SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Friday the 13th delivered on its promise tonight, as the visiting University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks experienced a truly frightening horror show in Notre Dames Joyce Center.
For the Fighting Irish, however, you couldnt call this luck. This was something altogether more impressive than mere fortune: this was pure dominance from the get-go, as the Irish scored four goals in the first period and never looked back.
With the win, No. 2 Notre Dame improves to 28-5-3 overall on the season. The CCHA regular season champions will advance to the conference tournament semifinals with a win tomorrow night on their home ice. The Mavericks fall to 15-16-8 and are on the verge of elimination.
Our guys were flying in the first period, said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. Thats as good a period as maybe weve played all season long. We were buzzing.
Notre Dame senior goaltender Jordan Pearce had 30 saves in his seventh shutout of the season, while senior captain and wing Erik Condra had two assists for the Irish. Sophomore center Ben Ryan added a goal and an assist.
It was good to see some of the things that we were doing, added Jackson. We were playing on our toes, and I thought we started playing on our heels later in the game. Ive never, as a coach, been able to control human nature, and they get a four-goal lead. [The Mavericks] played real well as the game progressed.
For the Mavericks, they recovered from their slow start in every phase of the game, except on the scoreboard. By games end, they even drew close to the Irish in shots on goal, trailing only 31-30.
Unfortunately, none of those shots went in the net. Credit Pearce and his 30 saves.
If you cant finish, youre not going to get out of the whole we put ourselves in the first period, Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp said. Theyre the kind of team that doesn’t give you a lot of great scoring chances. I was real pleased that we generated the ones we did.
I was born on Friday the 13th, Kemp added. So was my daughter. Not really (superstitious).
Considering the universal notoriety of this date, the two teams could not have had more opposite experiences. And despite the Kemp familys good fortune, this was not a night to remember for the Mavericks.
Notre Dame jumped to an early 1-0 lead just 2:01 into the game, when sophomore wing Calle Ridderwall beat UNO senior goaltender Jerad Kaufmann point-blank. Ridderwall scored unassisted, as he was able to fire the loose puck past Kaufmann while losing his balance and landing sideways on the ice.
The Irish scored again, this time on a power play, 7:18 into the first period, when Ryan poked in a loose puck in front of the net. Kaufmann couldnt get a glove on the puck, and Notre Dame was off and running. Sophomore defenseman Ian Cole and Condra assisted on the goal for Notre Dame.
With that kind of a lead, theyre a team thats made its name on shutdown hockey, Kemp said. You put yourselves in that kind of hole, its very difficult to get back.
Notre Dame reached a team hat trick for the first period with 4:14 remaining as freshman wing Billy Maday scored, assisted by junior defenseman Kyle Lawson. Just 1:20 later, the Irish added a fourth goal when junior wing Ryan Thang joined the scoring parade, assisted again by Condra and also Ryan.
Despite not being named to either the first or second team All-CCHA squads, Pearce is a top three finalist for the CCHA Player of the Year Award, and tonight he showed why. The Notre Dame senior goaltender didnt face a lot of shots in the first period (eight), but he did shut down what opportunities the Mavericks did have.
Combining Pearces stonewalling efforts with the Irish offensive burst, the game felt as if it was all but over after the first 20 minutes.
Omahas got some talented offensive players, Jackson said. They had some good scoring chances as the game progressed, and he had to make some good saves for us, especially in the last half of the game. Thats what he does, and he doesnt get enough credit for it.
Junior goaltender Jeremie Dupont replaced Kaufmann in goal for Nebraska-Omaha at the start of the second period, and the results were significantly better for the Mavericks. This may have been due more to the fact Notre Dame players were missing the net, however, as at least five seemingly great shot opportunities went wide in the second period for the Irish.
This included a wide-open breakaway opportunity for Condra with 1:45 left in the period, but the shot, like many others in the period, went wide of the net.
For the most part, we did a lot of things real well, Jackson said. Some of the things I expected from them started to show up as the game progressed. They threw a little caution to the wind, and I thought that gave them a lot of jump.
Sophomore wing Ryan Guentzal added a goal in the third period for Notre Dame, assisted by junior wing Dan Kissel, but the goal itself was somewhat anti-climactic considering the early hole the Irish buried the Mavericks in tonight.
The two teams face each other in Game 2 of the series tomorrow at 7:05 p.m. ET. And if the Mavericks want to extend this series, theyll have to do a lot better than tonights effort.
The first thing I said to them was, Be thankful, said Kemp. Weve got an opportunity to come back tomorrow night and start anew and get it to a third game and let the chips fall where they may.