Notre Dame and Alaska traded punches and counterpunches Friday night at Compton Family Ice Arena until the Nanooks’ Jarret Granberg landed a knockout blow with just three seconds left in regulation.
Irihs coach Jeff Jackson said his defense isn't playing up to snuff in Notre Dame's recent skid.
Granberg’s goal, his second of the night, gave Alaska(9-8-4) a 5-4 win over the fourth-ranked Irish(15-8). The buzzer-beating, put-back goal handed Notre Dame its fourth loss in five games this month. It left a dispirited locker room wondering how to stop its downfall and avoid a late collapse for the second consecutive season.
“That was killer,” junior captain Anders Lee said. “Just takes the wind out of your sails, and you feel like you have no energy. It’s an all too familiar feeling in the second, the last five games.”
Lee and a dinged-up group of forwards did find chemistry on offense for the first time this month. They scored a total of five goals in their previous four games before the four-goal outing Friday.
The goals came in bunches Friday — three in a three minute span during the first period then two more in 40 seconds’ time late in the second. Finally, Granberg parried a pair of Irish goals in the third to wipe out any momentum the Irish built.
Irish goalie Steven Summerhays turned away two shots in the closing seconds of the game, but an ill-advised line change left him with no help on defense. He was too far out of the net to have a chance at the final attempt.
Notre Dame’s defense struggled to slow down the Nanooks in transition throughout the game. The five goals against is the most the team has given up this year. The Irish ended December with the second-best scoring defense in college, but have since allowed at least four goals in three of the last five games.
“Our defense is playing a little soft in my opinion,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “We’re letting people get in behind us and we give up too big of gaps. We’ve got to get our core defensemen back on line.”
Jackson said mental letdowns and poor decision making allowed Alaska to respond quickly after nearly every Irish score.
Lee started the first flurry when a rebound found his stick to the right of Alaska’s net five minutes into the game. Junior T.J. Tynan started the play by intercepting a pass in the offensive zone. He fed Bryan Rust in the high slot who fired a one-timer on goal to create Lee’s rebound.
The Nanooks answered with two quick goals from wingers Garrick Perry and Nik Yaremchuk. Perry backhanded a rebound through a crowd and past Summerhays. Less than a minute later, Yaremchuk came from behind the net and stuffed loose puck across the goal line to give Alaska a 2-1 lead.
The second volley of offense started with a stoppable shot from Alaska’s Andy Taranto that skipped off of Summerhays’ pads and rolled past him into the net. Sophomore Austin Wuthrich, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, pulled Notre Dame back within one shortly thereafter. He stood in front of an open net at the top of the crease and tipped in a shot that started on the stick of Irish defenseman Sam Calabrese before changing directions to reach Wuthrich.
Tynan finished a long, shorthanded breakaway by firing a low shot past Alaska goalie John Keeney’s stick side. Freshman Mario Lucia scored off of an offensive zone faceoff with four minutes to play. Lee was credited with an assist after winning the draw, which gave him the 100th point in a Notre Dame jersey. Granberg, though, responded both times to undo the Irish.
Notre Dame has a chance to redeem itself Saturday night with a rematch slated to begin at 7:05 p.m. in South Bend. A win will at least temporarily stop the bleeding for Notre Dame and perhaps keep them from falling from the top ten in the national rankings.
“We need tomorrow,” Lee said. “[It’s] real important. I don’t know if we even lost three in a row last year. It’s something that we’re not used to. It’s something that we don’t face often, so tomorrow is huge. We’ve gotta get out of this.”