Kevin Nugent picked a whale of a time for the first goal of his Notre Dame career.
Notre Dame's bench celebrates following a goal against Ferris State this weekend at Compton Family Ice Arena.
The senior tucked a wrist shot between the crossbar and the glove of Ferris State goalie Charles Williams late in the second period to give his team a 3-2 lead. Nugent’s goal, 64 games in the making, provided the Irish the spark they needed to stop a five-game tailspin with the most unlikely of sources. They added two more in the third period to beat the Bulldogs 5-2 at Compton Family Ice Arena.
“I just got it, closed my eyes and took a shot like I’ve been doing for the past four years here,” he said. “This one happened to go in.”
Earlier in the week Nick Larson, Nugent’s linemate, said it wasn’t their job to pull the team out of its offensive slump by scoring. But Notre Dame’s grind lines supplied the bulk of the goals Saturday night. Freshman Thomas DiPauli and junior David Gerths also found the back of the net against Ferris State. Heading into Saturday’s game that trio had combined for a total of six goals this season.
Gerths staked an early lead for Notre Dame, deflecting a Stephen Johns’ slap shot past Williams six minutes after the opening faceoff.
Then a familiar scene started to unfold. For the fourth game in a row the Irish handed a first period lead back to their opponents with a few careless mistakes. Senior Travis Ouellette’s power play goal tied the game, 1-1, less than a minute into the second period. Center Cory Kane made it 2-1 with a goal at the game’s halfway point.
Irish coach Jeff Jackson lit in to his team on the bench during the next break in the action and his fire-and-brimstone approach hit home.
“We needed to respond. I sensed the same fate coming,” Jackson said about the ‘Here we go again’ type of feeling. “We’re not going to just sit back. We’ve got too many good hockey players in that locker room to be losing five of six.”
DiPauli answered by firing a low hard shot past Williams to tie the game 2-2. Johns threaded a long cross-ice pass to the freshman near the blue line and DiPauli wove through a couple of Ferris State defenders to find a shooting lane. Nugent’s goal followed three minutes later.
The Irish added two more in the third period to coast toward a comfortable win. Freshman Mario Lucia scored unassisted on the first shift out of the locker room to give Notre Dame a two-goal lead.
Junior T.J. Tynan mercifully plucked the power play monkey off Notre Dame’s back by roofing a shot into the corner of the net from tight quarters in the game’s final minutes. His score came at the end of an extended 5-on-3 advantage. It ended an 0-for-16 run on the power play for the Irish.
The night, though, belonged to Kevin Nugent, who was named the game’s first star for scoring what turned out to be the game-winner.
“I’m really happy for him because he’s been a loyal warrior and he loves Notre Dame,” Jackson said. “You listen in the locker room you can tell how well-liked a kid he is on the team.”
Notre Dame goes on the road next weekend for a pair of games at Ohio State. Saturday's win kept the Irish in third place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and within one victory of being back on top of the league.