KALAMAZOO, Mich. — After taking a 4-1 victory from the Western Michigan Broncos Friday night, the No. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish came into Lawson Ice Arena looking for a weekend sweep.
The Irish earned every bit of a 5-1 victory Saturday night in what was an aggressive, intense, hard-hitting 60 minutes of hockey.
It was a fast, electric start, as the crowd of 4,224 saw a lot of hits delivered in the opening period.
“I thought we got off to a great start here tonight,” said Broncos’ coach Jim Culhane. “It’s disappointing, disappointing for us as a team.”
The Broncos struck first, as freshman center Max Campbell lit the red lamp for his third tally of the year, just 1:32 into the contest. Junior Patrick Galivan circled the puck around to the top of the point to defenseman Steve Silver, who fired the puck on net, where Campbell found the loose puck, beating Irish netminder Jordan Pearce for the first goal of the game.
At the 8:16 mark of the first period, it looked like the Brown and Gold would go up 2-0, but senior winger Jeff Pierce’s goal was overturned by referee Keith Sergott.
“It was a little momentum swing, when they overturned our potential goal,” Culhane said. “They were able to respond from that, tie the game and go from there.”
“That controversial goal may have taken some wind out of our sails, but not a lot,” said junior co-captain Jeff LoVecchio.
The momentum definitely changes, as the Irish connected for five unanswered goals throughout the remainder of the game.
The first Irish goal came at the 12:50 mark of the opening period when freshman Calle Ridderwall took a pass in front of the net from Ian Cole and flicked a wrister past the glove of Broncos’ goalie Riley Gill.
“I thought we played well on the weekend,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said. “We did real good things with the puck that is my number one thing. So much can be said about us limiting their shots, but a lot of that was having the puck on our sticks. Sometimes offense is the best defense.”
Junior Justin White netted his first goal of the season at the 17:31 mark of the first period, as he turned a Broncos’ turnover into a point-blank scoring chance, beating Gill for the eventual game-winning goal.
After 20 minutes of play, the Irish had rattled off 14 shots to just four shots for WMU.
“As I said before, I thought the game was about us having the puck as much as anything,” Jackson said. “We want to be able to defend well, because that is what leads to us getting chances offensively. If we do a great job defensively and in transition, then we are going to have great success.”
“It’s extremely disappointing for us right now,” LoVecchio said. “Things aren’t going our way right now, and when you find yourself digging into a ditch, all you can do is dig yourself out with hard work.”
The second period started much the same way, as the Irish scored two more goals.
Sophomore Dan Kissel made it 3-1 at the 8:11 mark when he took a pass from Evan Rankin from behind the goal line to the top of the right crease and found the back of the net.
The Broncos got off a total of five shots on goal in the second period, but were unable to connect on any of their scoring opportunities. Their best chance came off the stick of Steve Silver, as he ripped a shot from the top right circle through the defense, but Pearce was able to get down and block it.
Left-winger Ryan Thang added the fourth goal, the Irish’s lone power play goal of the night, with only 10 seconds remaining in the period, tying senior Mark Van Guilder for the team lead in goals.
Contra finished the scoring off for the Irish at the 7:55 point of the third on a short-handed effort, as he deked his way around Gill and flicked it into the back of the net while Gill was falling down.
While Notre Dame improved to (9-4-0, 7-2-0 CCHA) while completing the weekend sweep over the Broncos, the Irish head coach noted that the team is finally starting to gel and come together.
“The first six weeks of the season has been a growing process for us,” he said. “It has taken some time for us to kind of jell this season.”
The Broncos (3-7-0, 1-5-0 CCHA) will stay home this Thanksgiving weekend, hosting Ohio State Nov. 23 and 24.
“You’re disappointed right now, but you have to come back and regroup and be ready for Ohio St.,” Culhane said.
Notre Dame will host Bowling Green on Tuesday Nov. 20, before they play in the 57th Rensselaer Holiday Tournament, beginning on Nov. 23.