SOUTH BEND, IND. – Facing its first true road test of the season, the precocious Gophers men’s hockey team found the going rough Friday night.
Facing No. 4 Notre Dame in its own building, the country’s highest-scoring squad had trouble getting much going against the bigger, older Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame scored twice on the power play, and senior goaltender Steven Summerhays made those goals stand up by stopping 31 of 32 shots, including 17 in the first period, as the Irish won 4-1, handing the Gophers their first loss of the season in front of a sold-out crowd at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
“They’re a veteran team, and I thought Summerhays was real good tonight, especially in that first period,” said Gophers coach and former Irish player Don Lucia. “I thought their game got better as the first period went on, and ours didn’t.”
Sam Herr scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season, which turned out to be the game-winner, a power-play tally late in the second period. Bryan Rust, Garrett Peterson and Jeff Costello also scored for Notre Dame. Ben Marshall picked up the Gophers’ lone goal, and Adam Wilcox made 29 saves for the Gophers.
The victory was Notre Dame’s 13th all-time over a No. 1-ranked team, and first since taking down No. 1 Boston College in 2010. The Irish improved to 7-2.
“It was everything we expected,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. “It was a high-tempo, high-paced game.”
The Gophers (5-1-1) came out fast and aggressive against the Irish but couldn’t score in the first 20 minutes. They had a first-period goal waved off at the 10:27 mark as Sam Warning knocked a flying puck in with a high stick. The first period ended scoreless thanks in large part to Summerhays, who stopped all 17 shots by the Gophers.
“They were putting everything on net,” Summerhays said. “I think that’s the first time I’ve started a game that I’ve gotten more than 10 or 11 shots. It was nice to kind of feel the puck early on in a big game like that.”
Notre Dame took advantage of its first power-play opportunity of the game, early in the second period. Just nine seconds into the man advantage, Rust stuffed a backhander under Wilcox for a 1-0 Irish lead.
Marshall tied the score five minutes later as Notre Dame failed three times to clear the puck from its zone. Marshall finally made the Irish pay when he ripped a shot past Summerhays from near the top of the left circle.
Herr broke that tie with the second power-play goal of the night for the Irish. The Irish had gone just 2-for-25 on the power play in their past four games coming in but finished 2-for-5 on the night. The Gophers, who had been just 4-for-28 on the season with the man advantage, failed to score on four chances.
“I think the specialties were a big part of it,” Lucia said. “They looked very cohesive on their power play and penalty kill, and we struggled on our specialties. That’s been an issue for this group with all the young guys.”
The Gophers had six freshmen in the lineup Friday.
“We lost the guys that were on [the power play] last year, so now you’re breaking in new guys,” Lucia said. “They’re going to struggle at times, especially when Notre Dame is killing it at 93 or 94 percent.”
Peterson made it a two-goal Notre Dame lead when he scored on a breakaway 3:13 into the third period. Costello finished the scoring off with an empty-netter with 50 seconds to play.