Freshman Mario Lucia scored twice and juniors Bryan Rust and Shayne Taker turned in three-point nights to lead Notre Dame to a 6-1 win over Lake Superior State on Saturday night to give the Irish their first home sweep of the season.
Notre Dame scored four times in the first period, the biggest one-period offensive output of the season, and added a pair in the second stanza on the way to a six-goal night. Joining Lucia and Rust in the goal-scoring department were T.J. Tynan (1g, 1a), Stephen Johns and Anders Lee. Kelin Ainsworth scored the lone goal of the night for the Lakers.
Senior goaltender Mike Johnson made just his second start of the season and got the victory even though he played just 34:23 (13 saves) before being injured in a goal mouth collision. Steven Summerhays finished the game, making 13 saves over the final 25:37.
The four-goal first period chased Lake Superior starter Kevin Kapalka who had eight saves in the game. Kevin Murdock gave up two goals while making 18 saves over the final two periods.
The win, the third straight for the sixth-ranked Irish and the fifth straight in CCHA play, improved Notre Dame to 11-4-0 overall and 7-1-0-0 in conference action. The Lakers fall to 7-9-0 on the year and 4-6-0-0 in the CCHA.
"The first period was probably one of our best periods of the season," said Irish coach Jeff Jackson.
"It was perfect coming off a Friday win and setting the tone early."
Rust and linemate Jeff Costello got the Irish offense going at 5:29 of the opening period. Costello turned in a great forecheck getting to a loose puck behind the net and tried to jam it in on the short side. Kapalka stopped that try but the rebound came to Rust who beat the Laker goaltender over his glove with his fourth goal of the year to make it 1-0.
The lead would go to 2-0 at 9:03 when Tynan took a pass off the center-ice boards from Taker (who had a career-high three assists, and beat Kapalka with a wrist shot from inside the left circle for his third goal of the year.
Lucia joined in the scoring at 14:48 when he capped a pretty passing play from Taker and Mike Voran. Voran dropped a pass to Taker coming in from the right point. Taker looked to shoot before sliding a pass across the slot to Lucia as he drove to the goal. The freshman left wing steered the pass off his skate and then his stick inside the left post for his third goal of the year and a 3-0 lead.
Johns capped the period on the power play when he hammered a drop pass from Rust at the right point past Kapalka's glove at 16:58 for his first of the season and a 4-0 lead. Notre Dame out shot Lake Superior, 12-7, in the first period.
Jackson is pleased with the way the Irish offensive attack is starting to click.
"I think it's been a collective effort. We are doing a good job in transition and our defensemen are jumping into the play," said Jackson.
"We are doing a good job in creating offense from defense and our power play is starting to gain a little steam all of a sudden. When (Mario) Lucia came back and (Jeff) Costello got healthy, that helped us solidify a couple of offensive lines."
The Lakers broke through on Johnson, who was making his first start since a 3-2 win at Northern Michigan on Oct. 27, as Ainsworth finished off a 2-on-1 with Kellan Lain by snapping a wrist shot from the right circle at 10:47 of the second period for his second goal of the year to make it 4-1.
"I thought Mike (Johnson) was sharp tonight. I would have liked to have seen him finish the game," said Jackson.
"He'll get games in the second half, probably more than he got in the first half. I want to spot Steven (Summerhays) who played well tonight when he came in for Mike. That was a good sign for him to come in cold and play well like that."
The senior goaltender was knocked out of the game at 14:23 of the second period when the Lakers' Matt Bruneteau collided with him in the crease, drawing a charging penalty. The Irish made Lake Superior pay as they scored their second power-play goal of the night just 27 seconds later.
Lucia scored the goal, his second of the night when he batted the rebound of a Tynan shot out of the air past Murdock at 14:50 for his fourth of the season and the first multi-goal game of his career.
After scoring just seven power-play goals in the first 13 games, the Irish have now scored four in the last two, as they were 4-for-11 on the weekend with the man advantage.
Lee then closed out the scoring at 17:52 with his team-best 10th goal of the year as he took a pass from Rust behind the net and fired it over Murdock's stick hand to make it 6-1. Taker added his third assist of the night on the play.
The teams played a scoreless third period with the Lakers having the edge on shots, 10-5, but Summerhays was equal to the task in shutting down Lake Superior for the 6-1 win. On the night, Notre Dame had a 32-27 edge in shots against Lake Superior.
The Irish return to action next weekend as they close out the six-game home stand with a pair of 7:05 p.m. games on Dec. 7-8 versus Michigan State at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
** IRISH NOTES **
** The series sweep for Notre Dame was its third of the season but first at home. The other two came on the road at Northern Michigan and at Michigan.
** Notre Dame is now 10-0-0 when the Irish score the first goal of the game. They have outshot the opposition in 12 of 15 games this season and are now 9-3-0 in those contests.
** In six games since returning from a broken leg, Mario Lucia has four goals and one assist for five points.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 - F
Lake Superior State (7-9-0/4-6-0-0) 0 1 0 - 1
#6/#6 Notre Dame (11-4-0/7-1-0-0) 4 2 0 - 6