BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Junior forward Matt Kirzinger paced the Ferris State Bulldogs with three points in a 4-1 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Kirzinger had two assists in a addition to a short-handed goal in the second period.
Notre Dame had the first good scoring chance of the game at the 11-minute mark of the first with a two-on-one chance, but Simon Denis went down to take away the pass and Bulldogs netminder Taylor Nelson got a piece of the shot with a blocker.
“Taylor Nelson deserves a lot of credit,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels. “Notre Dame is very strong around the net. You’ve got to have good crease maintenance. You can’t leave a lot pucks laying around the net. I thought he did a good job if he couldn’t smother a puck of steering rebounds into the corners.”
However, it was Ferris State that got on the scoreboard first. Chad Billins ripped a slap shot from the left point that got away from Notre Dame goalie Mike Johnson. The rebound landed on the stick of Andy Huff, who slammed the puck home to give Ferris State the lead.
Notre Dame started to gain momentum on a power play early in the second period, but could not get a shot past Nelson, despite having a great screen at the top of the crease.
Ferris State added to its lead midway through the second period when Kirzinger picked off a Notre Dame pass and started a two-on-one for the Bulldogs.
“I got a lucky bounce off the glass and went down the ice with it,” said Kirzinger. “Jordie [Johnston] was with me. I tried to get him the pass, but the ‘D’ made a nice play and I couldn’t get it to him. I wanted to shoot, but the goalie was out pretty far so I didn’t really have much to shoot at and the rest just kind of happened.”
Notre Dame had further chances in the second period, including a five-on-three power play for almost two minutes, but the Ferris State penalty kill, including Kirzinger and Johnston, prevented the Fighting Irish from getting set up in the Ferris State zone for much of that time.
“Matt was first star of the game tonight because the points, but the penalty kill was every bit as important as the goal and assists tonight,” said Daniels.
Ferris State added to its lead with tic-tac-toe passing by Kirzinger and Derek Graham that helped get Kyle Bonis open in the low slot, where his shot made it through Johnson’s five-hole, with Justin DeMartino providing the screen.
The third period was marred by a pair of ugly incidents just over a minute apart in the middle of the frame.
First was a check on Patrick Gaul by Aaron Schmit that led to Schmit getting a disqualification for contact to the head. Then, with Notre Dame on a five-minute power play, Stephen Johns kneed Eric Alexander drawing a major penalty of his own to end Notre Dame’s power-play opportunity.
Notre Dame scored its only goal of the game during the ensuing four-on-four action. Jeff Costello passed the puck from behind the Ferris State net to Sam Calabrese ,who put a wrist shot past Nelson low on the glove side.
The two teams traded penalties for the remainder of the game, with Ferris State ending the scoring during one of its five third period power play attempts. Jordie Johnston capped off his night by getting open at the top of the crease and slamming a pass from Travis Ouellette past Johnson.
The win for Ferris State ended a two-game skid for the Bulldogs and extended Notre Dame’s losing streak to three games.
“The key is to limit it [losing streaks] to a short term as best you can and not letting it get to your confidence,” said Daniels
Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson had no comments for the media. according to a Notre Dames spokesman.
Ferris State (11-5-1, 7-5-1 CCHA) and Notre Dame (10-6-3, 7-3-3 CCHA) wrap up their weekend series tomorrow night in South Bend, with Ferris State’s first trip to Lefty Smith Rink at the Compton Family Ice Arena.