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Sophomore right wing Cory McLean scored two power-play goals and added an assist for a career-high three-point game, and defenseman Evan Nielsen added a goal and an assist to lead Notre Dame to a 6-3 win over the Bowling Green Falcons Saturday night at the Joyce Center.
The Irish also got goals from Yan Stastny, Brett Lebda and Rob Globke, snapping a two-game losing streak with the win over the Falcons.
Special teams played a major role for the Irish as they connected on four-of-six chances (two power-play goals by McLean, one each for Globke and Lebda) while the penalty killers killed of six straight Bowling Green power-play chances including four in a row in the third period.
“Special teams were big tonight especially after struggling last weekend in Alaska,” said Irish head coach Dave Poulin.
“The power play had been moving the puck real well over the last few games, we just weren’t capitalizing on our chances. I told them before the game to be patient, that the goals will come and that we’ll have a 4-for-6 night. Killing all six of their chances was enormous.”
The Irish scored first on the night when Yan Stastny got his sixth of the season at 4:54 of the first period with a great move out of the left wing corner. He was able to get one shot on Falcon goaltender Jordan Sigalet before shoveling a backhander under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead.
Ryan Barnett evened the game at 1-1 at 17:02 of the first when he rammed the rebound of Alex Rogosheske’s shot past Morgan Cey for his second of the year.
Globke, the CCHA’s leading goal scorer, got into the act to give Notre Dame a 2-1 lead on the power play at 9:00 of the second period. The junior right wing flipped the rebound of Neil Komadoski’s shot from the left point over Sigalet for his 13th of the season, two more than he scored all last season.
After Brian Escobedo tied the game at 2-2 just 3:06 later, the Irish power play scored twice to take the lead at the second intermission.
McLean got his first of the game at 13:40 as Lebda hit him with a blueline-to-blueline pass down the left-wing boards. The sophomore from Fargo, N.D. got a step on the defenseman and fired a shot from the low slot past Sigalet for his fifth of the season.
Lebda closed out the period with a power-play tally at 16:13 with a rocket from the top of the right wing circle off a Matt Amado setup.
“I got a pass from the corner, went back up the wall and then stepped to the middle. I saw Jake (Wiegand) on the far post so I just went high blocker side and it went in. I really needed a goal like that,” said Lebda.
Bowling Green wasn’t finished, though. The Falcons cut the lead to 4-3 just 59 seconds into the final period when Brett Pilkington blasted a shot from outside the Irish blue line that sailed over Cey’s glove for his second of the year.
The Irish spent most of the third period killing penalties, as they were whistled for four straight. When they had a chance to play five-on-five, they took advantage.
Nielsen scored his first of the season at 4:04 of the third to put the Irish ahead 5-3. The Notre Dame captain picked the puck up behind his net and carried all the way into the Bowling Green zone before firing a wrist shot past Sigalet from inside the blue line.
“I just carried the puck through our zone and was looking to get it in deep,” explained Nielsen. “Jake (Wiegand) gave me a nice pick on the sideboards and I just kept going. I just put my head down and shot it. That got a big burden off my back getting that first one.”
Poulin added that it was a play you expect from the team leader.
“Evan’s goal was the captain being the captain. He made a great rush on the play and scored an important goal in the game. Each time they scored, we answered back. That’s important for a team’s confidence,” said Poulin.
McLean closed the scoring with Notre Dame’s final power-play goal of the night at 18:04. Globke found him from the left wing corner parked on the right side and McLean fired the biscuit past Sigalet for the first three-point game of his career.
On the night, the Irish fired a season-high 50 shots on goal while the Falcons had 43. Sigalet finished with 44 saves on the game while Cey kicked out 40 for the Irish.
The victory improved the Irish to 6-6-2 overall and 5-6-0 in the CCHA. Bowling Green falls to 3-9-1 on the year and 1-8-1 in league play. The Irish have won four of the last five meetings and are 7-1-1 in the last nine games versus the Falcons. Notre Dame is 7-0-1 in its last eight games at the Joyce Center versus the Falcons dating back to the 1997-98 season.
The two teams will meet again on Sunday night at the Joyce Center with faceoff set for 5:05 p.m.