SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Freshman defenseman Luke Lucyk scored his first career goal while Morgan Cey and Nebraska-Omaha’s Chris Holt squared off in a goaltenders’ duel as the Irish and Mavericks battled to a 1-1 tie Friday night at the Joyce Center.
The tie snapped Notre Dame’s eight-game losing streak and moved the Irish record to 5-18-6 on the year, 3-12-5 in CCHA play. Nebraska-Omaha goes to 14-10-3 on the year and 10-8-3 in league action. Notre Dame’s last win came on Jan. 2, a 2-1 win over Rensselaer. Since that victory, the Irish are 0-8-2.
As has been the case through much of Notre Dame’s current losing streak, the Irish had scoring chances but couldn’t get the puck past Holt. That was until Lucyk beat the Mavericks’ sophomore goaltender at 7:20 of the third period.
Cory McLean carried the puck down the right side for the Irish and moved it pack to Lucyk at the right point. Instead of winding up and firing, Lucyk just flipped a wrist shot towards the goal and somehow it beat Holt through his pads to tie the game at 1-1.
“With the chances we were getting, I thought that sooner or later one had to go in for us,” said Lucyk following the game.
“C-Mac (McLean) rolled up in the zone and got it back to me. I just wanted to get a shot on net and it went in. Sometimes a wrister will fool the goaltender when you take something off of it. I’m just glad it went in.”
Irish head coach Dave Poulin echoed his defenseman’s sentiments.
“That’s the kind of goal you need to snap out of a slump. Very often it’s the weird bounce, the crazy hop, a shot off someone’s ear that breaks you out of it,” said Poulin.
Notre Dame tried to set the tone for the game early as they delivered some physical play early on and took the play to the Mavericks.
“Nebraska-Omaha’s a good team that really plays a strong transition game,” said Poulin.
“We had to play physical early to take that away. I thought we got some big hits from Mike Walsh and Timmy Wallace that really energized us early in the game.”
Notre Dame’s early energy took a hit though when the Irish got their first power-play chance of the night at 12:06 of the first period when Alex Nikiforuk was called for hooking.
The Notre Dame power play quickly turned into a Nebraska-Omaha shorthanded goal at 13:39 of the opening stanza. The Irish carried the puck down the right side and dumped it on the UNO goal where Holt stopped it. He quickly played it off the right-wing glass to center ice where Bill Thomas and Scott Parse, Nebraska-Omaha’s top two scorers, raced through center ice on a two-on-one towards Cey in the Irish goal.
Thomas held the puck until the last moment and slid it across the crease to Parse, who had a whole net to deposit the puck for his 15th goal of the season. The shorthanded tally was just the second of the season versus the Irish.
From that point until Lucyk’s game-tying goal, the goaltenders took over. Cey stopped 26 of 27 shots on the night, while Holt stopped 30 of 31 in the Nebraska-Omaha goal.
In overtime, the Irish got three shots on goal to one for the Mavericks.
Poulin will look for his team to continue their solid play while hoping for a few more pucks to find the back of the visitors’ net.
“We just have to tell them that they have to play a little bit better tomorrow night,” said Poulin.
“In this league you have to play well to win. They need to release a little more, free themselves up to play harder. We created some good chances in front tonight. We went hard to the net. All we need is for a few more of them to go in.”
Game two of the weekend series with Nebraska-Omaha will be played at the Joyce Center on Saturday night. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m.