College Hockey:
Midgame Burst Sends Notre Dame Past Mercyhurst

— After losing 4-1 to Wisconsin in the first contest of Friday’s Lefty McFadden Invitational, three second-period goals helped to lift the Dame Fighting Irish over the Mercyhurst Lakers by a score of 4-0 in Saturday’s Lefty McFadden Invitational consolation game.

Irish senior captain Mark Van Guilder scored two goals in the contest to bring his total to three for the weekend, and junior Jordan Pearce made 25 saves in his first win of the season and third shutout of his career.

Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said that tonight’s game gave fans a more realistic glimpse of this year’s Irish than did last night’s loss.

“I don’t think that was an indication of what type of team we are. Things were out of sync…for one reason or another. There were little things off the ice, too, that were a little out of sync. I guess that goes with the first game of the season. You’re put under so much pressure to prepare in such a short period of time and that’s no excuse, because Wisconsin had to do the same thing.

“This is a better indication of our team. Hopefully, we got some kinks out yesterday and we can kind of build on what we did today.”

Just as in Friday’s 2-1 loss to Ohio State, the Mercyhurst’s special teams did nothing to help the Laker cause. Two of Notre Dame’s goals came on the power play, and the Lakers were 0-for-5 on the power play themselves.

Jackson said the power-play tallies and stingy defense was Notre Dame’s “M.O.” in 2006-07.

“Last year, our team played really strong defensively and got some advantages on the power play. It would be nice to score more five-on-five goals, and we’ll continue to work towards that but power plays change the momentum, so you’ve got to be good on them. Also, making sure that you get more power plays than the opponent…so discipline is a factor as well.”

After a scoreless first period, Notre Dame spread out the goals in the middle bracket. Van Guilder’s first marker of the night came at 2:46 on the power play, on a quick feed from freshman Ben Ryan behind the net. At 5:48, it was Erik Condra dishing to Ryan Thang on the power-play breakaway, and Garrett Regan scored from Ryan on another, even-strength breakaway at 16:56.

“In the second period, we tried to adjust on the power play,” said Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin. “We made adjustments between periods, and one of our forwards, right off the hop, just didn’t get to where he was supposed to be and Notre Dame, they’re pretty good. They buried that, and the second goal they got … one of our defensemen got his shaft of his stick on the ice and it hits his stick and bounces in.

“Now you’re down two-nothing against a Notre Dame team. It’s hard to come back against anybody in hockey, let alone a team like Notre Dame.

“But our guys battled. Then our third goal, one of our freshman forwards, he needs to possess the puck and he had it on our blue line and just possessed it too long and got stripped of it and then the breakaway.

“Then on the fourth goal, we had a pretty good defenseman get walked by a pretty good forward.”

That fourth goal was Van Guilder’s second, where — as Gotkin said — he walked in on a Laker defenseman, moved left to right, shifted his shot, and went five-hole freshman goaltender Ryan Zapolski. That was 20 seconds into the third period.

“We knew that we were going to be playing a pretty good team here today and probably a pretty mad team and a [NCAA] tournament team,” said Gotkin. “We’re messing with the big boys. I thought our first period was pretty good. If nothing else, it was at least even. We did some really good things with a pretty good rhythm.”

The Irish finished the night 2-for-8 on the power play. Making his first start for the Lakers, Zapolski — in for junior Matt Lundin, who injured his shoulder in Friday’s contest — stopped 33-of-37 shots.

“I thought he played great at times,” said Jackson. “Early on, he was really good. I don’t know if he had much chance on any of those goals. He held them in there, kind of like our guy did yesterday.”

Both coaches said that the weekend gave them several things to think about.

“I’m really disappointed that it wasn’t a better outcome, but I thought we had a pretty good effort again,” said Gotkin. “We clearly have to get better.”

“This stretch was a tough one. With Ohio State, Notre Dame, and now Maine coming up twice, we knew it was going to be a tough stretch. Our object is just trying to get better, trying to learn, and trying to sort out who’s who and what’s what.”

Jackson said that the game was good for the “young kids up front” and for the rookie blue line.

“Last night, I thought they were deer in headlights. First game, against Wisconsin, and they came at us. We weren’t as prepared as we should have been, and I’ll take fault for that.”

Next weekend, both the Lakers (0-2-0) and the Irish (1-1-0) tangle with nonconference opponents. Mercyhurst travels to Orono to take on the Black Bears Friday and Saturday, while Notre Dame hosts Denver Thursday and Friday.

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