KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Western Michigan Broncos and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish played a hard-fought rematch Saturday night, with the Irish taking a 3-2 victory, but not without controversy.
With 5:58 left in the third, and the Irish up 3-2, the Broncos put in what looked to be the game tying goal from captain Pat Dwyer, but the puck was ruled as kicked in with his skate and the goal was disallowed.
The shot came from the right point, hitting Notre Dame goaltender Morgan Cey and deflecting right to Dwyer and then into the net.
Western Michigan head coach Jim Culhane felt it was a legal play, along with the 3,250 fans who were irate with the call.
“We think it’s in. Dwyer had the kicking motion, although he kicked it to his hockey stick and put it in, and that’s a legal play.”
Culhane is an advocate that video replay should be brought into the league to prevent games ending with controversy.
“We need video replay. We have the technology and we need to use it, the case in point tonight is the difference potentially with points in this league; there’s no excuse why we don’t have it.”
Play was at a fast pace for the third period, going back and forth with both goalies getting tested, but passing, including two beautiful glove saves by Cey. Solid defense was on display throughout the period, and play was smooth with few whistles.
The end was tense as Western pulled goalie Daniel Bellissimo with 1:32 remaining, giving the Broncos a sixth attacker.
The best chance came in the last seconds as a shot from the left point was deflected by an abundance of traffic in front of Cey; however Cey was able to knock the puck away with his stick and secure the victory for the Irish on the road.
Most of the scoring took place throughout the second period, which started off to look like a replay of last night’s game, although one team came out on top unlike last night’s tie.
Broncos forward Mike Erickson was called for holding at 4:18 of the second which put the Irish on the power play. Notre Dame capitalized on great puck movement as defenseman Wes O’Neill let go a shot from the point that was deflected in front and glanced underneath the crossbar and in at 5:01 to give the Irish a 2-0 lead.
Everything was looking up for the Irish until a penalty on forward Evan Rankin. At 13:30, Rankin was lit up as a Bronco defenseman stood up to pinch on the Irish clearing attempt, but Rankin took out his anger on Trevor Cook. The officials thought it was too rough, sending him to the box for an elbow to the head.
The Broncos made the power play pay off. Bicek gathered the puck from behind the Irish net and made his way out front to lift a soft backhand over the shoulder of Cey at 15:34.
Bicek was at it again minutes later, showing hustle for a loose puck on the Irish blue line, then making a cut at the right faceoff circle and letting off a wrist shot that surprised Cey high to the blocker side, hitting the water bottle to tie the game at 2.
“Any time you score it’s big, especially when you’re down. Pat (Dwyer) made a nice play and took the defenseman away and I found an opening and put it there,” said Bicek.
Notre Dame started off the period by tallying two of its own, the second coming with just 34 seconds left in the period.
Notre Dame forward T.J. Jindra put his team up 3-2 early in the period, which ended up as the game winner, earning Jindra first-star honors.
Jindra let off a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot that ripped through a crowded crease and beat Bellissimo high over the shoulder.
“I really didn’t have a lot of speed, so I cut to the middle and my forwards moved the defenseman back and that opened some room for me, I shot it and the puck went in,” he said.
Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin felt his team accomplished what they wanted.
“Our goal was to start exactly as we finished last night, and that’s exactly what we did.”
That start began with a big goal early in the first from captain Cory McLean at 6:18 in the first period. McLean put a shot on Bellissimo which at first was stopped but then trickled by to give Notre Dame momentum and a 1-0 lead.
The Fighting Irish (2-5-4) will next face the youngsters of the U.S. National Under-18 team in an exhibition match, while the Broncos (4-5-1) head off for a two-game series against the Miami RedHawks next weekend.