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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

Irish bounce back with win over Omaha

For the second weekend in a row, No. 8 Notre Dame rebounded with a win in the final game of the series after an opening loss. The Irish used a four-goal second period to beat the Mavericks of Nebraksa-Omaha 5-4.

Head coach Jeff Jackson was pleased with the way his team bounced back.

“It was a much better effort,” Jackson said. “I thought we competed harder, I mean we had a real good spell there in the second period to change the game where we played the way we want to play. We just have to find a way to be able to do that for 60 minutes. We competed hard, I thought we had a lot of guys that are getting an opportunity to play more minutes and play in more important situations and tonight they handled it well.”

Notre Dame (4-3-1) started the game on a good note, as the Irish hopped on the board just over three minutes in to take the lead 1-0. After a face off in its own zone, Notre Dame rushed out in transition with a three-on-two. Sophomore wing Cal Burke beat his man by the boards and dished the puck across net to freshman line-mate Colin Theisen, who slotted home before Omaha’s junior goalie Evan Weninger could react.

Mackenzi Marinovich | The Observer
Irish senior defenseman Jordan Gross skates up the ice during Notre Dame’s 5-4 victory over Nebraska-Omaha on Friday at Compton Family Ice Arena. Gross picked up his 100th career point in the game.

But later in the period, the Mavericks (3-2-1) responded with two goals of their own, the second one second into a power play, to flip the score line. Notre Dame had two power plays in the period, but failed to capitalize on either and went into the first intermission down 2-1.

In the second, Notre Dame came out firing. The Irish scored 32 seconds in on a power play that resulted from a penalty called at the end of the first, as Theisen added his second off of a pass from senior defenseman Jordan Gross, who with the assist became the 53rd player in program history to reach 100 career points.

Just a few minutes later, the Irish regained the lead. A mistake by Omaha junior center Fredrik Olofsson gifted Notre Dame a chance, as Gross shot high but the rebound off the glass fell right to Irish junior forward Jack Jenkins who tapped in the sitter.

11 seconds later, the lead was two. Right off of the face off, Irish captain and forward Jake Evans dished the puck to sophomore forward Cam Morrison, who coolly rounded Weninger and slotted home to make it 4-2.

“The biggest thing was just trying to come out of our own end with some speed,” Jackson said on the adjustment the Irish made for the second period. “They do a good job on their fore-check and the whole key was just getting our center underneath our wing just to give him some support.

“It allowed us to come out with some speed, especially that ten minute span where we scored two or three goals, and then we showed some skill and ability in the offensive attack and we just have to build on that now and not forget.”

Although Omaha got a goal back on the power play at 12:21, Notre Dame responded with a goal of its own just under two minutes later. Burke dished to Gross who fired a slap shot from the blue line that whizzed past Weninger into the net.

Jackson was impressed with the performances of Gross and Evans, who combined for four assists and a goal in the game.

“They’re captains, they’re leaders of the team and they take it upon themselves to do what’s necessary to help our team win,” he said. “Sometimes they have to give up a little bit offensively to defend, because they’re both out there against the other team’s top lines, and they have to go head-to-head with really good players and really good lines.

“Jake did a great job and the two guys on his flanks tonight, you have a freshman [Colin Theisen] and a sophomore [Cal Burke] that both made that line a little bit more effective for us.”

In the third, Omaha had some great opportunities on the power play, but was denied by some great goalkeeping from Irish sophomore Cale Morris. The Mavericks did manage to get one back at 11:18, as junior forward Ryan Galt was initially denied by Morris but finished after the rebound fell right back to him. Omaha pulled Weninger in the final moments to try and get and equalizer, but Notre Dame managed to hold on for the victory.

Jackson was pleased with Morris’ performance, but admitted the starting goalie job is still up for grabs with freshman Dylan St. Cyr.

“He made some big saves for us in the most important time of the game, and that’s important, timeliness of saves is really important,” Jackson said on Morris. “I thought he made some key saves in the third period, and a couple of the goals, lot of traffic, point shots that they’d get through, and that happens to pretty much any goalie. For me, the most important thing was that he locked down in the third period, he didn’t have much chance on that one goal, but I thought he did a really good job in the third period and with a lead, that’s really important.

“Dylan is a really talented young goaltender, I don’t think we’re locked in to a number one. Two weeks ago, you would’ve said he might be in the lead and now you might think that Cale Morris is, and that could continue. It’s hard for me to predict right now, because we have two really young guys in net as far as experience goes.

“The next step is for somebody to play back-to-back. Now that we are starting conference play next week, and every weekend is going to be tough, like this one was, there are no easy outs in the Big Ten.”

After eight straight home games to start the year, the Irish will hit the road to open up Big Ten play against Ohio State next weekend.

“Our first road trip is going to be a big challenge for us,” Jackson said. “Hopefully we get a few guys back but the big thing is going to be to try to simulate what we did tonight, play with that competitive edge and do a little bit better job of playing the way we’re supposed to.”