MANKATO, Minn. — It must have been the luck of the Irish.
Notre Dame scored the game-winning goal on a deflected shot with nine seconds left in the game Tuesday night to win 3-2 at Minnesota State University (3-10-3). The victory was the first for ND on the road this season and the first since November 26 of last year.
“It’s important that we get a little bit of confidence and play a little bit stronger game when we’re on the road,” ND coach Jeff Jackson said.
“It was a big step for us with our first win in about a year on the road,” said defenseman Chris Trick, who scored the game winner for the Fighting Irish (5-9-1).
In the closing seconds of the game, ND captain T.J. Jindra won a face off in the MSU zone. The puck was moved over to Trick at the left point. Trick fired, but his shot was heading wide right of the goal.
However, with Erik Condra and an MSU player heading toward the Maverick goal, the puck deflected off a leg and went into the net. Trick was credited with the goal.
“I just happened to be open,” Trick said. “I misfired on the shot, but I caught a guy’s leg going to the net, so we’ll take it anyway we can get it now.”
Maverick coach Troy Jutting was furious after the goal. Although Jutting wouldn’t disclose why after the game, senior Rob Rankin explained.
“I took the wrong angle (on my assignment), and then I got picked,” Rankin said. “He was upset about the pick, but it’s still my fault. I need to get out there. It’s something we work on everyday in practice. I’m a little disappointed in myself that I’d do that.”
Jutting stayed on the bench long after his team had left the ice at the end of the game, yelling at referee Marco Hunt. But officiating wouldn’t be an excuse in the end.
“You’ve got to be ready to play every night, and we weren’t. We got what we deserved tonight,” Rankin said.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks continued to miss opportunities and have just one victory in their last six contests. MSU is 1-4-2 at home this year.
Down 2-1 at the end of the second period, it looked as if the Mavericks would get a key goal.
Skating on a two-on-one with Kyle Peto, sophomore Ryan Carter played give-and-go with the defenseman and had the puck on the left side with a wide open net. However, Carter’s shot sailed wide, and the period ended.
“You’ve got to score,” Jutting said. “Ryan Carter, wide open net at the end of the second period, just shoots it wide. You got to make that play.”
Carter missed another open net early in the third period, and Peto fired high on a quality power-play chance in the final period.
“I don’t think we played very well,” Jutting said. “And I think we shot and missed on two or three wide open nets that you’ve got to score on. But I don’t think we played very well tonight. I’m disappointed.”
On top of that, a near goal by Jeff Marler in the second was reviewed by Hunt and ruled no goal.
“I just think you’ve got to be a player when you have a chance to make a play. Right now, we’re not making the plays when we have the opportunities,” Jutting said.
Notre Dame struck first blood in the game when MSU’s Brian Kilburg was given a five-minute major for checking from behind and kicked out of the game.
On the ensuing elongated power play, Condra buried a rebound from Wes O’Neill’s shot past Maverick goalkeeper Mike Zacharias at 7:00 of the first.
Rankin got the equalizer for MSU at 11:09 of the first stanza. Irish goalie David Brown lost his turnaround shot in traffic, and the puck slid between his legs.
Notre Dame regained the lead with its second power-play goal of the night. Once again, O’Neill fired from the point and Zacharias made the save. This time Josh Sciba was able to put home the second chance.
“A couple of bad bounces here or there kind of decided the game. Sometimes that’s how it goes,” Zacharias said.
Mick Berge tied the game again for MSU at 5:57 of the third. Peto fired wide on the power play, but the puck caromed off the backboard to Berge on the left side, who snuck the puck past Brown.
But Brown shut down MSU on two more power plays in the third period. Peto was robbed twice on one man advantage, and Carter and Steven Wagner were stopped on another power play.
Notre Dame finished 2-7 on the power play, while MSU went 1-7.
“The things that have cost us the most on the road have been special teams, and I think tonight special teams is the reason we won,” Jackson said.
Brown was also key in the victory, stopping 27 Maverick shots.
“Brown’s been getting better and better over the last several weeks,” Jackson said. “And when he plays better, it gives us a chance to win.”
The two teams will finish the home-and-home nonconference series Saturday in South Bend.
“We’ll watch the tape and go from there and hopefully get another one Saturday,” Trick said.