The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Western Michigan Broncos battled to a 3-3 overtime tie on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 3,738 at Lawson Arena. The Broncos picked up the extra point in the standings as they downed the Irish, 2-1, in a shootout that went four rounds.
David Gerths, Bryan Rust and Austin Wuthrich scored for Notre Dame as the Irish came from behind three times in the playoff-like atmosphere versus Western Michigan. The Broncos got goals from Justin Kovacs, Will Kessel and Nolan LaPorte in the tie. In the shootout, Mike Leone and Chase Balisy offset a goal by Rust that tied the shootout in the third round. Balisy's wrist shot in the fourth round proved to be the winner.
The Irish outshot the Broncos, 28-25, in the game. Steven Summerhays made 22 saves for Notre Dame while Frank Slubowski had 25 for Western Michigan. In the shootout, Summerhays stopped two-of-four shots while Slubowski gave up one goal on four Irish shots.
The tie gives 11th-ranked Notre Dame a 19-12-2 overall record and a 15-8-2-1 mark in the CCHA, good for 48 points. Western Michigan, ranked seventh in the nation, goes to 18-8-7 overall and 14-6-5-3 in the conference, good for 50 points and a two-point lead on the Irish for second place. With a 5-4 win at Lake Superior, the Miami RedHawks now have 53 points in first place and lead Western by three and Notre Dame by five in the race for first place with three games left in the season.
"This was a big point. We got a tie on the road for NCAA purposes," said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
"Western Michigan is a great team. They compete hard. They are well coached. They have the talent to beat any team in the country. For us to play it tough on the road; we came back three times, that's positive for us."
Western opened the scoring at 12:33 of the first period when Kovacs beat Summerhays with a wrist shot from the left circle for his fourth goal of the season and the 1-0 lead.
The Irish, who outshot the Broncos, 10-9, in the first period, got the equalizer at 17:33 when Gerths scored his eighth goal of the season when he converted a feed from freshman Sam Herr and ripped a wrist shot over Slubowski's glove hand from the slot to make it 1-1.
"(Nick) Larson made a good play in our zone and then made a good first pass to Sam (Herr)," said the junior center in describing his goal.
"It ended up with Sam and I on a two-on-one and Sam made a good play to get it over to me. I just tried to get my shot on net and it went in."
Notre Dame didn't get long to enjoy the tie as Western came back to take the lead just 21 seconds later at 17:54 as Kessel scored his first of the season to give the Broncos the 2-1 lead.
The Irish waited until late in the second period to tie the game and they got a break to make it 2-2 at the 18:31 mark. With Western Michigan on the power play, defenseman Eric Johnson blocked a shot and Robbie Russo sent it around the boards where Rust picked it up at the Notre Dame blue line.
He and Anders Lee carried the puck into the Bronco zone. Rust wound up from the top of the right circle and fired a shot that went off Slubowski's stick and into the goal for his 11th of the season to even the score after two periods.
Western Michigan would take its third lead of the game at 4:07 of the third when LaPorte, who had two points in the game was able to beat Summerhays with a rebound off a scramble in front for his second goal of the year to make it 3-2.
Notre Dame kept applying the pressure and were finally rewarded with the tying goal at 11:10 as Wuthrich put back his own rebound for his fourth goal of the season to make it 3-3. Freshman center Steven Fogarty fed the sophomore right wing in the slot where he drilled a shot that hit the post behind Slubowski. The rebound came right back out to Wuthrich who then whipped a quick, wrist shot past the Bronco goaltender's stick hand to even the score.
That's the way regulation and the five-minute overtime would end.
"We are already in the playoffs. We are playing playoff hockey right now," said Jackson.
"It just so happens that the top three teams are playing against each other in the last two weeks. We are holding our own which is good considering the way we started the second half. Our team is back in the right frame of mind."
In the shootout, the Broncos shot first with Summerhays poke-checking Dennis Brown's attempt away. Slubowski followed with a save on T.J. Tynan. Mike Leone put Western Michigan ahead, 1-0, when he beat Summerhays with a wrist shot over his blocker. Slubowski made a pad save on Anders Lee's attempt and Summerhays kept the Irish hopes alive when he sticked aside Mike Cichy's bid. With the shootout on the line, Rust roofed a backhander over Slubowski and under the crossbar to tie it at 1-1. Balisy followed by beating Summerhays with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 and Slubowski then stopped Robbie Russo to clinch the extra point in the standings.
The two teams will close out the two-game series on Saturday, Feb. 23 in a 7:05 p.m. game at Lawson Arena.
** IRISH NOTES **
** With the tie, the Irish need just one more point (a win or tie) to clinch home ice for the second round of the CCHA playoffs. With Ohio State losing on Friday and the Irish gaining one point, they now need four points in the standings (Irish wins or ties or OSU losses or ties) to clinch third place.
** With his eighth goal of the season, junior center David Gerths has equaled his career high for goals set in his freshman year (2010-11).
** Freshman left wing Sam Herr picked up his first collegiate point when he assisted on Gerth's first-period goal.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 OT - F
#11/#11 Notre Dame (19-12-2/15-8-2-1) 1 1 1 0 - 3
#7/#8 Western Michigan (18-8-7/14-6-5-3) 2 0 1 0 - 3
First Period: WMU: Justin Kovacs 4 (Mike Leone, Luke Witkowski), 12:33; ND: David Gerths 8 (Sam Herr, Nick Larson), 17:33; WMU: Will Kessel 1 (Nolan LaPorte, Trevor Elias), 17:54.
Penalties: ND: 1 for 2 minutes; WMU: 0 for 0 minutes.
Penalties: ND: 0 for 0 minutes; WMU: 1 for 2 minutes.
Overtime: No Scoring
Penalties: ND: 0 for 0 minutes; WMU: 0 for 0 minutes.
Shootout: (WMU wins, 2-1 in four rounds)
WMU - Dennis Brown - save Summerhays
ND - T.J. Tynan - save Slubowski
WMU - Mike Leone - goal
ND - Anders Lee - save Slubowski
WMU - Mike Cichy - save Summerhays
ND - Bryan Rust - goal
WMU - Chase Balisy - goal
ND - Robbie Russo - save Slubowski