DULUTH, Minn. – In their season-opening loss to Minnesota-Duluth on Friday, Notre Dame could never quite match UMD’s intensity and battle level. That didn’t go unnoticed by head coach Jeff Jackson, and he mentioned after the defeat that he expected the Irish to come out with more energy in the series finale.
Apparently he made the point clear to his team, too.
Notre Dame rallied from a two-goal deficit, scored five-straight in a 22-minute span and outskated the Bulldogs for the majority of the contest on their way to a 5-3 non-conference victory at Amsoil Arena.
“That game was more like our team last year than last night was,” Jackson said. “When you don’t turn the puck over, you control the tempo of the game. Tonight we controlled the puck.”
With UMD extending their lead to 2-0 on a Mike Seidel goal just 29 ticks into the second period, the Irish could have packed it in and coasted their way back to South Bend. Instead, Notre Dame finally seemed to notice the season had started, and really started clicking on all cylinders.
Nick Larson got the ball rolling when he beat goalie Aaron Crandall with a backhander from the slot after a strange bounce off the referee’s skate landed on his stick. TJ Tynan sniped a shorthanded marker 10 minutes later, and Anders Lee gave Notre Dame the lead just before the end of the middle frame with a rocket from the circle.
The quick turnaround by the Irish seemed to catch UMD off guard, and the Bulldogs never got back to their game.
“We have to learn not to let adversity like that effect us,” UMD center Jack Connolly said. “We still had a lead after their first goal, but we kind of fell flat. From there, we got outworked, and they were the better team.”
Notre Dame added two more goals before the halfway point of the third, and, besides a late power-play goal by Seidel, cruised to a well-played team victory.
“Breaks and bounces sometimes change momentum in games, and it did tonight,” Jackson said. “We were fortunate to catch that one, after getting little or no breaks last night. Overall, I’m happy with the way we played.”
While the fluky goal got things started for Notre Dame, special teams were really the difference between last night and tonight for the Irish.
Going back to last season’s Frozen Four semifinal, the Bulldogs had owned the special teams battle against Notre Dame. UMD was a combined 5-of-14 on the power play – including a 2-for-8 showing last night – while Notre Dame did little more than watch Minnesota-Duluth’s first unit work the puck around the zone until it was in the back of the net.
Late in last night’s game, the Irish began pressuring UMD’s power play, trying to keep them from setting up while forcing quick, inaccurate passes. Saturday night, it worked nearly to perfection – Notre Dame limited chances, killed off five consecutive UMD man advantages and scored shorthanded.
“We made some adjustments on the penalty kill, we took away the passing lanes and limited their top guys,” Tynan said. “Obviously we played a lot better on special teams tonight and did the little things right.”
Kevin Lind and Sean Lorenz scored the third period goals for Notre Dame, who plays Ohio State next weekend before opening their brand new Compton Family Ice Arena in two weeks.
UMD plays host to rival Minnesota to open WCHA conference play next Friday and Saturday.
After facing each other to open the season, both teams expect to be ready for their conference schedules to commence.
“Some teams like to go up against soft opponents, but I like to see what I’ve got,” Jackson said. “I’d rather see my team in a tough environment and tough situation rather than not getting that experience and not knowing what they’ve got.”