Defense holds up for Irish

Steve Lowe Tribune Correspondent
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Sam Herr and the Notre Dame hockey team woke up this morning with an attitude.

After two straight losses to top-10 ranked teams — at No. 5 UMass Lowell last weekend and Friday night to No. 8 Harvard — the Irish came out with an edge Saturday against Western Michigan.

It was Herr who provided the edge for Notre Dame when he scored the game-winning goal with 5:05 left and Thomas DiPauli added an insurance goal with 58 seconds to play to top the Broncos, 3-1 in the consolation game of the Shillelagh Tournament.

“The team was a little frustrated, there was a little bit of an attitude this morning, of like having enough,” Herr said. “We responded well.”

Herr carved out a spot in front of the WMU net to get a piece of a Luke Ripley shot from the left point for the go-ahead marker. It wasn’t a pretty goal, but an important step for the Irish as they near the halfway point of the season.

“Today was an ugly win, and good teams win ugly,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “We were better tonight getting to the net, and that’s how we scored the game-winning goal — Sam getting to the net.

“That was an emphasis for us tonight.”

Goaltender Cal Petersen made 31 saves and defenseman Andy Ryan had two assists for the No. 18 Irish (6-4-4), who salvaged a third-place finish. Western is 4-8-1.

Harvard won the Shillelagh title earlier in the day with a 4-0 win over RPI. Crimson goaltender Merrick Madsen won the tourney MVP award by stopping 60 of the 61 shots he saw on the weekend, including 29 saves against Notre Dame in a 4-1 win on Friday.

The Irish started strong for the second straight game — of their 15 first period shots against Western, 13 were quality chances from inside or between the circles, but neither team scored in the first 20 minutes.

Irish center Dawson Cook broke the deadlock with his first goal of the year, 13:23 into the second period. Ryan made a strong play in hustling to keep the puck in the Western Michigan zone and feeding it to Joe Wegwerth circling around the net. Wegwerth’s wrap-around try missed the mark, but Cook was there to knock in the rebound.

But just like Friday night against Harvard, Notre Dame couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. After the Irish had already killed off three Western Michigan power plays in the second, sophomore forward Jake Evans was sent off with a game misconduct for hitting Josh Pitt from behind. The Broncos finally broke through against Petersen with Nolan LaPorte’s tip-in goal near the start of the major penalty.

“We’re like the Bad News Bears sometimes,” Jackson said. “It’s Groundhog Day, too ... I have to find a way to address it, and if I have to sit guys out, that’s just going to have to be the way it is, because we’re taking unnecessary penalties.”

But that would be the only goal the Broncos got on the extended power play, and they finished just 1-for-6 on the man advantage.

“We did a good job of killing (penalties) tonight,” Jackson said. “Especially considering (Evans) is one of our best penalty killers, one of our better faceoff guys.”

FIRST PERIOD

No scoring. Shots on goal: ND 15, WMU 9; Penalties: WMU 1-2, ND none.

SECOND PERIOD

ND - Dawson Cook, 1 (Joe Wegwerth, Andy Ryan) 13:23; WMU - Nolan LaPorte, 4 (Corey Schueneman) PP, 18:26. Shots: ND 14, WMU 14; Penalties: ND 5-21, WMU 2-4.

THIRD PERIOD

ND - Sam Herr, 3 (Luke Ripley, Ryan) 14:55; ND - Thomas DiPauli, 6 (Anders Bjork) 19:01. Shots: ND 13, WMU 9; Penalties: ND 1-2, WMU 0.

WMU 0 1 0 - 1

ND 0 1 2 - 3

Shots: ND 42, WMU 32; Saves: WMU 39 (Lukas Hafner), ND 31 (Cal Petersen); Power plays: WMU 1-6, ND 0-3; Penalties: ND 6-23, WMU 3-6; Attendance: 5,022.