What started promising for the seventh-ranked Notre Dame hockey team at No. 5 Providence over the weekend quickly evaporated into consecutive losses for the first time since November.
Notre Dame held a two-goal lead into the third period Friday before losing 3-2 in overtime. Providence followed with a 3-1 win Saturday, sending the Irish to their first series defeat in league play this season, and vaulting into second place with 31 points.
Boston College sits atop the Hockey East standings with 33 points. Notre Dame is alone in third with 30. Boston University and Massachusetts-Lowell each have 26.
Two regular season games remain for each team with positioning vital. The top four clubs in the standings earn a first round bye in the league tournament then home-ice advantage in the second round.
Notre Dame (18-7-7, 14-4-2 Hockey East) appeared poised to start the series with a win Friday after building a 2-0 lead.
Dylan Malmquist scored his 10th goal of the season at 5:50 of the first period. Jake Evans added another at 15:06 of the second, beating Providence goalie Nick Ellis high to the glove side. Anders Bjork picked up secondary assists on both goals.
“I thought we came out strong and did a great job in the first two periods,” head coach Jeff Jackson told UND.com.
Providence (23-5-4, 14-3-3 Hockey East) started its comeback as the third period dwindled by cashing in on one of its six power plays in the game. Bobby Nardella got sent off for high sticking at 12:20. Brandon Tanev scored 95 seconds later to pull the Friars within a goal.
Brian Pino then beat Irish goalie Cal Petersen, who finished with 35 saves, at 17:37 to force overtime.
Petersen made 15 saves in the third period and another in overtime before Providence completed its rally. Trevor Mingoia scored 1:23 into the extra frame to seal the Providence victory.
“(Petersen) played great,” Jackson said. “It was his normal game for us, giving us a chance to win.”
Providence followed up on that momentum by taking a 2-0 lead Saturday — Erik Foley scored at 7:45 of the first period and Tanev at 5:14 of the second — en route to another win.
Steven Fogarty pulled Notre Dame within one with his ninth goal of the year at 15:48 of the second. But otherwise the Irish couldn’t solve Ellis. He went on to make 18 saves in the third period and 34 total.
“(Ellis) played really well and was the difference (Saturday), there’s no question,” Jackson said. “They did a good job though not allowing second shots.”
Kevin Rooney scored at 15:52 of the third period to put the game back out of reach for Notre Dame, which will return home this week for a two-games series against Boston University.
Petersen made 28 saves while the Irish failed to score in a pair of power plays.
“We needed to score a power-play goal, we needed to finish in front,” Jackson said. “Anything is possible with this team, we’ve shown signs this year - we just have to do it over 60 minutes.”