SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — A five goal offensive outburst in the second period was all that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish needed to stop the red-hot Lake Superior State Lakers.
Those five goals, capped off by a natural hat trick by junior left winger Calle Ridderwall, were the key for Notre Dame on Friday night as they took home a 6-1 victory over the Lakers at the Taffy Abel Arena, marking only the second time the Lakers had lost since December.
A game like this has probably been coming for the last little while, Lakers coach Jim Roque said following the game. We were fortunate last week to pick up a sweep against Nebraska-Omaha, and our hot streak finally caught up with tonight in the second period.
When the game started, the Lakers jumped out in front at the two minute mark with a goal from Steven Kaunisto. However, from that point it was all Notre Dame as they forced the Lakers starter Brian Mahoney-Wilson from the game near the halfway point of the second period, after giving up four goals on twelve shots.
Weve had such a long spell in the first half of the season in regards to scoring goals, so to be able to score that many tonight is a good thing, Irish coach Jeff Jackson said.
We just needed to be patient and play a good road game tonight. We responded well after giving up that early goal and that allowed us to build momentum for the second period.
Riderwalls three goal performance led the way for Notre Dame, with Ben Ryan, Ryan Thang and Patrick Gaul also finding the back of the net. Brett Blatchford, Kevin Deeth and Joe Lavin also performed big for the Irish as they all picked up two assists.
A big moment in the game occurred during the halfway mark of the second period when Lakers forward Will Acton was given a five-minute charging penalty for a hit on Ian Cole. As a result of that hit, Cole was knocked out of the remainder of the game in what was diagnosed as a concussion.
Were going to run some tests in the morning and see what the symptoms are, but its really unfortunate, Jackson said.
Thats the seventh concussion for our team this year, and Im starting to get really tired of the high hits and checks from behind. It might come across as whining since were not having a great season, but its having a direct impact on my players futures and their lives.
We have someone like Eric Ringel, who is still dealing with post-concussion syndrome and I dont know if hell ever play hockey again. If we dont do something soon about these things in all levels of hockey, something bad is going to happen. But for one team to have seven concussions in a season, its outrageous.
Saturday will see the two teams going at it once again, in what Coach Roque feels will be an important statement for his team as they head into the final games of the season.
Tomorrow night is probably our biggest game of the year, Roque said.
After what happened tonight, were going to have to respond. Weve had Michigan and Notre Dame both come in here this season and we havent been able to play well against them on our home ice. Weve got to be able to match up against teams like those if we want to succeed, so Saturdays going to be a huge game.
I think theyre gonna be a lot better than how they looked tonight, coach Jackson said in regard to Saturdays game.
They just had an off night, and they were far from the team that we saw on film. Weve had plenty of nights like that ourselves this year and we just have to be prepared to match their level of improvement.