BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — In a pivotal game for two teams still fighting for home ice in the playoffs, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish upended the Bowling Green Falcons 7-4 at the BG Ice Arena on Friday night.
The Irish picked up their third win in a row and have clawed their way into a tie for the final CCHA home ice position for the playoffs with three regular-season games to play.
The Falcons have now dropped three straight games and have seen their hopes for a first-round home series in the playoffs all but vanish.
Notre Dame used a strong power play effort and a solid game from backup goaltender Jordan Pearce to pick up the victory. Pearce did not know he was going to be starting until moments before the game began. He made 34 stops to pick up his fourth win of the year.
“David Brown had played a lot of starts in a row,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “I sensed he was getting tired. I was watching him last weekend and watching him in practice this week. I had to have some confidence in (Pearce). He played great for us a few weeks ago in Northern Michigan. He won us that game. I think it was important that David got a breather.”
Another factor in the Notre Dame win was the play of center Mark Van Guilder. The sophomore from Roseville, Minnesota, notched his first career hat trick, scoring a goal in the opening period and a pair in the second.
“Mark is one of those unheralded players on our team and in our league,” said Jackson. “Van Guilder is a kid that is a smart player. He’s not a pretty player, but, boy, he gets the job done. I can rely on him in almost any situation.”
“It was a good night,” Van Guilder said of his three-goal performance. “It was a great setup by (Matt) Amado, (Josh) Sciba, and (Wes) O’Neill. It was a good night. It was fun.”
While the Falcons kept the game close through the first period and a half, a pair of penalties to James Unger and Michael Hodgson that negated a BG power play midway through the second period turned the game in favor of the Irish. Notre Dame scored three quick goals, the first coming on a five-on-four, to ice the game.
“The bottom line is we gave up too many chances,” said BG coach Scott Paluch. “We were looking at an opportunity with the extended power play; but two penalties later, it’s 4-3.
“You have to be able to bounce back,” continued Paluch. “You can’t let 4-3 become 5-3 and 6-3, and that’s exactly what happened tonight. We gave them chance and we can’t do that.”
Notre Dame quickly put a two-spot on the board before many fans were settled into their seats.
O’Neill scored the first Irish goal at 2:26 of the opening period. He took a pass from Mike Walsh in front of the net and banged it home for the 1-0 lead.
Van Guilder gave the Irish a 2-0 lead just over a minute later on a power-play tally. He took a nice tic-tac-toe pass to the left of the goalie Jon Horrell and tucked it in to the net for his sixth goal of the season. Sciba and Eric Condra assisted.
The Falcons scored a pair of quick goals of their own late in the period to tie the game.
Unger notched his 12th goal of the year, as he banked a puck from down low off the goalie and in at the 18:22 mark of the period. The goal was unassisted.
The Falcons tied the game off a one-timer on a power play with three seconds left in the period. Don Morrison threw a pass to Mike Nesdill between the circles, and he fired the puck home for his second goal of the season. Mike Falk added an assist on the goal.
The Irish put together a solid second-period effort, scoring a decisive four goals in the stanza to BG’s two. Coming into the game, the Irish had been outscored 34-26 in the period.
After the teams traded goals from Notre Dame’s Van Guilder and the Falcons’ Jeremy Bronson in the early part of the period, Notre Dame went on a three-goal tear in the span of 3:17 to take a 6-3 lead. Sciba and Amado scored goals allowing the Irish to regain their two-goal lead. Then, at 12:22 of the period, Van Guilder scored his third goal of the night, securing his first career hat trick and giving his Irish a three-goal lead.
The Van Guilder hat trick was the sixth that the Falcons have surrendered this season.
Alex Foster pulled the Falcons back to within two in the closing seconds of the period, scoring his ninth marker of the season on a deflection as a Notre Dame penalty to Tom Sawatske expired.
Sciba added an insurance goal in the third period at 13:36 to make the final score 7-4.
Horrell took the loss in net for the Falcons. He stopped 26 of 33 Notre Dame shots.
The Irish finished 3-7 on the power play, while the Falcons finished 1-7.
The teams will conclude their series tomorrow night at the BG Ice Arena. Game time is set for 7:05 pm.