Notre Dame hacked away at a one-goal deficit for the majority of a 3-1 loss Friday night, but once again couldn’t find the scorer’s touch that has disappeared in the second half of the season.
Irish junior Bryan Rust comes up short on a scoring chance in the first period of a 3-1 loss to Ferris State Friday night.
Ferris State captain Kyle Bonis scored twice at the Compton Family Ice Arena. The second was a 190-foot empty net goal to send Notre Dame tumbling down the conference ladder in its fifth straight loss. The Irish (15-10, 11-6 in conference) fell from first place to fourth in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The Bulldogs were one of three clubs to leap Notre Dame in the standings Friday night.
Sophomore C.J. Motte made 32 saves against a Notre Dame team that gave itself plenty of opportunities without finding a way to get the puck in the net. For the sixth time in eight games this month, the Irish were held to a single goal.
“It wasn’t for a lack of chances, though,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “We had scoring chances and we didn’t finish. We’ve got to get back to getting that confidence back in our offense. That’s gotta be about them. I can’t build confidence for them.”
The regular suspects provided chances for Notre Dame during a 16-shot second period. Motte gloved a one-time blast from Irish captain Anders Lee. Minutes later he slammed the door on a give-and-go play that left junior T.J. Tynan alone in front of the net.
Sophomore Robbie Russo rang a shot from the point off the crossbar on a power play with five minutes remaining in the period. That’s as close as the Irish would come the rest of the night. Their power play unit was shut out for the third straight game and has converted only two of its last 28 chances.
Jackson pointed to a lack of presence in front of the net as the root of some of his team’s offensive woes. Senior defenseman Sam Calabrese said his team needs to find a way to force the issue earlier in games.
“That sense of urgency needs to come around the net, kind of how you see teams down a goal with a minute left. I think we need to have that sense of urgency the whole game,” he said.
Calabrese’s first period slap shot from the blue line set up the game’s first goal. Lee stuffed the long rebound past Motte to give Notre Dame an early lead. The goal was No. 14 on the year for Lee, which puts him one behind the national leader, Nebraska-Omaha's Ryan Walters.
Bonis responded with a power play score early in the second period. He pulled the puck from underneath an Irish defender and pushed it past the handle of Irish goalie Steven Summerhays’ stick.
A Notre Dame turnover in its defensive zone led to the game-winning goal with 7:41 remaining in the second. Freshman Dakota Klecha interrupted an Irish breakout and threaded a long pass to center Dominic Panetta who had plenty of space to tip the puck past Summerhays.
“We’ve got to be better with the puck in those situations,” Jackson said. “We had a lot of energy. I thought we played well in the second but it wasn’t good enough.”
The veteran coach said he couldn’t remember a five-game losing streak quite like this one during his 25 years behind the bench. It’s the second slump of this length in as many years for the Irish program.
Calabrese said confidence isn’t yet dwindling in the Notre Dame locker room, but the fruits of a red hot start to the conference season are withering away. The Irish try to stop the bleeding Saturday night in a rematch against Ferris State. That game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m.