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November 3, 2012

Penalties send Irish to home loss

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Were it not for a balky six-minute stretch Friday night the Notre Dame hockey team might have been staring down a different result.

Two goals allowed in the first 6:21 of the second period helped send the No. 8-ranked Irish to a 3-2 loss at the hands of No. 11 Western Michigan. Both times winger Dane Walters beat goaltender Steven Summerhays in staking the Broncos to a 2-0 lead.

Letting up those goals, the second of which came on the power play, put Notre Dame in what proved to be an insurmountable deficit.

“The second period definitely was the difference,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “I thought we played a decent first. I thought we played with some urgency in the third. But that power-play goal hurt. That was the problem and that’s been our problem a little bit this year at times where we have momentum going and we take a penalty and the whole game changes.”

Walters first scored at 1:28 of the second period thanks to a redirection that squirted underneath Summerhays, who made 22 saves. The second goal came after Notre Dame defenseman Kevin Lind took a high sticking penalty.

Seven seconds into the ensuing man advantage Walters won a battle in front of the net and deposited another goal, his second of the season.

“You’ve got momentum going,” Jackson said, “you’re playing well and you take a penalty. It just changes the whole momentum of the game. Sometimes you have to take a penalty. Sometimes the penalties are not always good calls. But there’s the ones we take that are bad that really hurt us.”

Notre Dame (5-2-0, 2-1-0-0 CCHA) emerged from the second intermission rejuvenated thanks in part to an Anders Lee goal 42 seconds into the final period. Lee took a feed from Jeff Costello and backhanded it over Broncos goaltender Frank Slubowski, who made 35 saves.

But after cutting the deficit to one goal, the Irish allowed another power-play goal. This time Chase Balisy scored his first goal of the season at 5:05 of the third period to make it a 3-1 game.

Defenseman Robbie Russo again brought Notre Dame to within a goal with his second of the season, this one on a power play, at 7:28 of the third period. It marked the only power-play goal for the Irish in eight attempts.

Western Michigan cashed in two of its four power play opportunities while Notre Dame is now 4-of-35 on the power play so far this season.

“I think we need to play with that sense of urgency we did in the third period,” Lee said. “We were all over them and we were able to get at least within one every time. If we play with that sense of five-on-five hockey where you’ve just gotta be all over the puck and move the puck faster, get shots.

Western Michigan (4-1-0, 1-0-0-0 CCHA) will return to the Compton Family Ice Arena at 5:05 p.m. Sunday for the series finale.

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