Chalk this win up to the chalk talk. A revamped power play unit and some successful scouting led No. 6 Notre Dame to a 3-2 win over visiting Lake Superior State Friday night at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Irish junior Mike Voran scored an eventual game-winning goal on the power play Friday.
The Irish have struggled on the opening night of their weekend series in November, losing three of their previous four Friday games. They shook out the cobwebs early against the Lakers (7-8, 4-5 CCHA) with a first period goal from captain Anders Lee. Two special teams scores followed and Notre Dame’s defense weathered a late flurry from Lake Superior State for the win.
The addition of freshman forward Mario Lucia, who returned from a preseason injury two weeks ago, helped Irish coach Jeff Jackson shake up his struggling power play lineup to add a more balanced attack with the man advantage.
“We blew it up,” Jackson said. “I think the one thing we identified is we were really operating with just one unit that was generating scoring chances and basically wasting a minute of every power play. We needed another group that could be effective.”
And that’s what they got. Lucia chipped in a rebound after sophomore defenseman Robbie Russo rung the crossbar with a shot from the blue line, giving Notre Dame a 2-0 lead just 35 seconds into the second period.
Russo is now tied for the team lead with seven assists through 14 games this year. He also set up the second power play goal with another blast from the point six minutes later. This time junior Mike Voran finished the play by cross-checking the rebound out of the air and into the net from the edge of the crease.
“We thought if we could get pucks to the net we could get some goals and obviously Robbie Russo has a great shot. I saw him throw it at the net so I went to push their guy and it jumped off my stick,” Voran said.
Notre Dame looked like it might run away with a big win after dominating the first period. The Irish saw a hole in the Lakers defense on film and exploited it early. Lake Superior had a habit of leaving forwards alone in the high slot in their defensive zone. Notre Dame attacked that area of the ice several times in the first period and Lee was eventually able to take advantage.
The junior slipped a one-time pass from Bryan Rust through Kevin Murdock's five hole for his 50th career goal midway through the first period. Lee has been red hot for the Irish in the past couple weeks. He has scored four goals in his last three outings and is currently averaging a point per game.
Lake Superior State adjusted on defense after Lee’s goal and climbed back into the game by answering Notre Dame blow for blow in the second period. Kellen Lain slipped a shot between the glove of Notre Dame goalie Steven Summerhays and the far post. Then captain Domenic Monardo picked the top corner against the Irish junior, who struggled to take away the net with the proper angles throughout much of the night.
Summerhays bounced back to deny Lain on a golden opportunity to tie the game in the final minutes of the third period. He slid from post to post to kick away a one-timer from the Lakers’ 6-foot-6 junior who was standing all alone at one of the offensive zone faceoff dots.
“A year ago I might have pulled him, but not now,” Jackson said, referring to Summerhays’ early slips in the second period. “He’s got to learn to play these kinds of games and fight through it, and he did. He made some big saves in the third.”
Summerhays has now started nine straight for Notre Dame and is second in the nation with nine total wins this season. Tomorrow night’s rematch, scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m., might provide him with a chance to take a day off for the first time since Oct. 27. Jackson said he would decide between playing Summerhays and senior back-up Mike Johnson after reviewing Friday's game on film.
The win on Friday bumped Notre Dame’s record to 10-4 and 6-1 in CCHA play. At least for the moment, that puts the Irish ahead of Miami for first place in the conference standings. The RedHawks get their chance to retake the lead against Alaska in a late game of the far west coast.