SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The ninth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish notched their ninth CCHA win of the season on Tuesday, holding off a late rally from the upstart Bowling Green Falcons in a 2-1 victory.
On a night when strong defense and goaltending reigned supreme, it was only fitting that the game was decided with a goal from a defenseman. Kyle Lawson’s tally only minutes into the second period gave the Irish a one-goal lead that they never relinquished.
The play started when Erik Condra skated into the offensive zone and found a trailing Lawson with a cross ice pass. The sophomore blueliner took a wrist shot that appeared to be going wide, but the puck bounced off the knee of Bowling Green defenseman Kevin Schmidt and into the net. The goal, Lawson’s first of the year, was also assisted by sophomore forward Ryan Thang.
From there, Jordan Pearce took over and ensured the victory. Pearce made 27 saves on the night, none better than a poke-check of Schmidt with under 90 seconds remaining in the game when Schmidt broke in alone with a chance to tie the score. The game was Pearce’s third straight allowing only a single goal.
“[Pearce] was the difference-maker tonight,” said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson. We weren’t as sharp tonight as we usually are, but he bailed us out when he had to.”
Bowling Green took advantage of a fast start, outshooting Notre Dame 14-5 in the first period. But despite the shot discrepancy, the first 20 minutes ended with the game tied at 1-1.
The Irish got on the board first, thanks to a great individual effort from freshman forward Ben Ryan. Ryan picked up the puck behind the Bowling Green goal line and walked out all the way to the top of the left circle. He then fired a quick wrist shot that sailed over the shoulder of Nick Eno for Ryan’s third goal of the season.
Derek Whitmore scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season to tie the score at 1. Whitmore got a stick on a shot from defenseman Kevin Schmidt, deflecting the puck up over the shoulder of Pearce.
The Falcons kept up the pressure throughout the period, generating several good scoring chances on transition plays. Pearce was up to the task, however, turning all of them away to keep the game tied.
“Bowling Green played really well in our offensive zone,” Pearce said. “They throw the puck on net from a lot of off-angles, so that was a big factor in how many shots they had.”
Eno made a key save of his own in the first, stopping Dan Kissel’s breakaway attempt with about 8:35 to play in the period. The Irish ended up gaining a man advantage due to a penalty on Tim Maxwell on the breakaway, but their power play was unable to produce any quality scoring chances.
After Lawson’s goal, Notre Dame went on to dominate the period, holding a 10-4 edge in shots and producing quite a few more scoring chances than Bowling Green. That meant it was Eno’s turn to shine. The Falcon goaltender was stellar in the period, turning away chance after chance from the swarming Irish forwards and keeping his team’s deficit at a single goal.
Bowling Green had several chances in the third, including a 6-on-4 power play for the last 1:19 of the game, but could not sneak one past the Irish netminder.
Due in large part to their goaltending, the Irish also managed to keep Bowling Green’s league-leading power play off the scoresheet. The Falcons, converting on 31% of their chances in conference play coming into the game, finished 0-5 on the man advantage.
With their second meeting of the season in the books, the Irish and Falcons head in different directions. Bowling Green will head home for Thanksgiving before returning to action in a non-conference tilt at Wayne State on Friday, November 30th, at 7:05 P.M. Notre Dame, on the other hand, will hit the road immediately, traveling to the 57th Rensselaer Holiday Tournament, which begins this Friday. The Irish open the tournament with a game against Alabama-Huntsville at 4:00 P.M. in a rematch of last year’s first-round NCAA tournament battle.