SOUTH BEND, Ind. – It took senior right wing Kevin Nugent 64 games to get his first career goal but he picked the right time to do score it. Nugent’s second-period goal broke a tie score and proved to be the game-winner as No. 7 Notre Dame snapped its five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory against Ferris State on Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Nugent, who had a goal and an assist, was joined on the scoresheet by David Gerths, Thomas DiPauli, Mario Lucia and T.J. Tynan as the Irish closed January with a big win. Travis Ouellette and Cory Kane scored for the Bulldogs.
The win, just the second in January for Notre Dame, improves the Irish to 16-10-0 overall and 12-6-0-0 in the CCHA. They moved into third place in the conference standings and are three points behind first-place Western Michigan and two behind second-place Miami. Ferris State, now 13-10-3 overall and 11-8-1-0 in the CCHA, are in fourth, two points behind the Irish.
“We really needed to respond [Saturday night],” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said. The Irish losing streak included a 3-1 loss to Ferris State on Friday.
“I was getting into their wheelhouse during one of the timeouts in the second period. We were turning the puck over too much. We did a good job early in the game and then we started turning it over. That’s when the momentum changed back in their favor.”
For the fifth consecutive game, Notre Dame scored first with Gerths getting the goal at 5:53 for the only marker of the first period.
With the puck deep in the left corner, Nugent came out with it and sent it to Stephen Johns (two assists) on the right point. Johns drilled a shot on goal that Gerths was able to deflect past Ferris State netminder Charles Williams for his fourth goal of the season.
“Those guys [Gerths and Nugent] deserved to be stars of the game. They battled all night,” Jackson said.
“Those contributions from those guys were huge. Thomas DiPauli’s goal was huge for us. It gave us some life.”
As has been the case during the recent losing streak, the Irish struggled to get a second goal and the Bulldogs took advantage, scoring twice to build a 2-1 lead.
Ouellette evened the score just 19 seconds into the second period on a power play as he took a pass in the slot from defenseman Jason Binkley and made a move on Steven Summerhays for his eighth goal of the season.
At the 6:45 mark of the second, Binkley hauled down Anders Lee as he drove on goal and was awarded a penalty shot. The senior captain was stopped on a pad save by Williams.
Ferris State took advantage of a Notre Dame turnover in the neutral zone and turned it into the Bulldogs’ second goal as Kane and Matthew Kirzinger combined on a passing play with Kane finishing the play by beating Summerhays from the low slot at 10:03 for his seventh of the season to give FSU the 2-1 lead.
Just two minutes later, DiPauli answered back to with his fourth goal of the year that tied the game. Ferris State dumped the puck into the Notre Dame zone and defenseman Shayne Taker picked it up and moved it up the right side to Johns, who hit DiPauli in stride at the Bulldogs’ blue line and he raced past the defenseman before snapping a wrist shot past Williams from between the hash marks to even the score.
Nugent put Notre Dame ahead to stay at 14:49 as he snapped a wrist shot from the left-wing circle that beat Williams to his glove side and just inside the far post to make it 3-2.
“It came at the end of a shift and Mario [Lucia] chipped it into the zone,” Nugent said.
“I just got it and closed my eyes and took a shot like I have been doing the past four years here and this one happened to go in. I was just happy to put our team ahead. We needed a big win [Saturday night] and it was nice to contribute.”
“I’m real happy for Kevin to get his first goal,” Jackson said. “He’s been a loyal warrior. He loves Notre Dame. He’s a legacy as his dad played here. Just listen to that locker room and you can see how well-liked a kid he is by his teammates.”
With the momentum back in Notre Dame’s favor, the Irish offense began clicking.
Lucia, who had a three-point night, pounced on a Ferris State turnover in the slot and whipped a shot past Williams just 57 seconds into the third period for his eighth of the season to make it 4-2.
The Irish then closed out the scoring at 17:39 as Tynan scored on a five-on-three power-play goal for his eighth of the year and the 5-2 final. The man-advantage goal snapped a 0-for-14 streak on the power play during the past four games. The Irish were 1-for-2 on the power play while Ferris State was 1-for-3.
Notre Dame outshot Ferris State 29-24. Summerhays finished with 22 saves while Williams had 24 stops in the Bulldogs’ cage.