OMAHA, Neb. — There’s something to be said about youth. And Notre Dame’s freshman class had a lot to say on Friday night as they helped lead the fourth-ranked Irish to a 4-2 win over Nebraska-Omaha at the Qwest Center.
Irish freshmen and sophomores accounted for three goals and four assists on the night as Notre Dame got goals from Erik Condra, Josh Sciba, Dan Kissel and Kevin Deeth in the victory that got the Irish back on the winning track.
Brandon Scero and Phil Angell scored third-period goals for the Mavericks to narrow a 3-0 Irish lead after two periods of play.
The win improved the Irish to 10-2-1 on the season and 5-1-1 in the CCHA. Nebraska-Omaha falls to 3-7-4 on the season and 2-6-1 in the conference.
The Irish wasted little time getting on the scoreboard in the first period as Condra scored his fifth of the year just over a minute into the game on Notre Dame’s first shot of the night.
The trio of Condra and linemates Kevin Deeth and Ryan Thang broke into the Maverick zone on a three-on-two with Thang feeding the puck to Deeth breaking down the middle. Deeth slid the puck to Condra, all alone to the left of Nebraska-Omaha goaltender Eric Aarnio. Condra redirected the pass over Aarnio’s stick hand to give the Irish a 1-0 lead.
The goal marked the 11th time in the first 13 games that Notre Dame scored first in a game and improved the Irish to 9-1-1 when they get an early lead.
Notre Dame got on the board again late in the period when freshman defenseman Kyle Lawson put Michael Bartlett and Sciba into the UNO zone on a two-on-one bid. Bartlett pulled the defenseman toward him and slid the pass to Sciba, who deposited the puck behind Aarnio at 18:18 for his fourth goal of the season. That gave the Irish a 2-0 lead after one period.
In the second period, Notre Dame again converted on an odd-man rush as freshman Dan Kissel picked up his fourth goal of the year at 3:15 for the eventual game-winning marker.
Center Mark Van Guilder knocked down a Nebraska-Omaha clearing attempt at the UNO blue line and moved the puck to Kissel, who was working his way out from behind the Maverick net. The freshman left wing took the pass in front of the goal, turned and fired a shot over Aarnio’s blocker to give Notre Dame a 3-0 lead after two periods of play.
Nebraska-Omaha came out in the third period and took the play to the Irish, finally breaking through on goaltender David Brown on a long shot from outside the blue line by Scero.
The Mavericks appeared to be looking for a line change as Scero fired a shot that deflected off Brown’s catching glove and rolled behind him through the crease and into the goal for his 10th of the season at 2:09.
The goal swung the momentum in the Mavericks’ favor as they put pressure on the Notre Dame goal and cashed in again just over three minutes later.
Dan Charleston controlled the puck behind the Irish goal and slipped a backhand pass in front of the goal, where Angell was crashing in from the right point. The senior defenseman one-timed a shot past Brown to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 3-2.
But the duo of Deeth and Thang were there to save the day for Notre Dame late in the period. Thang knocked down a clearing attempt along the right-wing boards and found Deeth cutting to the goal. The speedy center did the rest, making a move on the defense before going from backhand to forehand and beating Aarnio for his sixth goal of the season at 14:31 for the 4-2 final.
For the night, the Irish and Mavericks each had 20 shots on goal. Brown finished with 18 saves while Aarnio had 16 for Nebraska-Omaha.
The Irish and Mavericks will meet in game two of the series on Saturday in a 7:35 p.m. (CST) game.