Dec. 29, 2014
ESTERO, Florida – Down 1-0 late in the third period to Lake Superior State in the championship game of the Florida College Hockey Classic, the Irish appeared to strike gold two nights in a row, as senior Austin Wuthrich scored the equalizer with 5:05 remaining in regulation. However, the Lakers wouldn’t be denied, as alternate captain Eric Drapluk put the puck in the back of the net 58 seconds later to lead LSSU to the 2-1 victory and tournament title.
“Tonight was disappointing. We didn’t have the same energy as we had last night and I can’t explain whether it was the emotion or their style of play,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “A lot of things came into play – the ice conditions, I didn’t think we were skating nearly as well as we did last night. Part of it was that Lake Superior State played well. I give them credit.”
Lake Superior State (4-17-1) struck first in the second period on an unfortunate Irish own goal on a Laker power play, as Andy Ryan’s stick was hit at the exact moment he attempted to wrap the puck around the net towards the wall. What followed was a bullet shot that went top shelf on the short side of the net past Irish goalie Cal Petersen, who had no chance to try and make a stop. Laker Mitchell Nardi was awarded the power play goal.
“They’re much better than they were (in October), their goaltender is much better than he was back when we played him early. We didn’t even see him the second night,” said Jackson. “To me, right now it’s more about us. We have to be better. I didn’t think we had the same intensity as we did last night. I think we were all geared up for Miami and I didn’t think we were as geared up for Lake Superior. I’ll take responsibility for that. If they aren’t ready to play – regardless of who the opponent is – that’s on me.”
Down entering the third period for the second consecutive night, the Irish didn’t give up, as they peppered the Laker net with 15 shots during the final period. With 5:05 left in the period, Notre Dame found the equalizer in Wuthrich, who raced down the ice and knocked it past goalie Gordon Defiel off assists by Jordan Gross and Mario Lucia.
The Irish celebration didn’t last for long, however, as Drapluk scored what proved to be the game winner just 58 seconds after Wuthrich tied the game up.
Notre Dame made several last-ditch efforts to send the game to overtime, but Defiel, The Shawn Walsh Memorial MVP of the tournament, stopped the Irish each time. He finished with a game-high 28 saves, including 14 in the final period.
The Irish outshot the Lakers, 29-20, in the game, including a combined 14-7 in the first two periods. In the first period, Notre Dame held LSSU to just one shot on goal, which was the second time this year the Irish had done that to an opponent (UMass – 1st period – December 6).
A relatively clean game, Notre Dame had three penalties to just one for LSSU.
Earning all-tournament honors for the Irish were freshman right winger Jake Evans, Petersen and senior defender Robbie Russo. Evans had two goals and an assist in Sunday night’s 3-2 overtime win over No. 6 Miami, Russo was +3 for the tournament with four blocks and Petersen made 36 saves in two nights, including 18 against the Lakers (12 in the third period).
“It (this loss) certainly wasn’t on him (Petersen),” said Jackson. “We put the first goal in our own net. We gave up too many odd man rushes in the third period and they scored on one. Goaltending wasn’t the issue tonight.”
The Irish (9-9-2) return to action January 9 at Western Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network), before closing out the two-game series with the Broncos at Compton Family Ice Arena the following evening (6:05 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director