NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Notre Dame defended its new top ranking on Friday through a wild third period, defeating Nebraska-Omaha, 4-2, behind two goals from freshman Kevin Deeth, including the game winner with 9.6 seconds left in the game.
With less than 30 seconds to go and the score deadlocked at two, Notre Dame’s top line of Deeth, Eric Condra, and Ryan Thang gained control of the puck down low. Thang successfully battled a Nebraska-Omaha defenseman behind the net and slid the puck to Deeth, whose wrap around snuck under the pad of Maverick goalie Jeremie Dupont.
Irish coach Jeff Jackson complimented Deeth and the entire team, saying “With this team it’s been a different guy every night, and tonight was [Deeth's] night.”
Until Deeth’s game winner, the story of the game was the Nebraska-Omaha’s defense. The Mavericks frustrated one of the CCHA’s most potent offenses, holding the Irish to 12 shots in the first 40 minutes.
After a scoreless first two periods, the top-ranked Irish finally broke the tie 1:43 into the third when Deeth found the back of the net for his 14th goal of the season. The goal was assisted by Noah Babin and Eric Condra.
A shot from the point went off the boards and out in front of the net and after a couple of Irish players tried to poke it home, Deeth fired it into the back of the net.
Nebraska-Omaha answered almost immediately with a goal from freshman Jeric Agosto. Agosto capitalized on David Brown’s inability to glove a shot from the point and fired the puck through Brown’s five hole to tie the game at one.
The Mavericks weren’t done. Wes O’Neill got sent off for holding just 10 seconds after the goal, and Nebraska-Omaha capitalized on the ensuing power play to take a 2-1 lead.
Eddie Del Grosso fired a shot wide from the point, but the puck took an awkward carom off the back boards, leaving Dan Charleston with an open side as Brown was unable to recover. Tomas Klempa recorded the other assist on the Maverick goal.
Notre Dame would answer. With a little over 11 minutes gone in the third, the Irish power play controlled a face off and worked the puck to Justin White, who fired a low snap shot from the top of the right circle.
The shot went through a screen from Mark VanGuilder and found the back of the net for White’s second goal of the season. Wes O’Neill and Noah Babin recorded assists on the goal.
With the Nebraska-Omaha net empty, senior T.J. Jindra added a goal from Kyle Lawson and Jason Paige for the final margin.
Before the six goals in the third period, it looked as if the story of this game would be the defense. After a slow start, Notre Dame controlled play for most of the last 15 minutes of the first period.
Although the Irish only outshot the Mavericks 6-5, they had many more scoring chances, including two shots that hit the goalpost. Erik Condra’s attempt to tuck in a rebound hit the left post a little over 6 minutes into the period, and linemate Kevin Deeth’s shot from the left faceoff circle beat Dupont and rang off the right post with just under a minute to play in the first.
The Mavericks played the defensive game to perfection the first two periods, allowing the Irish few quality scoring chances on Dupont, who finished with 21 saves on the night. Nebraska-Omaha’s defense did a superb job of keeping most of Notre Dame’s chances to the outside, and shut down the Irish transition game by dropping as many as four skaters back along their own blue line.
Irish coach Jeff Jackson complimented the Mavericks defense, commenting that they did a superb job of bottling up the Irish throughout the game.
The second period featured two key chances, one for each team. Notre Dame’s chance came a on the power play about 6 minutes into the period. Senior defensemen Wes O’Neill found himself with an open 1 timer in the slot, but Dupont was up to the task and made the pad save.
After the Notre Dame power play, Nebraska-Omaha gathered some momentum and had their best chance of the period. With Michael Bartlett and Dan Charleston in the penalty box for coincidental holding penalties, the Mavericks took control of the 4 on 4.
The Irish turned the puck over, creating a wide open slap shot for Hobey Baker candidate Scott Parse, but Parse’s rocket just missed the far post.
Nebraska-Omaha arguably had the better of the play for the rest of the period, but could not sneak one by Brown, Notre Dame’s Hobey Baker hope.
Notre Dame’s win coupled with Michigan’s 3-2 loss at Bowling Green brings the Irish even closer to their first ever CCHA regular season title. The Irish now stand 18-3-2 in the conference, six points ahead of the Wolverines with each team having five games remaining. Nebraska-Omaha, meanwhile, moves to 10-10-3, still good for fifth place in the CCHA one point ahead of Ohio State.
Nebraska-Omaha and Notre Dame drop the puck for the last of their four regular season meetings tomorrow night at the Joyce Center at 7:05 P.M.