SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame Fighting Irish spirit was echoing through the Joyce Center on Friday night.
This was more than an hour before the second game of the college men’s hockey series between Minnesota Duluth and Notre Dame. About 12,000 packed the school’s basketball arena for a football pep rally leading to today’s home game with Stanford.
It was loud, well-scripted and inspiring, and it appeared some folks then walked a half-block to the rink to improve on what was a small crowd the night before.
The fanfare, however, didn’t affect UMD.
The Bulldogs rallied from a one-goal deficit to defeat Notre Dame 4-1 before 2,555 fans, about 200 fewer than capacity.
Sophomore Josh Johnson, in his first start of the season, was strong with 27 saves, while freshman Mike Curry scored two goals and Tim Stapleton and Brett Hammond each added one. UMD outshot the Fighting Irish 32-28 and 72-55 for the series. The Bulldogs were also proficient in penalty killing, stopping 12 of 13 power plays (22 of 24 in the series).
Notre Dame, of the CCHA, had gone 12-0-3 in its last 15 regular-season home games. Sophomore goalie David Brown did his part with 28 saves.
“I thought there was a big change from Thursday’s game,” Johnson said. “Our seniors pretty much told us we had to get going and get some shots on their goalie.”
Officiating was the talk of Thursday’s 2-2 tie, as the NCAA’s mandate to crack down on obstruction penalties went into effect. And it dominated talk Friday, especially in a 1-1 first period with both goals coming on power plays. UMD was called for four of the first five penalties, three for interference and one for hooking.
Notre Dame went ahead 1-0 on center Matt Amado’s goal at 3:40, and UMD responded with 2:21 left in the period on the first collegiate goal for right winger Curry. The Fighting Irish couldn’t handle a Neil Petruic shot, and the 6-foot-3 Curry stole the rebound right in front of the net.
Curry came from Sioux City of the U.S. Hockey League, where he was a noted goal-scorer.
“I just wanted to come in here and see what I could do to help out. I wasn’t coming in thinking I was going to score a lot right away,” said Curry. “As a team we had a lot more jump and stayed intense.”
That made the Bulldogs 1-of-2 on power plays after going 1-for-12 Thursday.
UMD’s first lead of the series came on the only goal of the second period. Justin Williams put center Stapleton in for a rush straight down the slot in a 4-on-4 shift with 7:40 left. Stapleton knocked a shot off the right post and the puck rebounded in off Brown’s leg. The Bulldogs outshot Notre Dame 15-8 in the period.
A two-man advantage for 74 seconds in the second period did give Notre Dame some solid chances. Winger Mike Walsh cracked an attempt in front of the UMD net in a 5-on-3 shift and Johnson smothered the puck. UMD killed two other 5-on-3 Notre Dame power plays in the game.
“Josh played well at the end of last season and it looks like this is just a carryover,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “This was a good road win, something good teams have to do. This is something to build on.”
The game was put away as UMD scored twice in the third period. Hammond connected from the right edge of the net on a Luke Stauffacher pass at 5:27 and Curry outfought a defender pushing toward the Notre Dame net with 3:42 to go.
“That’s a good team,” Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin said of UMD. “They’ve got a lot of finishers and that’s something we’re still looking for.”
UMD opens the Western Collegiate Hockey Association season next Friday and Saturday at Michigan Tech.
Kevin Pates is a staff writer for the Duluth News Tribune.