SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Ferris State Bulldogs rode the strong goaltending of Mitch OKeefe and a tenacious, trapping defense to a 5-3 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Friday night at the Joyce Center.
OKeefe made 28 saves, including several point blank stops with his team up a single goal in the third period. On offensive, the Bulldogs had a balanced attack, with five different players scoring goals.
The game-winning goal was scored at 6:01 of the third period, when sophomore winger Casey Haines took a quick shot from the right faceoff dot that deflected off the stick of Notre Dame blueliner Dan VeNard only a couple feet after it left Haines stick. Pearce was unable to react to the change of direction, and the Bulldogs took a 3-2 lead.
Pearce finished with 30 saves on a night when he was under constant siege due to bunches of neutral-zone turnovers from his team. Ferris State doubled their advantage to 4-2 only a couple minutes later when Todd Pococke took a low shot that bounced off Pearces right pad and up over his shoulder. The goal, Pocockes first of the season, was assisted by Aaron Lewicki.
Early on, Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead at 11:56 of the first period with their 27th power play goal of the year. Kevin Deeth tallied the goal, his eighth, with assists credited to Ryan Thang and Mark Van Guilder. After niftily keeping the puck in the zone, the Irish worked the puck to Van Guilder. He slid the puck from the corner to the front of the net, Thang caught the pass and slid it across the crease to Deeth, who tucked it past a fallen Mitch OKeefe.
The Bulldogs tied the score at 1 on the strength of a tremendous shot from sophomore winger Blair Riley. Cody Chupp, a fellow sophomore, gained control of the puck behind the net and passed it to Riley, who was stationed near the top of the right circle. Riley wasted no time, firing a lightning quick snapshot over Pearces left shoulder that deflected off the crossbar and into
Ferris States trap worked to perfection in the first period, forcing the Irish into numerous neutral zone turnovers and leading the Bulldogs to a 16-7 shot advantage after 20 minutes of play.
Mike Fillingers fifth goal of the year on a fortunate bounce put the Bulldogs ahead 2-1 early in the second period. With his team on the power play, Jim Jorgensen corralled a loose puck along the left half boards and flipped a wrist shot toward the crease. Fillinger, who was skating through the front of the goalmouth, had the puck hit his stomach and drop behind the Irish netminder.
Notre Dame turned the tables on Ferris State with less than a minute to play in the second period, forcing a neutral zone turnover and turning it into the tying goal. Ryan Guentzel grabbed the loose puck at center ice and skated all the way into the corner before flipping a backhand toward the front of the net. The puck then deflected out into the high slot, where a waiting Brock Sheahan fired a slap shot through heavy traffic and between the legs of OKeefe for his first
goal in 34 games.
With the Irish trying to capitalize on the momentum from Sheahans goal, OKeefe made a strong save in the opening minute of the third period to keep the score tied. A pass from Ian Cole sent Evan Rankin on a breakaway from the blue line, but Rankins slapshot couldnt beat OKeefe.
After the Pococke goal made the score 4-2, Notre Dame wasted little time cutting into the Bulldog lead, capitalizing on a fortunate bounce of their own to make the score 4-3 at 9:30 of the third. Erik Condra scored his 12th goal of the season, this one from below the goalline. Condra flipped the puck from behind the Bulldog net, where it bounced off a Ferris State defender and past an unsuspecting OKeefe.
Justin Lewandowski sealed the victory for the Bulldogs with 1:54 remaining when he put a quick shot past a stick-less Pearce. The goal, Lewandowskis 6th of the year, was assisted by Brendan Connolly and Adam Miller.
The Bulldogs and the Irish finish up their season series on Saturday night when they face-off at 7:05 P.M. at the Joyce Center in South Bend, IN.