The University of Notre Dame came up one goal short on Friday night as the Irish dropped a 2-1 decision to North Dakota in front of a sellout crowd of 5,022 at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
The loss was even tougher as it looked like Irish junior center Anders Lee had scored the game-tying goal in the final moments only to have the officials rule that the play had been called. Lee scored the only Notre Dame goal of the night while North Dakota got goals from Nick Mattson and Danny Kristo in the win.
The Irish outshot the North Dakota by a 36-17 margin in the game but junior goaltender Clarke Saunders stopped 35-of-36 to preserve the win. Notre Dame’s Steven Summerhays had 15 for the Irish. North Dakota was making its first appearance at Notre Dame since the 1980-81 season, the last year the two schools played in the WCHA.
The loss drops the sixth-ranked Irish to 8-4-0 overall while seventh-ranked UND is now 6-3-2 on the season. The two teams will meet at 5:05 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24 to close out the series.
As time wound down in the final minute, Notre Dame pulled Summerhays for a sixth attacker and was able to keep pressure on North Dakota. A shot from the right face-off circle found its way through a gathering of players in front of the UND goal. As the scramble ensued, the puck came free in the crease and Lee was there to bang it into the net.
Referee Keith Sergott waved the goal off as he signaled that Saunders had the puck frozen in the crease. Lee, who had the best look at it, described the play.
“The puck never stopped; it rolled along his leg and when it fell off his leg pad, I put it in,” said Lee, the Irish captain.
“That’s not the way the ref saw it though. It’s a fast game and stuff like this happens. We can’t dwell on a loss like this especially with the way we played tonight.”
Irish head coach Jeff Jackson was not happy with the ruling on the ice.
“It was just an awful call, the puck was free between his legs. I could see it from the bench,” said Jackson. “It was not frozen, the puck was laying behind him. He said the whistle blew.”
North Dakota was able to build a 2-0 lead, getting a goal in the first and second period. With the Irish pouring 18 shots on Saunders in the opening period, it was the visitors who would break through with 3.6 seconds left on the clock.
Mattson would get his first of the year at 19:56 when his blast from the center point found its way through a screen and past Summerhays to give North Dakota the lead. Defenseman Andrew MacWilliam and center Corban Knight picked up assists on the play.
Knight would have his hand in on both North Dakota goals as he set up Kristo’s power-play goal at 2:49 of the second period. With the puck along the right wing boards, Knight was able to win a battle and come away with the puck. He found Kristo all alone by the left hash mark. North Dakota’s leading scorer showed why as he deked Summerhays to the ice before flipping a backhander under the cross bar for his fifth goal of the season. Defenseman Dillon Simpson added a helper on the play.
The power play goal was the first given up by Notre Dame since Nov. 2 and snapped a streak of 16 consecutive opponent power plays killed by the Irish.
Notre Dame cut the lead in half at 5:25 with Lee doing the honors on the power play. Robbie Russo moved the puck from the left point to the right to Mario Lucia, playing in just his third game since returning from a broken leg. Lucia wound up to shoot but instead put a nice pass on Lee’s stick. The junior center deflected it on Saunders who made the first stop before Lee jammed the puck through his pads for his sixth goal of the season to make it 2-1.
“Mario (Lucia) had a great look there,” said Lee.
“He saw my stick and put a shot-pass on it and I deflected it on the goalie. The next thing it was in.”
Jackson now has the job of getting his team ready for the second game of the series on Saturday.
“I thought we played pretty well tonight,” said Jackson.
“We made two mistakes and they took advantage of them. We had several good chances, some real good looks. Their goaltender (Clarke Saunders) played well. Give him some credit. They have a real good team. I thought they did a great job of getting in the way of a lot of shots that kept us from winning tonight.”