SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Senior left wing Mike Walsh scored two goals and Erik Condra and Wes O’Neill scored one goal each while David Brown made 26 saves to lead Notre Dame to a 4-1 win in front of a third consecutive sellout crowd at the Joyce Center on Friday night.
Adam Welch scored Ferris State’s only goal with a power-play tally in the second period but it was a save by Brown early in the third period that stole the show for the Irish.
With protecting a 2-1 lead and Ferris State on a power play, Ferris State’s Greg Rallo corralled a loose puck in front of a wide-open goal and one-timed a shot that looked like the game-tying goal. Somehow Brown, down on the ice, threw up his glove to make the unbelievable save.
“I was really fortunate to make that save,” said Brown following the game. “I knew he was there and just threw my glove out and felt the puck hit it. I think it really helped change the momentum.”
Irish head coach Jeff Jackson agreed that the junior goaltender’s big save helped spark his team.
“Without great goaltending, you can’t do anything,” said Jackson. “A great save like that rallies the team and changes the momentum. It could have been 2-2 at that point. A few minutes later we were back to a two-goal lead.”
The Irish were able to score twice in a 1:17 span to put the game away on goals by O’Neill and Walsh with his second of the night in the 4-1 win.
Notre Dame took a lead in the first period and held it, something the Irish have done just five times this season.
Leading scorer Erik Condra took the honors when he scored on the power play at 12:48. Mark Van Guilder, who had two assists on the night, fed Condra at the top of the left wing circle. The freshman skated toward the center of the zone and whipped a wrist shot at goaltender Mitch O’Keefe. The shot went off O’Keefe’s shoulder and into the net for Condra’s sixth goal of the season.
The score would stay that way until the 4:33 mark of the second period when Walsh and T.J. Jindra combined on a two-on-one to beat O’Keefe inside the right post for a 2-0 Notre Dame lead.
Walsh broke up a pass in the neutral zone and fed it ahead to Jindra. The junior center carried it down the right wing side and left a drop pass for Walsh who used Jindra as a screen and fired a high shot that beat O’Keefe over his glove hand for Walsh’s ninth of the season.
“That was a great set-up by T.J. (Jindra),” said Walsh. “We’ve worked on that in practice and he did a nice job of screening the goaltender when I shot it.”
Brown would see his shutout bid end at 14:27 when Welch got his first of the season with the man-advantage. Adam Miller pushed the face off behind the Notre Dame goal. Matt Verdone moved it to the right wing corner where Miller picked it up and fed Welch at the right point. The two traded passes before Welch whipped a high shot that beat Brown high under the cross bar to cut the lead to 2-1.
In the third period, the Irish broke things open after Brown’s big save. O’Neill got his fifth of the season when he drilled on past O’Keefe from the center point off a pass from Tim Wallace at 6:00 for his fifth of the year.
Walsh closed the scoring when the Irish got a fortunate bounce off a linesman’s skate that allowed the senior left wing burst through the middle and beat O’Keefe from in close for his second of the night and 10th of the season at 7:17.
Noah Babin moved the puck along the right wing boards to Mike Bartlett who directed it toward the blue line. The puck hit the linesman’s skate and bounced towards center ice where Walsh was able to pick it up at full speed and burst through the Ferris State defense. The goal proved to be the game winner, Walsh’s fourth of the season. “I’ve been on the other side of those bounces,” said a smiling Walsh.
“I just saw the play developing and just wanted to jump in the hole between the defensemen. The puck hit the skate and came right to me. It was nice to get the puck bounce my way tonight. It’s good to get a few of those bounces.”
“Mike has been one of our most consistent players all season,” said Jackson. “He plays the same way every night. He’s big and plays physical and skates well. That second goal tonight was a big-time goal.
The Irish win improves them to 10-16-3 on the year and 8-12-3 in the CCHA and moves the Irish into sole possession of ninth place pending the outcome of the Bowling Green at Alaska Fairbanks game later tonight. Ferris State falls to 14-11-6 overall and 9-9-5 in the CCHA. The victory also doubles the Irish win total from a season ago.
On the night, Ferris State out shot Notre Dame by a 27-24 margin. O’Keefe finished with 20 saves in the game. Both teams were 1-for-4 on the power play.
“I was happy for the win tonight. I was especially happy for our crowd,” said Jackson. “We’ve had some great crowds lately and have disappointed them with the results. I was pleased for them tonight. We will have to play better tomorrow. We turned the puck over way too much tonight. Ferris is a transition team and we gave them too many chances. They just didn’t convert tonight.”
The two teams close out the home-and-home series on Saturday night at Ewigleben Arena in Big Rapids, Mich. Game time is 7:05 p.m.