Notre Dame opens season with pair of wins over Alabama-Huntsville
The Irish opened their season in commanding fashion this past weekend, sweeping visiting Alabama-Huntsville 5-3 on Friday and then 4-0 on Saturday in the regular-season opener at Compton Family Ice Arena.
On Friday, after a scoreless first period, the Irish (2-0) scored 12 seconds into the second period on the power play when junior defenseman Bobby Nardella blasted a shot from the point to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. But Huntsville (0-2) responded just 36 seconds later with a goal of their own to tie the game 1-1.
Three minutes into the second period, freshman forward Colin Theisen gave the Irish the lead again after firing a shot from the point past junior Huntsville goaltender Jordan Uhelski to give Notre Dame a 2-1 lead. Just a minute and a half later, however, Huntsville again responded with a goal of their own to knot the score at 2-2, and then took a 3-2 lead a few minutes later off of a power play.
With 1:30 left in the period, junior defenseman Dennis Gilbert blasted a shot from the point into the net to tie the game at 3-3.
Almost six minutes into the third period, Notre Dame once again grabbed the lead after senior forward Jake Evans scored a power play goal. Despite a furious Huntsville rush in the final minutes of the game, the Irish were able to hold on, and senior captain Jake Evans added an empty net goal with 18 seconds left to seal the win for the Irish.
Evans finished the game with two goals and one assist. Senior defenseman Jordan Gross recorded three assists, while junior forward Andrew Oglevie pitched in two assists. Notre Dame sophomore goaltender Cale Morris recorded 25 saves on 28 shots. Notre Dame finished two-for-five on the power play, and killed off four of the five penalties it took.
Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said he thought Morris had a good first career start despite some hiccups.
“I thought he did a good job tonight,” Jackson said. “It was a good start for him and a good start for our team too. I thought we were a little jittery, the puck kept bouncing on us a lot and I thought that was what led to a lot of two-on-ones. The puck was bouncing on our defense a lot and created opportunities for them. So we just have to settle things down a little bit. We had some stretches where we were really good and some stretches where I thought we were making some soft plays with the puck.”
Jackson also said he liked what he saw from the freshman on the team.
“Theisen showed what kind of shot he’s got,” Jackson said. “I thought [forward Max] Eisenmenger played well. I moved him over to right wing when we shortened the bench a little later on in the game, but all in all I thought [defenseman] Matt Hellickson was really good, so from first impressions I thought they all did a really good job tonight.”
On Saturday, Notre Dame were more stingy defensively as they blanked the Chargers 4-0 in the second matchup of the weekend, led by the goaltending of freshman Dylan St. Cyr.
After a relatively slow first period which saw Notre Dame kill three power plays, the Irish saw a glimmer of hope as the Chargers were called for hooking with 33.5 seconds left in the period. They would capitalize on their power-play opportunity swiftly, as Oglevie scored on a one-timer at the buzzer to put Notre Dame up 1-0.
With a one goal lead, the Irish dialed it up in the second period. Wasting no time at all, Gross scored his first goal of the season with the help of an assist from Theisen and senior forward Bo Brauer. Ten minutes later, the Irish would gain another power play as a result of a hooking call on the Chargers. Oglevie recorded his second goal of the night at the buzzer again, thanks to the assist from Evans.
With a three-goal lead, the Irish played confidently in the third period. St. Cyr continued his mastery inside the net, and the Irish defensemen held the Chargers to only a few opportunities. Halfway through the period, freshman forward Matt Steeves recorded his first collegiate goal, assisted by Hellickson and junior forward Joe Wegwerth. The Irish would contain the Chargers for the rest of the period and go on to win the matchup by a four-goal margin.
For the Irish, Jake Evans recorded two assists on the night, Oglevie managed to record his 12th multi-point game and Cyr recorded 34 saves and a shutout in his first collegiate start.
“We knew he was a good goaltender,” Jackson said on the freshman’s performance. “He’s a real competitor, he likes to handle the puck … He played really well, so I’m really happy for him. He’s a very intelligent goaltender, he knows how big he is, and he uses it to his advantage.”
“ … There will be teams that will try to crowd his crease, and that doesn’t really bother him. People look to go high on him but he plays such good angles, he’s in position aggressively. He’s in control, and he can afford to play aggressively because he does such a good job with rebounds too.”
The Irish will turn it up a notch in their next game, hosting top-ranked Denver next weekend at home. The Pioneers dominated the Irish in the Frozen Four last season en-route to the national championship, winning 6-1.
“That was then and this is now,” Jackson said on the matchup. “I told them in the room, we’re not going to blow this out of proportion. It’s a big series, playing the No. 1 ranked team in the country, and justifiably so. They’re a very talented team … they know it, I don’t have to talk to them about it, so we’ll have normal work week and just focus on getting better.”