game.
Jeremy Cheyne put the Broncos on top at 8:14 with a power-play goal as he stuffed the rebound of a Lucas Drake shot behind David Brown in the Notre Dame goal.
Wallace took over from there, scoring twice in a span of four minutes and 12 seconds. The goals snapped a 34-game scoring drought for the native of Anchorage, Alaska.
His first came on a breakaway as left wing Mike Walsh deflected a clearing pass from Chris Trick across the blue line to Wallace, who raced in and beat Marvin with a nice move at 13:56 to tie the game at 2. He then put the Irish ahead at 17:08 when he flipped a McLean rebound over Marvin for a 3-2 lead.
For the hard-luck winger, the goals came at a great time.
“Mike Walsh made a great pass over to me on the breakaway. Scoring that goal got the gorilla off my back. The second one, Cory (McLean) did all the work and set up the shot. I just had to put it in,” said Wallace.
Notre Dame built the lead to 4-2 at 3:28 of the third period when he cut across the slot and used a defenseman as a screen, whipping a shot past Marvin for his 18th goal of the year.
The Broncos weren’t done, though. Vince Bellissimo scored on a five-on-three power play at 9:24 and Pat Dwyer turned in a great individual effort when he picked off an errant Irish clearing attempt and beat Brown with a shot from the slot.
Brown held the Broncos at bay the rest of the period as he made 11 of his 33 saves in the final stanza. That set up Paige’s overtime heroics.
“This was definitely an emotional night for us. We played with poise after giving up the two-goal lead and played well in overtime,” said Irish head coach Dave Poulin. “They gave us a great battle. That’s what we expected from them. They have great senior leadership with (Dana) Lattery and (Jeff) Campbell. They just kept coming.”
Western Michigan outshot Notre Dame, 37-26. Marvin finished the game with 21 saves, while Brown had 33 for the Irish.
The win improves Notre Dame to 20-13-4 on the year and gives Poulin his first 20-win season with the Irish. Western Michigan finishes the year 17-18-4 for the season.