SOUTH BEND — You knew things got weird Friday night when Notre Dame hockey coach Jeff Jackson was quoting westerns.
His No. 17 Notre Dame hockey team went up early, then fell apart, but somehow figured out how to salvage a Hockey East point in a 4-4 tie with No. 12 Vermont.
After the Catamounts scored four straight goals to go up by two, Jake Evans and Cam Morrison resurrected the Irish, scoring a pair in the last 3 1/2 minutes of regulation to help the Irish erase what what was shaping up to be a bad loss.
"I said it in the locker room, the good, the bad and ugly," Jackson said. "It was just about like that at times, but I give the kids a lot of credit for coming back."
For the second straight game against a ranked team, the Irish (14-9-4, 7-5-3 Hockey East) lost a two-goal lead in the third period. But unlike last week's 6-4 loss to Boston College, they had an answer.
After Evans gave Notre Dame a pulse with 3:10 to go, Morrison knocked home the tying goal, with 1:13 left in regulation and with the Irish skating 6-on-4, to remain one point behind third-place Vermont (16-8-3, 8-5-2) in the Hockey East standings.
Evans finished with a goal and an assist and Cal Petersen had 43 saves in net for Notre Dame.
Attrition has hit the Irish hard, recently. Anders Bjork, one of the country's top scorers, was out with an illness.
Top-four defenseman Bobby Nardella was again missing due to a lower-body injury. Center Connor Hurley is now gone for the season with an as-yet undisclosed personal issue. Add to that group left winger Joe Wegwerth, who limped off late in the first period with another lower-body injury.
With the season now in February and the pressure beginning to mount for a team currently on the outside looking in at an NCAA Tournament bid, time and opportunities are growing short for the Irish to make a move.
"These are the games that we've got to win," Evans said. "When we're up in the third period like we were these last two games, we've got to learn to close these games out, because we're definitely running out of time."
Andrew Oglevie got Notre Dame off to a fast start, bursting ahead of the pack for a breakaway chance, which he deposited top right corner six minutes into the game for his 15th goal of the season, one off of Bjork's team lead.
Two minutes after Wegwerth was helped off following a crunching hit along the boards, Bo Brauer converted a 2-on-1 with Mike O'Leary to make it 2-0 Irish with 3:26 left in the first period.
"I didn't think we were very sharp at all in the first period," said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. "I thought we got so much better from the second period, on."
That's when it fell apart for the Irish. Vermont cut the Irish lead in half late in the second period on a Brian Bowen goal, and then the floodgates opened in the third.
It began with a Dennis Gilbert penalty whistled after the final horn of the second period, and Rob Hamilton tied the game with the ensuing power play goal 30 seconds into the third period.
Ross Colton sniped the left corner less than two minutes later to give the Catamounts the lead, and Brady Shaw cleaned up a bad Notre Dame turnover right in front of goal Petersen, and it was quickly 4-2 — all momentum on UVM's side.
"We put ourselves in a bit of a hole there in the third period," Jackson said. "You get a little concerned about their emotional state. But they handled it, obviously."
In overtime, Vermont dominated the fatigued, shorthanded Irish, who survived and will now try to make a move Saturday night to finish the series with the Catamounts on a winning note.
"I think we definitely learned something and we grew as a team today," Evans said.
ND - Andrew Oglevie, 15 (Tory Dello, Dylan Malmquist) 5:59; ND - Bo Brauer, 3 (Mike O'Leary, Andrew Peeke) 16:34. Shots on goal: UVM 12, ND 10; Penalties: ND 2-4, UVM 1-2.
UVM - Brian Bowen, 7 (Anthony Petruzzelli, Corey Moriarity) 17:50. Shots: UVM 17, ND 9; Penalties: UVM 3-6, ND 3-6.
UVM - Rob Hamilton, 4 (Mario Puskarich) PP, 0:30; UVM - Ross Colton, 10 (Moriarity, Puskarich) 1:52; UVM - Brady Shaw, 7 (Colton, Matt O'Donnell) 7:43; ND - Evans, 9 (Cal Burke, Jordan Gross) 16:50; ND - Cam Morrison, 7 (Evans, Peeke) EX, 18:47. Shots: ND 14, UVM 12; Penalties: ND 1-2, UVM 1-2
No scoring. Shots: UVM 6, ND 1; Penalties: none.
UVM 0 1 3 0 - 4
ND 2 0 2 0 - 4
Shots: UVM 47, ND 34; Saves: ND 43 (Cal Petersen), UVM 30 (Stefanos Lekkas); Power plays: UVM 1-5, ND 1-5; Penalties: UVM 6-12, ND 6-12; Attendance: 4,520.