The Northern Michigan Wildcats and Notre Dame Fighting Irish came into Fridayâ€™s game enduring tough series the previous weekend, and both were trying to find something that would generate a win. Notre Dame found it in their power play and defense.
â€œTonightâ€™s win feels really good,â€ Irish captain Erik Condra said of the 3-2 victory. â€œWeâ€™re back to playing Irish hockey which is hard-nose, gritty hockey. Everyoneâ€™s been joking that our power play has been struggling lately but tonight we got back to the basics and it was good to get some power play goals.â€
â€œIt was a really even hockey game at 26-27 shots,â€ Wildcat coach Walt Kyle said. â€œWe gave up three power play goals tonight. I thought our penalty kill has been good all year but they didnâ€™t pull it off tonight.
â€œWe also took some penalties, took ourselves off the power play, put them on two 5-on-3s. . . . . When
you play a team like this youâ€™ve got to be better. They had their chances but Brian Stewart made some big saves. We left him out to dry a few times tonight. It was almost all power play generated but he made some huge saves.â€
The first period took off and at just 5:47 the Wildcats took a one goal lead. Gregor Hanson and Blake Cosgrove gave the puck to captain Tim Hartung who shot the puck at Irish goalie Jordan Pearce. Pearce locked the puck under his left pad until he hit the post, releasing the puck back into the net.
At 11:12, Northern Michigan took a bench minor for too many men on the ice. This 5-on-4 gave the Irish their first power-play goal of the night after Ryan Thang shot the puck, hit the post, and put in the rebound himself.
The second period was a slew of penalties. The Wildcats took five while Notre Dame took three. When the Wildcatâ€™s Mike Maltese took an interference call at 3:11, it opened up the opportunity for Notre Dame to take their second power play goal of the night. After Wildcat goalie Brian Stewart blocked two shots from Brett Blatchford and Billy Maday, Dan Kissel popped the puck right of Stewart to give the Irish their first lead of the night.
During the third period, the Irish controlled the puck, keeping it in Northern Michiganâ€™s zone for the majority of play, including a five on three in the Wildcatâ€™s favor.
â€œOur goal as a team is to be strictly defense,â€ Condra said. â€œWeâ€™re smart and weâ€™re strong defensively and it opens up our offense. Another one of our goals is to win the third period. Youâ€™ve got to play smart and strong in the third, especially on the road.â€
â€œThe defense tonight made my job easier,â€ Pearce said. â€œThey kept everything away, a lot of the shots I faced were visible so I was able to make the saves.â€
At 7:15, Wildcatâ€™s Ray Kaunisto took a contact to the head high sticking call. The penalty didnâ€™t last long. A mere 14 seconds, the Irish upped their lead 3-1 with a goal from Christian Hanson. C. Hanson took assists from Brett Blatchford and Keith Deeth and shot the puck towards the net, where it hit one of Northern Michiganâ€™s players and was redirected over Stewartâ€™s right shoulder.
Irish players Ben Ryan and Kevin Deeth took contact to the head rough and holding calls halfway through the period to give the Wildcats a 5-on-3. Despite the advantage, the Irish killed their penalties, only to let the Wildcats score seconds later.
The Wildcat goal came at 12:32 when Erik Gustafsson and Ben Lindemulder gave the puck to Nathan Sigmund to tipped the puck into the net.
â€œSigmund played well, he provided energy,â€ Kyle said. â€œThe tale with our team right now is that the guys that should be scoring goals are failing to do it. They need to find a way to get going. Hopefully the fact that Hartung and Sigmund scored tonight motivates them because Sigmund has sat all year and Hartung is a fourth-line center.â€
The Notre Dame defensemen will skate for a sweep in Saturday nightâ€™s game.
â€œEveryone takes great pride and responsibility in our D-zone,â€ Pearce said. â€œWe know if we shut things down defensively that offensive things will take care of themselves. We pride ourselves on our defense and I think that won our game tonight.â€
â€œNotre Dame has a really strong defense,â€ Sigmund said. â€œWe werenâ€™t really able to get the puck possession time down low and thatâ€™s a big part of our game, especially for our success. We need to start helping each other out, supporting each other down low and finding the net.â€
â€œAfter winning a road game you know the other team is going to come back for a win,â€ Condra said. â€œThey donâ€™t want to lose twice in their own barn and weâ€™ve got to come back with the same intensity and even a little bit more.â€
â€œItâ€™s always great to get a win, especially when youâ€™re on the road,â€ Pearce said. â€œNorthernâ€™s a great
team, probably one of the top teams in our conference. So to come in and get two points makes us happy. Weâ€™re not satisfied until we get four.â€