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Irish split at Lefty McFadden Invite

Dan Murphy | Monday, October 15, 2007

No. 8 Notre Dame opened its regular season this weekend by placing third in the Lefty McFadden Tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

The Irish lost their first round game to No. 15 Wisconsin 4-1 but bounced back Saturday to take down Mercyhurst 4-0 and even their record at 1-1.

Wisconsin 4, Notre Dame 1

The inexperienced Irish showed their youth against the Badgers, struggling in the opening stanza. Wisconsin fired the first nine shots of the game and out-shot the Irish 13-3 in the period.

Senior left wing Josh Engel ended a 66-game scoring drought to put the Badgers on the board with just under five minutes left in the period.

Senior linemate Matthew Ford fed a streaking Engel from the corner, and Engel fired a shot past Irish goaltender Jordan Pearce for his first career goal.

Pearce stood on his head in the first period making several big saves to keep the game in reach for the struggling Notre Dame offensive attack.

The Irish looked sharper in the second period. Their speed forced Wisconsin to take four penalties, and senior captain Mark Van Guilder capitalized on one of the power plays.

Two minutes into the period, freshman wing Ben Ryan worked the puck out of the corner and hit Van Guilder in the left face-off circle. Van Guilder quickly fired a shot that snuck between the pads of Wisconsin’s Shane Connelly to tie the score at one apiece.

The teams remained tied until halfway through the final period when the Wisconsin offense caught fire and three more Badgers registered their first career goals.

Sophomore Aaron Bendickson got things started when he ended a scrum in front of the net by backhanding a shot past Pearce, breaking up the tie. Senior Davis Drewiske started the play with a blast from the point that found its way to the Irish crease.

Drewiske’s next shot from the point, three minutes later, also resulted in a goal when freshman Tom Gorowsky batted in rebound after Pearce made the initial save.

Freshman Kyle Turris finished the scoring with a power-play goal with one minute remaining in the game.

Turris, who was selected third overall in the 2007 NHL draft, had several other chances earlier in the game but was stoned by Pearce.

The junior Irish goalie finished with 23 saves. Connelly also had 23 in net for the Badgers.

Wisconsin lost to Ohio State 3-2 in the tournament championship game Saturday.

Notre Dame 4, Mercyhurst 0

Notre Dame bounced back from its season-opening loss with strong defense and two more goals from Van Guilder.

Pearce picked up his third career shutout with 26 saves against the Flyers. Irish coach Jeff Jackson said last week that Notre Dame would rotate all three of their goaltenders for at least the first few weeks of the season until a strong No. 1 emerged, but Pearce made a solid case for the job with his play this weekend.

The Irish offense also picked up its play, firing 36 shots in the game and burying two power-play goals.

Mercyhurst goalie Ryan Zapoli kept his Flyers in the game through one period with 17 saves but couldn’t hold off the swarming Notre Dame attack in the second.

Van Guilder got things started with a power-play goal two minutes into the period. Ryan once again found his center with a pass on the left side and the captain sniped the top left corner with a wrist shot to break open the scoring. Van Guilder added his third goal of the weekend later in the third period.

Three minutes later, last year’s ‘little guy line’ -made up of sophomores Kevin Deeth and Ryan Thang and junior Eric Condra – netted its first goal of the year. Condra sprung his two linemates on an odd-man rush, and Deeth flipped the puck to Thang, who finished for a 2-0 lead.

Ryan picked up his second assist of the day feeding junior Garret Regan. Regan cut through the slot, picked up the pass, and faked to his backhand before beating Zapoli on the forehand to put the game out of reach for Mercyhurst.

Notre Dame will play its first home game of the season Thursday night against Denver at 7:35.