SOUTH BEND, Ind. — For 53 minutes on Saturday night the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had trouble getting anything going against the Miami RedHawks at the sold-out Joyce Center.
Miami led 2-0 on goals by Ryan Jones and Brian Kaufman and RedHawk goaltender Jeff Zatkoff was holding the Irish at bay nursing the two-goal lead as time continued to click off the clock. The Irish needed a spark if they had any chance of getting back in the game.
Mark Van Guilder provided that spark at 13:16 of the final period when he redirected a Wes O’Neill pass inside the left post to cut Miami’s lead to 2-1. Freshman Kevin Deeth capped the furious comeback less than five minutes later when he poked a loose puck past Zatkoff to give Notre Dame a hard-fought 2-2 tie.
The tie gave third-ranked Notre Dame a three-point weekend against the second-place RedHawks as the Irish improved to 21-5-2 overall and 15-3-2 in CCHA play, good for 32 points in the standings. Miami goes to 18-9-3 on the year and 13-6-3 in league play for 29 points. The Irish are three points ahead of the RedHawks with two games in hand and eight left on the regular-season schedule.
The late comeback was important for the Irish as they continue their drive to the CCHA
“It was a big win for us to be able to come back in the game,” said head coach Jeff Jackson following the game. “That’s the good thing about this team this year. Different guys have stepped up at different times. We needed a spark and I thought if we could get one, we had a chance to get back in the game.
Following Friday’s big 4-1 win, the Irish struggled to get in sync all night. They fell behind late in the first period when Jones scored at 17:48 of the first period for his 19th goal of the season and second of the weekend.
Defenseman Brad Robbins got the initial shot on goal that was blocked in front. The loose puck found its way to Jones’s stick to the right of Irish goaltender David Brown and he fired it inside the left post to give Miami the 1-0 lead.
After getting just three shots in the first period, Notre Dame saw its offense come to life in the middle period, but Zatkoff stopped all 12 shots the Irish threw at him.
The score stayed 1-0 until the 16:36 mark of the second period when Kaufman scored his seventh of the year on a rebound. Defenseman Kevin Roeder led the Miami rush down the left side and left a drop pass for Jones at the blue line. The junior left wing fired a shot on goal that Brown got his glove on but the rebound ended up on Kaufman’s stick and he flipped it into the open net for a 2-0 lead.
The Irish continued to apply pressure in the third, equaling a season-high 19 shots on goal but couldn’t get anything past Zatkoff.
“It’s frustrating playing against a good goaltender like that,” commented Deeth following the game. “We just tried to put whatever we could on the net. We were making nice plays, but he kept coming up big for them. We finally got one to go on the power play.”
Jones was called for a roughing penalty with 13:40 left in the game and after getting stopped on their first six chances, Notre Dame capitalized with Van Guilder getting his 15th goal of the season at 13:16.
Jason Paige controlled a face off in the right wing circle to Van Guilder. The junior moved the puck to the right point to O’Neill who slid a pass to Van Guilder who had moved to the slot in front. He got his stick on the pass and redirected it past Zatkoff to cut the lead to 2-1.
“With seven minutes left we were getting pretty frustrated, especially on the power play,” said Van Guilder. “They came real hard with pressure on the penalty kill and we didn’t handle it very well. We just needed one little spark to get us going and we got that on the power play.
Strong forechecking led to Notre Dame’s game-tying goal. Erik Condra pressured the Miami defense behind the goal and deflected a loose puck that slid in front of the goal. The puck sat there as Deeth raced in an chipped it past Zatkoff at 17:43 for his 12th goal of the season to make it 2-2.
“Erik Condra made a great play battling behind the net,” said Deeth. “The puck squirted out in front. Three of their guys closed in on it and I just went in there and tried to whack it and luckily it went in the goal. I was happy that it went in. I was overdue this weekend and had some great chances. One finally went in.”
From there Brown and Zatkoff held the opposition at bay through the remainder of
regulation and the five-minute overtime.
In the game, Notre Dame out shot Miami by a 36-26 margin. Zatkoff had 34 saves in the tie while Brown had 24. The RedHawks were 0-for-5 on the power play while the Irish scored once on eight chances.
The Irish have eight games remaining in the regular season with four on the road and four at home. Next weekend, Feb. 2-3, they travel to Bowling Green for a pair of games with the Falcons.