BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — For close to 50 minutes versus Ferris State on Friday night, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish appeared to be in complete control. Leading 3-0 with just over 10 minutes left on the clock, the Irish looked like a lock for their fourth win of the young season.
Someone forgot to tell the Bulldogs, who came to life on a pair of Corey Couturier goals at 10:31 and with 57 seconds left to give Notre Dame a run for its money, but goaltender Jordan Pearce came up with a couple of big saves in the final minute to seal the victory.
Evan Rankin, Ben Ryan and Ryan Thang scored for the Irish, who have won seven straight road games overall, dating back to Jan. 19 of last season. Notre Dame is now 4-2-0 overall and 2-0-0 in CCHA play. Ferris State falls to 1-3-1 and 0-1-0 in conference play.
Notre Dame outshot the Bulldogs by a 34-27 margin. Pearce finished with 25 saves while Ferris State’s Pat Nagle had 33.
The Irish did something in the first period that they haven’t done all season: score the first goal.
Rankin, a senior right wing, got the Irish on the scoreboard first in the opening stanza at 7:23 when he drilled a wrist shot from just inside the Bulldogs’ blue line that beat Nagle between the left post and his pads. The goal was Rankin’s second of the season and second in as many games. Dan VeNard assisted on the goal.
The goal marked the first time this season that the Irish had scored first in the opening period and was just their third goal in the first period after six games this season.
The score would stay 1-0 until early in the third period when Notre Dame scored twice in a 1:14 span.
Ryan made it 2-0 at 1:41 of the third off a faceoff in the right circle. Center Christian Hanson pulled the puck back to defenseman Brock Sheahan, who got a low hard shot that Ryan redirected in front of Nagle for his second goal of the season.
Outstanding hustle by left wing Dan Kissel led to the third Irish goal at 2:55. Kissel beat the Bulldogs’ defense to a loose puck behind their goal and centered it to the right circle, where Thang was trailing the play. The sophomore buried it behind Nagle for his fourth goal of the year, the eventual game winner.
Couturier got Ferris State back in the game at 10:31 with his first of the night. The junior right wing took a centering pass from Aaron Lewicki inside the left circle and fired a wrist shot that deflected off of Pearce’s blocker and into the goal to make it 3-1.
With 1:31 left, the Bulldogs pulled their goaltender in favor of a sixth attacker and it paid off with 56 seconds left when Couturier, who was parked in front of Pearce, deflected an Evan Case shot from the top of the left circle over the Notre Dame goaltender to cut the lead to 3-2 at 19:04.
Nagle returned to the goal but Ferris State was able to get him off again with 36 seconds left as the Bulldogs swarmed the goal. Sophomore center Kevin Deeth won a big faceoff to Pearce’s left with nine seconds left and Erik Condra cleared the puck to seal the Irish victory.
The two teams will be back at it on Saturday night for the second game of the series. Game two will wrap up Notre Dame’s three-game road trip and will start at Ferris State’s Ewigleben Arena at 7:05 p.m.