SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Penalties again proved to be too much for the Northern Michigan Wildcats to overcome, as they surrendered four power-play goals in a 5-2 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame on Saturday night.
For the second consecutive night, Notre Dame (23-5-3 overall, 17-4-3-3 in the CCHA) put on a power-play clinic, scoring their first four goals of the game with the man advantage. In the weekend series, the Fighting Irish racked up a stunning 10 goals while a man up.
It’s all timing, said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. I wish we could save some of these for another night. Our kids were moving the puck well. Both units played extremely well.
Different guys got different looks. There was really no one guy you could isolate. I thought everybody was effective.
We took ourselves down, said NMU coach Walt Kyle regarding his team’s taking too many penalties.
The calls were legit. We put ourselves in a big hole, with no chance to dig out.
After splitting their last two series, Notre Dame picked up an important sweep against a feisty NMU squad that came into the weekend riding a seven game unbeaten streak.
Walt’s team is probably going through a little bit of what we went through, said Jackson. You’re playing teams at the lower part of the standings and not as high-tempo, and you start getting into some bad habits. You’re still winning, although your team may not be playing as well as you’d like. That probably happened a little bit to them.
For the Wildcats (11-15-4; 8-12-4-3 CCHA), their task doesn’t get any easier. They must hit the road again next week to take on another top 10 team, the Miami RedHawks. Kyle saw some positives for his team to carry into next weekend, particularly from his freshman and sophomores, but he was unhappy with his upperclassmen. NMU junior and senior players were rung up for six of the eight penalties on Saturday.
We had real good performances by our young guys, said Kyle. but the guys that have been here need to play better in these big games. They need to play better and be more committed to being disciplined. We come in as the least-penalized team in the league, then we have a weekend like this where we take too many penalties. It’s not where we want to be.
Jordan Pearce looked much stronger in net on Saturday for his Irish. The senior netminder stopped 17 of 19 shots on the night.
He was better for us tonight, said Jackson of his goaltender. He’s been solid for us all year long. He got more support from the back end. We were much better in front of him tonight. It let him get a little confidence back after last night.
At the other end of the ice, NMU goaltender Brian Stewart struggled, getting pulled early in the second period in favor junior Derek Janzen.
Neither night was it Stewie’s fault, said Kyle. I pulled Stewie to try to change the momentum. We got it back to 4-2, but [Notre Dame] is a very good team. They controlled the game and dominated.
Just like last night, Notre Dame was able to jump out to a significant lead over Northern Michigan, thanks to a number of NMU penalties and a good power play.
Notre Dame enjoyed a nearly-uninterrupted power play over the final five minutes of the first period, as the Wildcats had significant trouble staying out of the penalty box. NMU saw five players go to the box in a span of eight minutes over the latter part of the opening period. The Irish were able to capitalize twice on the late power plays.
Billy Maday put the Irish on the board at 18:37 with a five-on-three goal, as he picked up a Brett Blatchford shot from the point that ricocheted off the boards behind the net and onto his stick out front. He went top shelf for his 11th goal of the season. Kevin Deeth added an assist.
The Fighting Irish struck again moments later with another five-on-three marker. Deeth won the faceoff deep in the Wildcat zone, fed a pass to Maday, who then passed to Calle Riderwall along the opposite boards. The Swedish winger blasted a shot from the circle beating Stewart for his 14th goal of the year.
Notre Dame added two more power play goals early in the second period. Kyle Lawson was the recipient of a nice tic-tac-toe that allowed him to score his second goal of the season. The goal came thirty seconds into the period and was assisted by Erik Condra and Ben Ryan.
Ben Ryan added his ninth of the year at 3:18 of the period, taking a Condra pass from across the ice and slamming it past Stewart for the 4-0 Notre Dame lead.
After the Ryan goal, Stewart was replaced in net by Derek Janzen, the second consecutive night a goalie switch was made during the game.
Gregor Hanson got the Wildcats on the board with a pair of goals coming at 5:01 and 9:18 to cut the lead to 4-2.
It was all Gregor. He was the best forward for us on the ice tonight, said Kyle. He made some big plays. He was the best guy for us all weekend. I thought he did a great job.
Garrett Regan capped the scoring at 12:55 of the second, notching his seventh tally of the season on a beautiful tip-in off the shot of Ian Cole.
Notre Dame finished the night 4 of 8 with the man advantage, and 10 of 16 on the weekend.
In contrast, NMU was shut out on Saturday in six tries.