SOUTH BEND, Ind. — No. 14 Notre Dame prevailed 4-1 over the Lake Superior State Lakers in a game once again dominated by special teams.
The Irish (6-3-0, 4-1-0) were stellar on the power play, scoring two goals on five power play chances. The penalty killers were equally up to the task, successfully defending six of seven Laker power plays and notching a goal of their own. Freshman netminder Brad Phillips was a stellar backstop for the Irish penalty kill the whole night, making 16 saves in his first career start.
Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson was very pleased with the effort.
It was a nice game for Brad Phillips to play, Jackson said. I thought our team played well in front of him. It was an exciting day for us, were finally starting to show some progress.
Similar to the previous night, the game opened up as a defensive struggle.
Neither team was able to muster any good offensive chances in the first 10 minutes, only recording three combined shots on goal.
Lake Superior State (1-4-1, 0-2-0) earned the first three power plays of the game, the initial two due to infractions on Erik Condra. Notre Dame was able to successfully kill both of the Condra penalties, surrendering zero shots on goal.
In the waning moments of the period, the Irish penalty killers stepped it up another notch, scoring their second shorthanded goal of the season. Christian Hanson, a junior forward, corralled the puck in front of his own bench and split two Laker defenders just inside the blue line. He then ripped a slap shot from the top of the right circle to give the Irish a 1-0 lead.
The Irish were able to double their lead with another special teams goal ” this time on the power play.
Sophomore defenseman Kyle Lawson scored his second goal of the year on a pass from Kevin Deeth. The play started when Mark Van Guilder won a puck in the corner and passed to Deeth at the left point. Deeth skirted the puck along the blue line to Lawson at the right point. Lawson then took a slap shot, which deflected off a Laker defenseman and past Laker freshman goalie Brian Mahoney-Wilson.
A flurry of Irish penalties in the latter half of the second period allowed the Lakers back into the game. Just minutes after two Irish penalties, Christian Hanson drilled Rick Schofield in the back along the boards. Hanson was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind.
Seconds later, Brock Sheahan was given another checking from behind penalty on a play in front of his own net, sending the Lakers to a five on three power play.
It didnt take long for Lake Superior State to capitalize on the two man advantage. Only 17 seconds after Sheahans penalty, Nathan Perkovich buried his fifth goal of the season to cut the Irish lead in half. Perkovich took a pass in the slot from Matt Cowie and fired a wrist shot through traffic that got past Phillips. Troy Schwab also recorded an assist on the play.
However, that was as close as the Lakers would get, as Phillips and the Irish held their slim lead throughout the rest of the power play.
Laker coach Jim Roque, while disappointed with the end result, wasnt displeased with his teams efforts.
Youre down 2-1 at the end of the second period at Notre Dame, Roque said. Thats not too bad of a position. We couldnt capitalize in the end, but I thought we put forth a solid effort tonight.
As the third period started, the Irish began to take over the contest. Notre Dames defense clamped down, only allowing four Laker shots in the period, while the offense fired 18 shots at Mahoney-Wilson, who finished with 32 stops on the night.
Still, the Lakers remained only one bounce away from tying the game until midway through the third, when a great play from Robin Bergman helped the Irish increase their lead to 3-1. Bergman made a nifty move to keep the puck in the Laker zone, skated into the slot and made a drop pass to Erik Condra. Condra skated around a defender and flicked a wrist shot into the upper corner of the net for his fourth goal of the year.
Another power play goal provided the Irish with some insurance less than two minutes later. Evan Rankin scored his third goal of the year on a rebound in front of the net off a shot from Brett Blatchford. The goal was Notre Dames fifth power play goal of the series.
Earlier in the week, Jackson had emphasized a need for his team to value the puck more than they had been in previous games. He came away satisfied with their progress.
I thought we made great strides this weekend [in valuing the puck], he said.
We also had our best offensive weekend. Its about how you create offense. Doing it the right way usually leads to more opportunities.
Tonight was the final game of the season between the two teams. The Irish resume their CCHA schedule next Friday night at Miami (Ohio) while the Lakers face off against Wayne State in a non-conference matchup.