Notre Dame hockey: Irish loss ends in controversy

Steve Lowe
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND -- After trying and failing for more than 59 minutes Friday night, Notre Dame finally thought it had solved Maine goaltender Martin Ouellette.

Trailing 2-0 as time wound down, the Irish got a goal from Jeff Costello to cut the Black Bears' lead to one. With 26.4 seconds left, it appeared Costello punched in another one and that No. 18 Notre Dame had somehow miraculously tied it up.

But that goal was waved off when it was determined that the Irish had shoved Ouellette into the net, along with the puck, and Maine held on to win, 2-1 at the Compton Family Ice Arena, for its first road win of the season in 11 tries.

After an initial shot from the point rebounded in front, Irish forwards Sam Herr and Bryan Rust continued to whack at the loose puck in front of Ouellette before Costello snuck in from the right side and jammed it under Ouellette's pads. The goal light came on and it was initially signaled as a good goal, but after official review, the score was waved off.

Despite the explanation he was given by the referees, Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson was not pleased with the result.

"It was a bad explanation," Jackson said. "The puck was in the net before the goalie was pushed in. You can clearly see it between his legs. It was definitely over the goal line before he got pushed in. It's a bad call, plain and simple."

When contacted by phone after the game, Hockey East Coordinator of Officials, Dan Schachte, said he agreed with referees John Gravallese and Kevin Shea, and that he supported the call, as did Ouellette.

"I had it covered between my pads and three Notre Dame players shoved me in the net with their sticks," said Ouellette after stopping 36 of Notre Dame's 37 shots on goal. "I couldn't do much on that and I was glad to see they called it off."

Notre Dame started poorly with its very first line change of the game, as Maine ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage and the puck deep in the ND zone. With the Irish scrambling to recover, Connor Leen snuck up the slot and one-timed a feed from Cam Brown behind the net to take a 1-0 lead just 59 seconds into the game.

"I don't think our guys were as prepared as they should have been for the speed of the game," Jackson said. "They're a fast team and they put a lot of pressure on you."

The Irish had two power plays in the first period and generated several chances late, but Ouellette stopped all 12 shots he saw in the opening frame.

Ouellette kept that up in the second period, gloving a snap shot from a wide-open Austin Wuthrich in the left circle to keep the Irish off the board. Notre Dame goaltender Steven Summerhays did his best to match Ouellette on the other end and keep his team in the game, snagging all 12 Maine shots in the second. Summerhays finished with 29 saves on 31 shots.

Brice O'Connor's floater through traffic with 6:39 to play in the third period made it 2-0 and Ouellette made it stand up with one spectacular save after another down the stretch before the Irish flurry in the final minute and a half.

With Summerhays pulled for an extra attacker, Costello charged the net and shoved in a rebound of a Bryan Rust shot for Notre Dame's first goal with 1:23 to play, but that was all the Irish would get.

"It's frustrating, but we put ourselves in that position with some miscues earlier in the game," Costello said.

Notre Dame has lost three in a row and four of its last five to drop to 15-12-1 and 4-9-1 in Hockey East.

"(The players) are getting discouraged," Jackson said. "We had chances and couldn't finish.

"With that disallowed goal, that's what's really frustrating."

Maine improved to 13-9-3 and 7-4-2. The Black Bears are 1-8-2 on the road. The teams conclude the series tonight at 8:05.

At Compton Family Ice Arena

FIRST PERIOD

UM - Connor Leen, 4 (Cam Brown, Josh Henke) 0:59. Shots on goal: ND 12, UM 8; Penalties: UM 3-6, ND 2-4.

SECOND PERIOD

No scoring. Shots: UM 12, ND 10; Penalties: None.

THIRD PERIOD

UM - Brice O'Connor, 1 (Jon Swavely, Steven Swavely) 13:21; ND - Jeff Costello, 9 (Bryan Rust, Vince Hinostroza). Shots: ND 15, UM 11; Penalties: ND 1-2, UM 1-2.

UM101 - 2
ND001 - 1

Shots: ND 37, UM 31; Saves: UM 36 (Martin Ouellette), ND 29 (Steven Summerhays); Power plays: ND 0-3, UM 0-2; Penalties: UM 4-8, UM 3-6; Attendance: 5,022.