BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Notre Dame (20-9-1; 13-6-1 CCHA) received big offensive contributions from freshman Ben Ryan as his Notre Dame Fighting Irish upended Bowling Green, 4-1 at the BGSU Ice Arena, completing a season sweep of the Falcons.
The right winger from Brighton, Mich. notched a pair of goals to go along with an assist in the win. His second goal came with less than four minutes left and opened up a two goal cushion after the Falcons had just pulled to within 2-1.
“Benny had been a top-notch freshman,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “He’s been playing in almost every situation. He competes hard. He has great hands, great hockey sense.
“That was such an important goal at the end. Bowling Green had all of the momentum with that shorthanded goal. For us to be able to score that goal was huge in the overall outcome of the game.”
“We’ve had some problems putting the puck in the net,” said Ryan. “We’re getting better at the right time. Last night, we scored six yesterday and four today. It seems like things are coming together.”
“Notre Dame is a very good team at winning these types of games,” said Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch. “They’re very good with the lead. They played down the stretch extremely well.”
The weekend sweep couldn’t have come at a better time for the Irish. Last week, they were swept by No. 1 Michigan. Jackson knew this week’s games were critical.
“There’s not much hockey left,” said Jackson. “We only have eight games left. Every point is huge if you’re trying to finish in the top four of the league. That’s our objective, to finish in the top four and the top three, if we can. But those three teams ahead of us are pretty darn good teams.”
The two rivals played a close, physical game throughout, but experience coupled with cool heads proved to be the difference down the stretch for the Irish.
The Falcons (12-12-0; 9-9-0 CCHA) managed to stay in the game until the closing minutes. Trailing just 2-1 late in the third period, a pair of undisciplined penalties in the final 3:42 took away any chance the Falcons had to tie the game.
James Perkin picked up a tripping call and Kevin Schmidt and Dan Sexton each received misconducts as a result of their vocal disagreement with the call.
“It was a disappointing finish,” said Paluch. “We didn’t take advantage of a pretty good opportunity. We didn’t take advantage of a real good effort. We killed some penalties, got a great shorthanded goal. We had a lot in our favor, but the emotion of the game got the better of us. We didn’t handle it well. We got undisciplined at a real key part of the game.
“Our effort was very good. We competed well. We stayed with the game perfectly for 56 minutes. We did not handle frustration well in the key moments of the game. Championship teams and good, top-level teams understand that and deal with anything that’s thrown at them.”
Penalties have been a problem for Bowling Green in the last two weeks. The Falcons have racked up 187 penalty minutes in four games against Western Michigan and Notre Dame.
The Falcons kept the game close and had chances in the offensive zone, but could not get the bounces to fall their way. Ben Geelan and David Solway both had chances to put points on the board for BG. Geelan missed an open net in the second period that would have cut the lead to 2-1 and Solway missed wide on a breakaway in the waning seconds of the period as well.
“We had some good chances,” remarked Paluch. “We missed a wide-open net in the second period with Ben Geelan. Late in the second, we got the partial breakaway as the buzzer goes from David Solway. When the game got to 2-1, we had some pucks rolling around, and we had some pretty good pressure down there. But give credit to Notre Dame. They bent, but did not break. We got our chances, but it’s certainly frustrating to not come away with any points this weekend.”
After an 0-for-38 drought on the power play coming into this weekend’s series, the Irish special teams lit the lamp for four power play goals in the series.
“We’ve finally put the right people in the right positions,” explained Jackson. “We’ve been struggling since before Christmas. We’re changing some guys around and putting them into some roles where they can be more successful. We’ve tried not to make too much out of it. The media’s done that for us. Special teams has always been our bread and butter, and before Christmas, things just seemed to start falling apart in that area. But, it’s huge for us if we’re going to have any type of success at all.”
“We changed things up,” said Ryan. “We had the mentality that when we’re in the zone, we’re going to play five-on-five. Our main goal was to just get the puck in on net and keep things simple.”
Notre Dame opened the scoring at 4:33 of the first period by tallying their third power-play goal of the weekend. Ben Ryan was able to find a rebound our front and jam it past Jimmy Spratt for his seventh goal of the season.
The Irish increased their lead in the second period to 2-0 when Ian Cole lit the lamp for his third goal of the year. The freshman defenseman let a wrister go from the left circle, beating Spratt on the stick side.
The Falcons pulled within striking distance at 11:58 of the third period with a shorthanded goal. Andrew Krelove stripped the puck away from a Notre Dame blue liner in the Irish zone. He dumped it off to Dan Sexton, who went in alone on Jordan Pearce. The freshman deked the goaltender, then slid the puck through the five-hole for his sixth goal of the year.
Ben Ryan iced the game with a power-play goal at 16:31 of the final period. He took a crisp pass from Justin White, and one-timed it from between the circles for his second goal of the game.
Kevin Deeth added an empty net goal to close out the scoring for the Irish.