An outstanding career high 45 saves by Notre Dame starting goaltender Mike Johnson was enough to earn the Irish a tie with the home team Lake Superior State Lakers Saturday night in Sault Ste. Marie but not the win. The Lakers picked up two of the three possible conference points by winning the overtime shootout 1-0.
It took less than twenty seconds for the first player to be ejected from the Lakers, Notre Dame game Saturday night and both teams seemed to take it personally as they proceeded to rack up a combined 18 penalties for a total of 68 minutes including calls for spraying the goaltender and embellishment.
Notre Dame's Kevin Deeth (center) gets a hand from team mate Kyle Lawson (2) and the Irish trainer after taking a hit in the first period of their Saturday night game against Lake Superior State Saturday night in Sault Ste. Marie.
Less than 24 hours after Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson complained to the media about the number of bad hits his team has been taking this year the Lakers individual points leader Rick Schofield was disqualified from play at 00:15 on the official score sheet for a hit on Notre Dame’s Kevin Deeth. Seven and half minutes later LSSU’s Dan Barczuk was ejected for a hard check from behind that started a brawl in the Irish zone. Fans booed and cheered and players from both benches exchanged verbal taunts and hand gestures as penalties appeared, disappeared then reappeared on the scoreboard as officials sorted out the resulting 31 minutes of penalties.
Notre Dame right winger Kevin Nugent (20) and goaltender Mike Johnson (center) look on as LSSU's Nick McParland (10) celebrates the Lakers third period goal during Saturday nights game in Sault Ste. Marie.
Even with seven opportunities, including one in the overtime period, neither team managed a power play goal. The first score during regulation play came 59 seconds past the third period halfway mark when LSSU’s Zach Trotman, assisted by Pat Aubry and Steven Kaunisto beat Notre Dame goalie Mike Johnson giving the Lakers the games first lead. 23 seconds later Notre Dame’s Kyle Palmieri and Riley Sheahan set up left winger Nick Larson who got the puck past LSSU net minder Brian Mahoney-Wilson to even the score at one.
Lake Superior State's Domenic Monardo (left) puts the puck between the legs of Notre Dame goaltender Mike Johnson (right) for the winning goal in Saturday's overtime shootout in Sault Ste. Marie.
With the score stilled tied at one at the end of the five minute overtime period Notre Dame’s Ben Ryan was the first to skate in the tie breaker shootout. Ryan’s attempt failed to get the puck past the Lakers Mahoney-Wilson opening the door for the first LSSU shooter Domenic Monardo. Monardo picked up the puck at center ice and drove towards Notre Dames Mike Johnson scoring between the goaltenders knees and giving the Lakers the lead. With neither of the other two Irish shooters being able to score the Lakers walked away from the evening with two of the three points available for the nights game.
“Lake State played with a lot more energy, which I expected them to” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson “For us to come out with a win and a tie, hey I’ll take that anytime of the day.” Coach Jackson noted the outstanding play of the Irish defensemen who played almost 30 minutes each.
Looking down the road to the CCHA playoffs the points from this weekend and all of the remaining regular season games continue go grow in importance. A top four finish and a first round bye for Notre Dame could be big for team that has been struggling to get their full roster healthy. “It could be a big factor for us from an injury perspective.” said Jackson “We may be able to get a couple of guys back at that point.” “The extra week could certainly potentially help us.”
While results from this weekends series may not have been huge for Notre Dame’s playoff aspirations they could have a big effect on LSSU’s bid for a top four spot in the standings. The Lakers final four match ups are probably the toughest in the CCHA and depending on the outcome of the leagues review of the major penalties assessed in Saturdays game to Schofield and Barczuk coach Jim Roque could be facing conference leading Miami of Ohio in two weeks without one or both of them.
The Lakers have next weekend off before hitting the road to face Miami of Ohio, then back to the Sault for their final home stand of the season against Ferris State.