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Hockey: Third period collapse allows Denver to take season opener

Matt Gamber | Monday, October 13, 2008

Things snowballed out of control on the ice in the third period Saturday night for No. 4 Notre Dame, as host No. 6 Denver scored three goals in four minutes to break a 1-1 tie and skate to a 5-2 season-opening victory.

“Once that third period got going, it all just kind of came down on us,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “I’m not sure our guys were as ready for it. [Denver] elevated their game and we didn’t, and we have to learn from that.”

Irish freshman right wing Billy Maday scored on his first career shot to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead just 3 minutes into the game. He became the first Irish player to do that since 2006 grad Tim Wallace did it in 2002.

Ten minutes later, Denver’s Tyler Ruegsegger evened the score with a power play goal – the first of two special teams tallies for the Pioneers. Denver had five man-up advantages in the first period alone.

“I thought we played a great first period, and if anything hurt us, it was taking some unnecessary penalties,” Jackson said. “We killed off some penalties early in the game, and that kind of wore down some of our top players [for later].”

After 30 minutes of scoreless hockey, Denver freshman Luke Salazar capitalized on a three-on-two chance to put his team up 2-1. Two minutes later, Salazar struck again, this time on a rebound for the Pioneers’ second power play goal of the night.

Patrick Wiercoch’s goal two minutes later made it 4-1, and Anthony Maiani scored with seven minutes to play to give Denver a 5-1 lead.

“Fatigue was a little bit of a factor – killing off so many penalties early, the elevation … it was a number of things,” Jackson said. “We have to capitalize on our chances. We hit a couple crossbars and goalposts, and we have to get our confidence and put the puck in the net again. I think that will come.”

Irish senior center Justin White put home a rebound with under a minute to play to close the scoring. Junior center Kevin Deeth assisted on both Notre Dame goals.

The Irish were dominated in special teams, as Notre Dame didn’t score on any of its eight chances but the Pioneers converted 2-of-8.

The power play struggles brought back memories of last December, when the Irish endured a 0-for-39 stretch, Jackson said.

“That’s kind of déjà vu a little bit,” he said. “We had a few guys out of the lineup, which hurt our depth compared to a real good Denver team.”

Notably sophomore center Ben Ryan, who was banged up and missed the contest. Jackson is hopeful Ryan will be available for this weekend’s home games against Sacred Heart.

“We have one more weekend to tinker with things before we get to our CCHA schedule,” Jackson said. “But we have to be prepared for a team that’s going to give us their ‘A’ game in Sacred Heart. They’re coming here to beat us, and they’re not going to let us have our way.”