SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame Fighting Irish jumped out to a 3-0 lead, saw the Bowling Green Falcons rally to take a 4-3 lead, and then saw sophomore defenseman Wes O’Neill score with just three seconds left to salvage a 4-4 tie on Friday night at the Joyce Center.
O’Neill’s second goal of the game came with goaltender Morgan Cey pulled for a sixth attacker for the final minute of the game. Notre Dame got the puck deep into the left wing corner where O’Neill tried to pass it behind the Falcon net. A Bowling Green defenseman knocked the puck down and tried to wrap it around the right wing boards. Irish defensman Chris Trick stopped the puck at the right point and fired a shot towards the Falcon goal. O’Neill was there to redirect it past goaltender Jordan Sigalet to tie the game with :03.0 left on the clock.
The shot was one of four that got behind Sigalet who stopped 50 others on the night, including 28 in the second period as the Irish peppered him with a season-high 54 shots in the game.
The Irish also scored season-high four goals in the game as Cory McLean and Evan Rankin chipped in one each for Notre Dame. The Falcons got single goals from James Unger, Ben Geelan, John Mazzei and Derek Whitmore in the game.
“When you’re struggling, it just doesn’t come easy,” said Irish head coach Dave Poulin.
“We scored four goals tonight against one of the best goaltenders in the country and still didn’t get a win. When you’re not scoring, it’s not going to happen. We had to put them away in the second period and we didn’t. We had what, 29 shots and only scored once. There were encouraging signs tonight, but we have to find a way to win these games We were fortunate to get the tie.”
After scoring just 11 goals in the first eight games of the season, the Irish came out flying and scored twice in the first 9:27 of the game with both coming on power-play chances.
McLean put the Irish ahead 1-0 as Mike Walsh and Evan Rankin combined to set him up in front for a shot from the slot that deflected over Sigalet at 3:07 for McLean’s second goal of the season. The goal marked just the second time in nine games that the Irish scored first.
“Cory (McLean) really gave us a big-time effort tonight,” said Poulin.
O’Neill made it 2-0 on the power-play at 9:27 as McLean and Walsh set him up for a slap shot from the slot that beat Sigalet. The goal marked the first time all season that Notre Dame scored two power-play goals in one game.
“Wes (O’Neill) played the best game of his Notre Dame career tonight,” said Poulin. He was outstanding at both ends of the ice and really came up with the big play at the end to get the tie.”
The Irish didn’t let up early in the second period as Rankin scored his second goal of the season at 4:11 off assists from Walsh and McLean. The three-assist night was the first three-point game of Walsh’s career while the three-point game for McLean equaled a career-best.
From there the Falcons began to work their way back into the game. Unger scored on a power play at 5:50 of the period and Bowling Green turned an Irish turnover into a goal by Ben Geelan at 10:45 to cut the Notre Dame lead to 3-2 after two periods. The Irish out shot the Falcons in the second period, 29-5, but were out scored, 2-1.
Bowling Green had the momentum in the third and John Mazzei (a goal and an assist in the game) got the game-tying goal at 8:17 when he flipped a shot over Cey from the side of the net for his first goal of the year.
Derek Whitmore put the Falcons in front, 4-3, when he scored just as a penalty to Notre Dame’s Jason Paige expired at 11:32.
The Irish continued to press, but couldn’t get the puck past Sigalet until O’Neill’s late heroics.
For the night, Notre Dame out shot Bowling Green, 54-23. Cey made 19 saves in goal for the Irish.
The tie gives Notre Dame a 1-5-3 overall record and a 0-4-2 record in the CCHA. Bowling Green is now 4-1-1 on the year and 2-1-1 in league play.
Notre Dame returns to action next Friday, November 11 when they start a weekend series at Western Michigan. Friday’s game starts at 7:35 p.m. with Saturday’s game scheduled for an 8:05 p.m. start due to football in Kalamazoo, Mich.