Third periods have often been a boon for Notre Dame hockey.
Heading into its two-game home series with Michigan Tech over the weekend, the 12th-ranked Irish were outscoring opponents 27-10 in the third. They put that on full display Friday in a 3-1 win but relented Saturday in a 4-2 loss, settling for a split.
“(Tech) was determined,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “They’re a good team, very well coached. It was a tough weekend. It’s great, tough hockey. We need to play those type of games against those type of teams.”
Third period superiority helped Notre Dame (12-7-2) win Friday night.
After a scoreless first period, Jake Evans gave the Irish a lead with five minutes remaining in the second. Evans redirected a Jordan Gross shot right in front of Michigan Tech goalie Angus Redmond, sending the puck under his pads.
Notre Dame took that 1-0 lead into the second intermission while goalie Cal Petersen kept adding to his shutout streak. He made 18 saves in the first two periods.
Petersen finally let up a goal 17 seconds into the third period when Joel L’Esperance tied the game. After posting two shutouts last week, Petersen’s scoreless streak ended at 207:10. Only former Irish goalie Steven Summerhays (231:50) has a longer streak in program history.
“It’s not only the defense but the forwards also blocking shots and making it hard for pucks to get through, back checking hard,” Petersen said. “I think the shutout thing was kind of more a collective team effort. I guess that’s the benefit of being the goalie. You get the credit for it.
“But I think the biggest thing to look at is that’s two team shutouts, which is great.”
Petersen didn’t surrender another goal as his teammates found a couple more.
Jack Jenkins scored at 7:28 of the third to put Notre Dame back in front. Joe Wegwerth followed with his fifth of the season at 13:24 for a two-goal lead and a little insurance in the final minutes of the game.
Nine saves in the third period landed Petersen at 27 total.
“That (was) a good game for us because it’s a gritty opponent,” Jackson said. “They play hard. They’re not easy to play against and I knew it was gonna be like that … They’re a good team. They’re a similar team to like UMass-Lowell, the way they play. It was a good, tough game for us to have success with and the response was really important.”
Tech (14-9-3) solved Petersen with more regularity Saturday en route to a valuable non-conference win.
Bobby Nardella scored his fifth of the season at 11:56 of the first period to give the Irish their second 1-0 lead in as many nights. Petersen proved up to the task with 12 saves in the first 20 minutes to keep Michigan Tech off the board.
But Tech kept the pressure up in the second, peppering Petersen with 12 more shots and a couple of them got home.
Jake Jackson drew the Huskies level at 2:04 with his fifth goal of the season. Gavin Gould followed with one of his own for a 2-1 lead barely five minutes later.
“We dropped off after the first period,” Jackson said. “I can’t necessarily explain why. I thought that they out-gritted us, especially at both nets. We weren’t getting the chances at their net and they were getting a number of chances in and around our goal. That was the difference in the game for me, just in that Grade A area right in front of the net.”
Cam Morrison scored for Notre Dame a few minutes later in a rare second period bright spot, tying the game at 2-2. Despite that goal, the Huskies carried momentum into intermission and on into the third period.
They capitalized on it by putting more traffic in front of Petersen’s net.
Michael Neville gave the Huskies a 3-2 lead at 4:23 of the third. Later in the period, they killed off an Irish power play opportunity and almost immediately after that man advantage Alex Smith fired a wrist shot over Petersen’s blocker for a two-goal lead and eventual victory.
“That’s another thing we talked about is getting more traffic in front of him,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “He’s one of the top goalies in the country. You’re not gonna beat him on too many shots where he sees it. You have to get to the net and create some activity. I thought we did a better job.”