SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Third-period goals by Kelly Czuy and Lucas Burnett snapped a 1-1 tie and gave the Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks a 3-1 win over Notre Dame on Friday night and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three CCHA first-round playoff series at the Joyce Center.
Czuy’s rebound off a T.J. Campbell shot at 11:55 of the third period proved to be the game winner and Burnett added an insurance empty-net goal with 37 seconds left to seal the win. Notre Dame defenseman Dan VeNard staked the Irish to a 1-0 lead in the first period and Nathan Fornataro tied the game at 5:51 of the middle stanza.
The loss, the second in a row for the Irish to Alaska Fairbanks, drops Notre Dame to 13-18-4 on the season while the Nanooks improve to 16-14-5 for the year. Game two of the series is set for Saturday night at the Joyce Center beginning at 7:05 p.m.
“I’m really disappointed in the outcome tonight,” said Irish coach Jeff Jackson. “We played a strong first period then let things fall away in the second. The game got chippy in the second period with lots of killing penalties. We lost our discipline. A long shift in the third period ended up in a game-winning goal for them.”
The Irish got on the scoreboard first from an unlikely source in VeNard. The sophomore defenseman carried the puck down the left-wing boards and fired a shot from a bad angle that deflected off the pads of goaltender Wylie Rogers and into the net at 13:31 for VeNard’s first of the year. The assists went to Tim Wallace and Christian Hanson.
“The goal came off a great face-off win by Christian Hanson. He was winning them all night,” said VeNard. “I just carried it in deep and tried to put the shot on net and it went in. It was my first of the year, so I’ll take it.”
The Irish would lead until the 5:51 mark of the second period when Fornataro’s long blast from the right point appeared to chance directions to beat Irish goaltender David Brown over his glove. The goal was Fornataro’s second of the year.
Czuy would get the game winner with less than nine minutes left in the game. Campbell and the Nanooks lone senior carried the puck into the Irish zone on a two-on-one with Campbell getting off a shot from the left circle. Brown made the stop, but Czuy was there for the rebound and flipped it into an open net for his 10th goal of the season.
With Brown pulled in favor of a sixth attacker, Alaska Fairbanks’ Trevor Hyatt broke up an Irish attempt to move the puck out of their own zone and Burnett picked it up inside the blue line and slid it into the open net for his seventh goal of the season and a 3-1 Nanook win at 19:23.
Notre Dame outshot Alaska Fairbanks, 23-22, in the game. Brown finished with 19 saves on the night while Rogers had 22 for the Nanooks. Both teams were 0-for-6 on the power play.
“We need to play the way we did in the first period, moving the puck and getting odd-man chances,” said Jackson. “It was frustrating the way we played after the first period. We just didn’t play our game.”