SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Trailing 2-0 early in the second period, the No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish fought back against Northern Michigan to force overtime and pick up two points in a shootout victory over the Wildcats.
Sophomore right winger Billy Maday scored both goals in regulation to force overtime. Calle Ridderwall netted the shootout-winning goal to give the Irish the two points.
“I give our guys credit for coming back from 2-0,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “It was a hard-fought game. It was a tough win. Northern Michigan is a good hockey team. There were positive signs for us. We grinded it out and I’m glad our guys responded by coming back.”
According to Jackson, the team showed flashes of its potential, particularly in the middle part of the game.
“There was about an eight-minute span in the second period where I recognized the hockey team,” said Jackson. “We were proactive, we were on our toes. We were passing the puck well, we were supporting the puck well. We looked really good. That’s hopefully something that we’re going to be able to get back to, and gain confidence in how we play the game.”
“Being down 2-0, we needed a spark, and we got that with the power-play goal,” said Maday. “Our team fed off that. We played with more jump and energy from that point on. We played more like the Irish hockey team everybody is used to seeing.”
Northern Michigan came out of the weekend with four of a possible six points, a good showing on the road.
“I was real happy with our effort,” said NMU coach Walt Kyle. “I thought last night, [Notre Dame] controlled the play and Stewart was able to get us through. Tonight, it was a very even game. Our quality of play went up. But, we weren’t as opportunistic. We had a couple of chances tonight that we didn’t put in.”
The Irish continued their offensive struggles again tonight, but it was netminder Brad Phillips who kept his team in the hockey game tonight.
Phillips got the nod in net for the Irish, and put together a solid performance, particularly in the third period, to lead his team to a win. He finished the night stopping 32 of 34 NMU shots.
“He had to make the difference in the third period,” continued Jackson. “Tonight, he made the difference, which is what I’ve been waiting for him to step up and do. He had to finish the game. It’s like the closer in baseball. You have to be at your best at the most important time of the game.”
Special teams played an important part in the game for Notre Dame, as well. Irish goals both came on special teams situations, a four-on-four goal and a power-play goal.
“The good thing for us thus far with the power play is one unit one night looks better than the other, and vice versa,” explained Jackson. “Our objective is to score a power-play goal a game. If we get the production out of both units, we’ll start scoring more than two goals a game.”
Notre Dame’s penalty kill was solid all night, particularly in the third period, when they had to kill off a five-on-three, as well as a pair of regular power plays. The Irish penalty kill stopped a Wildcats’ power play that had been clicking at 23 percent.
Brian Stewart started the game in the net for the Wildcats. He had his second-consecutive strong performance, after struggling in his first four games. The senior stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced, good for a total of 61 saves on the weekend.
Kyle was encouraged by the play of his goaltender this weekend.
“Early in the year, he was battling; I don’t know if it was nerves, or what. I knew, going into this weekend, he was going to be okay. Once it’s fixed, it’s fixed.”
After a scoreless first period, the Wildcats struck quickly for a pair of goals early in the middle frame.
Ray Kaunisto opened the scoring 1:26 into the period. Coming out of the penalty box, Kaunisto picked up a pass from the stick of Justin Florek in the Wildcats’ zone. Kaunisto skated in on Brad Phillips and beat the junior over the shoulder for his fourth goal of the year.
Jared Brown gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead just 42 seconds later when he tipped a shot from the point by Alan Dorich. The puck dived down and past Phillips for Brown’s second marker of the year.
Notre Dame cut the lead to 2-1 with a power-play tally at 8:42 of the period. Standing at the bottom of the right circle, Kevin Deeth took a pass from Brett Blatchford, then sent the puck across the crease to Billy Maday, who one-timed it past Stewart for his third of the year.
The Irish tied the game early in the third. Skating at four-on-four, Billy Maday picked up his fourth goal of the year on a wraparound attempt.
In the shootout, It was Maday and Ridderwall getting the game winners for the Irish.