SOUTH BEND, Ind. — “There’s one way to play hockey, and that’s the way you should play it,” Alabama-Huntsville coach Danton Cole said of his team, which came into South Bend and knocked off CCHA power Notre Dame 3-2 in front of a stunned, sellout crowd at the Joyce Athletic Center.
“We haven’t talked about [the CCHA's snub of UAH in the offseason] at all. It’s irrelevant. If you can’t get up to play Notre Dame on their ice . . . ” Cole trailed off.
The host Irish came into the game ranked fifth nationally, and played as if they expected to walk all over the visiting team.
“We played very individualistic at times, and that played right into their hands,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said of his squad. “They put themselves in a position to be there at the end of the game.”
Notre Dame’s power play controlled the game in the first two periods, with both goals scored on good puck movement around the net.
“It’s them making real good plays. Cam didn’t have much of a chance on either of those power plays,” Cole said.
Both Riley Sheahan and Kyle Palmieri scored their first career goals on backside shots on the power play. Jackson was happy with his special teams’ effort in the first two periods.
“They had really good net presence, and moved the puck well. That typically opens up the puck on the back side of the net.”
The Chargers scored both of their even-strength goals on grind-it-out efforts near the net.
“We don’t score a ton of goals,” Cole said. “We have to manufacture what we do score. We watch a lot of NHL games and see that a lot of the goals at that level are rebound goals. We couldn’t get the first one by tonight, but the rebounds just came to us.
Once they scored that tying goal, they had the momentum. I’ve been on the other side of those games before, so I know how they are. It’s a monumental game for them, and they want to make a statement. Danton had them well-prepared, and they played very well.”
Cole was most proud of his team’s effort.
“The boys just battled, battled, battled. We’ve gotten really good buy-in from the guys this year. It’s part of the culture we want to have there — we’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. But it’s a big win for us, I’m not gonna lie to you.”
“In college hockey, there are no bad teams,” Jackson stated. “We’re supposed to be a third period team, because our style of play is patience and working them down. We’re not supposed to lose in the third period.”
“Everybody wants to make it about the CCHA,” he continued. “The thing about them not getting into the CCHA has nothing to do with the quality of their hockey program. It has everything to do with where they’re located and the inner workings of the CCHA.
“It’s not that we didn’t think they were a good-enough program. Danton Cole is a highly-respected coach, and they’re trying to build a program — the same position that I was in four years ago. It’s healthy for college hockey to have a team in the South.”
The two teams face-off again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.