SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Fresh off being swept for the first time in almost two years, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish bounced back in grand fashion, jumping out to a 5-0 lead on the Bowling Green Falcons before coasting to a 6-1 victory.
Erik Condra and Ryan Thang led the way for the Irish, both recording three points on the night.
Desperate to rebound from a winless past two weekends, Notre Dame played inspired hockey throughout the first period. The Irish outplayed, outworked, and outshot the Falcons 16-2 on their way to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Notre Dame got on the board first with Ryan Thangs power-play goal, snapping a scoreless streak that saw the Irish fail to score in their last 39 power-play attempts. After working the puck around the perimeter, Dan Kissel took a shot from the bottom of the right circle that bounced off Falcon goalkeeper Nick Eno and up into the air.
Bowling Greens Tim Maxwell swatted the puck away from the net, but it wound up right on Thangs stick in the slot, and Thang quickly fired the puck into the back of the net.
It was a rough night for Eno, who gave up five goals on 24 shots before being replaced by Jimmy Spratt to start the third period. Eno entered the contest with a 2.28 goals against average.
The Irish doubled their lead with just over two minutes left in the first period when Erik Condra buried a wrist shot over the glove of Eno. The goal, Condras 11th of the season, was assisted by Dan VeNard.
Thang struck again with 1:02 to play in the first period to give the Irish a 3-0 advantage. With the Irish on the power play once again, solid puck movement led to the goal as Erik Condra found Thang alone in front of the net with pass from behind the cage.
We got some bounces tonight, said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson of his teams power play success. We scored some nice goals, but we got some lucky bounces, too, which we havent been getting lately.
After a successful penalty kill early in the period, Mark Van Guilders first goal in 10 games put the Irish up 4-0 at 6:00 of the second period. Van Guilder fired a shot from the corner that somehow snuck under Eno for his ninth goal of the year.
I was hoping he was cheating a bit off the post, said Van Guilder of his goal. I was hoping if I was looking at Thang, he might cheat a bit and give me some space.
Freshman winger Calle Ridderwall made the score 5-0 only minutes later. Ridderwalls shot off a pass from Ryan Guentzel deflected off the left post and into the net for Ridderwalls second career goal.
Bowling Green picked up their play during the latter part of the second period, and it paid off in the form of John Mazzeis second goal of the season. The play started when a neutral zone turnover by Notre Dame sent the Falcons on a 3-on-2 rush. Tommy Dee fired a slapshot from the right circle that Pearce was able to save with his right pad, but the rebound came right to Mazzei, who buried the close in chance.
Pearce was stellar in the remainder of the second, however, making 14 total saves in the period to prevent the Falcons from cutting into the Irish lead any further. In total, Pearce made 20 stops on the night to record his 15th victory of the year.
A great individual effort from Christian Hanson extended the Irish lead to 6-1 early in the third period. Hanson received a pass from senior forward Evan Rankin in the neutral zone and skated right around a Falcon defender before burying a shot over the glove of Spratt for his eighth tally of the year.
With the outcome no longer in doubt, the play turned rougher as the third period went on.
Tensions rose just under eight minutes into the period, when Falcon center Todd McIlrath appeared to take a shot at Notre Dames Pearce, sending Pearce tumbling to the ice. Brock Sheahan was quick to stand up for his netminder, confronting McIlrath as the two pushed and shoved each other.
McIlrath and Sheahan received coincidental minors, and Sheahan received an extra minor for roughing.
Another scuffle ensued with 2:54 remaining in the game, when McIlrath and Sheahan went at it again. McIlrath hit Sheahan high and hard in front of the Notre Dame bench, and Sheahan retaliated with a stick to the back of McIlraths leg as he skated away.
Immediately following that play, McIlrath and Calle Ridderwall grappled near the Bowling Green bench, and a multi-player brawl began. When the dust settled, Sheahan received a five minute major for slashing and a total of 77 penalty minutes were assessed to seven different players.
On the resulting power play, a hit from Mark Van Guilder forced Tommy Dee to leave the game with what appeared to be an injured right shoulder.
Notre Dame (19-9-1, 12-6-1) and Bowling Green (12-11-0, 9-8-0) play the back end of this home-and-home series tomorrow night at BGSU Ice Arena, where the Irish will be looking to extend their 11-game unbeaten streak against the Falcons.