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November 24, 2012

Late whistle stops Irish rally

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Jeff Jackson will have a hard time calling the latest result a loss.

It will go down as that for the sixth-ranked Notre Dame hockey team thanks to a controversial whistle late that waved off what would have been the game-tying goal. Winger Anders Lee appeared to have scored his second goal of the night with little more than three minutes to play in the game. Instead, official Keith Sergott waved it off asserting the puck had stopped.

No. 7 North Dakota held off the remaining rally to capture a 2-1 victory and series opening win, something Jackson had a hard time wrapping his head around at the time and shortly after the final whistle sounded.

“Regardless of what they say it was just an awful call,” Jackson said. “The puck was free between his legs. It was really blatantly obvious. I could see it from the bench with one eye.”

Notre Dame (8-4-0) put itself in a two-goal deficit through about 23 minutes.

Nick Mattson scored his first goal of the season at 19:57 of the first period to stake North Dakota (6-2-3) to a lead after the Irish had dictated play for most of the way, running up 18 shots compared to six on the other side.

Irish forward Nick Larson found himself without a stick covering the point as Mattson skated toward the high slot and cut a shot loose that beat goaltender Steven Summerhays.

Not quite three minutes into the second period North Dakota cashed in another of its limited opportunities with a power-play goal from winger Danny Kristo, his fifth tally of the season, on assists from Corban Knight and Dillon Simpson.

Kristo went backhanded under the crossbar and over Summerhays, who finished with 15 saves.

“I thought we did some things really well,” Jackson said. “Fluky goal off of a face off point coverage that we didn’t do a good job on and we took advantage of it and they scored a power-play goal that we didn’t rotate well on the back post. Two mistakes. But, hey, we scored two goals tonight. It’s 2-2 in my eyes.”

Notre Dame started its potential rally with Lee’s sixth goal of the season at 5:25 of the second period. Winger Mario Lucia registered his first assist of the season with a feed from the right circle that Lee deposited behind goaltender Clarke Saunders, who made 35 saves.

One of the final stops Saunders made should not have been from the Irish perspective. Lee argued with the officials in the immediate aftermath of the waved off goal to no avail.

“The puck never stopped moving along his pad,” Lee said. “Right when it fell off of the leg pad I put it in and that’s not the way the ref saw it. It’s a fast game; stuff like that happens. But obviously, when you’re on the other side of it like this it sucks.”

Losing drops Notre Dame to 0-3 in opening games of home series this weekend and 1-4-0 when it doesn’t score first.

Puck drops on the series final against North Dakota at 5:05 p.m. today, offering the Irish a chance to redeem itself after a difficult loss to swallow. They have salvaged splits twice so far this season when losing the first game of a home series.

“They’ve responded to situations, tough losses, in the past,” Jackson said. “Or tough periods at times. They’ve responded so far so I have no reason not to assume they can respond from this.”

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