KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame overcame a two-goal deficit Friday night and held on for a 2-2 tie against the Western Michigan Broncos.
The Broncos looked to finish the game they way they started, by overpowering the Irish early to give themselves a 2-0 lead and taking it to the third period, however Notre Dame didn’t back down.
Play was back and forth as the teams went to an overtime period, getting shots and solid chances to put the game away. Notre Dame started the overtime on the power play, but the Broncos showed a strong penalty kill effort from forwards Brian Bicek and Paul Sczcechura in their defensive end.
Shortly after the Irish power play ended, the Broncos were rewarded with a 5-on-4 power play of their own, as Notre Dame forward Brock Sheahan was called for tripping. Western Michigan put on a valiant effort, including a clanker off the right post with 0:33 seconds left from right defenseman Ryan Mahrle, who had Irish Goalie David Brown in a scramble.
Western Michigan head coach Jim Culhane felt it was a solid effort from both teams throughout.
“Both teams played hard, we had momentum swings, great offense and great goaltending,” he said. “Both teams should be pleased and probably it’s justifiable it’s a 2-2 hockey game.”
The third period brought the most excitement to the game with pretty goals at each end.
Western Michigan took what looked to be a commanding lead at the beginning of the third as junior Mike Erickson put home his second goal of the game. The play developed near the boards as Brent Walton made a heads-up play throwing the puck out front where Erickson found it and went in alone, putting two shots on Brown, with the second finding the twine.
That gave the Broncos a 2-0 lead, however Notre Dame didn’t panic.
Dave Poulin, head coach for Notre Dame felt good about his team’s efforts in the third.
“We played like we’re capable of playing; I think the biggest single thing we did was move the puck,” said Poulin. “We made short passes and moved with and without the puck and we weren’t doing that in the first two periods.”
At 4:56 of the third period defenseman Noha Babin made a slick move around a sliding Bronco forward and blew one by Bellissimo to cut the Bronco lead in half.
A penalty was later assessed to Notre Dame forward Evan Rankin, however, in the end it went in the favor of the Irish. At 7:43 in the third, a Notre Dame dump turned out to be stylish play, hitting Rankin as he stepped on the ice as his penalty ended. Two Irish players were quick to follow, although Rankin needed no help and let off a blistering slap shot that beat Bellissimo over the right shoulder, rejuvenating the Irish and tying the game at 2.
The second period looked to be a completely different game from both teams, as a total of 13 shots were gathered combined, a number noticeably smaller from the other two periods.
Two seconds into the period, Broncos forward Jonathan Lupa was called for boarding, however no harm was done as Western stood strong on the kill.
Notre Dame’s defense had little exercise, with little time spend in their own zone and Brown only facing four Bronco shots; compared to nine that were put on Bellissimo.
At 6:31 of the period, Noah Babin was sent to the box for an interference call that put the Broncos back on the power play, but they came up unsuccessful again.
Physical play seemed to be what the teams were shooting for from the start of the game as hits were flying and bodies were dropping.
Penalties came up an issue for both teams, with the captains leading the way. WMU captain Pat Dwyer was called for hooking, only to be followed 0:18 seconds later by Notre Dame assistant captain Jason Paige.
This put four skaters aside and added to the exciting start of the game.
At 4:51 of the 1st period, the Broncos made Paige pay for this mistake as the first star of the game Mike Erickson showed a great effort to not give up on a loose puck that came from a shot at the left point. Erickson was quick to gather his own rebound and go untouched to score his 3rd goal of the year, giving the Broncos the early 1-0 lead.
The game came out to a solid start, showed a huge decline by the second but ended up intense leaving a packed house of 3,337 fans feeling satisfactory getting what they paid for; A good all-around hockey game.
The Broncos (4-4-1) and the Irish (1-5-4) will come back to Lawson Arena Saturday night in an attempt to finish the score amongst them.