BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — After a high scoring affair last night which saw Notre Dame and Bowling Green combine for 11 goals in the game, defense and goaltending came to the forefront of Saturday’s contest as the Falcons and Irish skated to a 1-1 tie.
The Irish picked up another important point in the race for first round home-ice advantage in the CCHA playoffs. Notre Dame is hanging on to the eighth and final home-ice position with two league games to play.
The Irish are now 3-0-1 in their last four games and have been playing well since the beginning of January.
“It’s extremely important,” said Irish coach Jeff Jackson of his team picking up three of four points on the weekend. “We’re still trying to fight for home ice in the playoffs. Every point we get is crucial for us because the league is so tight. From one night to the next, you don’t know who’s going to win.”
While the Falcons know they will be traveling during the first round of the playoffs, Saturday’s game was still an important step for them.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t get a win tonight, but we got a real good bounce-back effort,” said Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch. “It’s a step in the right direction in terms of what we were able to do defensively. We didn’t give up nearly the type of chances we gave up last night. We were still able to generate some real good chances of our own.”
The goaltending of freshman Jimmy Spratt, combined with a stellar defense and good penalty kill, kept the Falcons in the hunt for the win all night. Spratt made 31 saves on the night, earning first star honors.
“Jimmy did a great job of making himself pretty doggone big in (the net),” said Paluch. “Every time there was a shot, he seemed to take up a lot of net. His catching glove was very good tonight. He kept a lot of pucks close to him, jumped on a lot of pucks. There weren’t any holes in there. That’s two weekends in a row where he was very good.”
“I was very impressed with Spratt,” said Jackson. “I thought he looked big, he looked confident. Tonight, he showed what he’s capable of and why Bowling Green recruited him.”
In the other net, David Brown returned after a one-game hiatus and made 34 saves. His only goal allowed came on a power play in the opening period. Brown was shelved just moments before game time last night due to sickness.
“He was sick all week,” said Jackson. “He had a stomach virus. I wasn’t going to put him into the game last night because he only had two days of practice. He’s still feeling some of the effects of it, so I give him a lot of credit for battling through that. I’m glad we got him in there. I didn’t want him to lose too much as far as the confidence. He put in a great performance for us (tonight).”
Bowling Green struck first at 8:31 of the opening period with a power-play goal. Jonathon Matsumoto picked up a loose puck just inside the left circle and shot it toward the net, where Alex Foster was waiting to tip it past Brown. The goal was Foster’s 10th of the season. Brandon Svendsen also assisted on the play.
The Irish tied the game at 11:43 of the third period off a rush. Matt Amado, skating in on Spratt, fired a shot from between the circles. The rebound came out to Josh Sciba, who was skating in left of the goaltender. He found the back of the net for his 17th goal of the year. Wes O’Neill added an assist on the play.
The Falcons finished the night 1-4 on the power play, while the Irish were 0-5.
Notre Dame closes out its regular season at home next week against Alaska-Fairbanks, another team in the hunt for the final home-ice playoff spot.
The Falcons will play the CCHA regular season champion Miami RedHawks on Thursday at the Ice Arena before heading to Oxford on Saturday in the last regular-season game ever at the Goggin Ice Arena.