CHICAGO — Notre Dame beat Miami (Ohio) 2-1 in the Hockey City Classic on Sunday in front of 52,051 fans at Solider Field.
On a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the low 30′s, the Irish got goals from Mario Lucia and Jeff Costello to offset the lone Miami goal by Kevin Morris to salvage a win in the series. Notre Dame dropped a 3-1 decision to the RedHawks on Friday night in Oxford, Ohio.
The Irish got strong goalkeeping from junior Steven Summerhays, who kicked out 22 of the 23 shots he faced. Miami’s Ryan McKay stopped 26 of 28 in the RedHawks’ goal.
The win keeps Notre Dame right in the thick of the race for first place in the CCHA. The 12th-ranked Irish are now 19-12-1 overall and 15-8-1-1 in the CCHA, good for 47 points. That puts Notre Dame just one point behind second-place Western Michigan and three points behind first-place Miami. The third-ranked RedHawks are 19-8-5 on the year and 14-6-4-4 in conference play. With the win and other results in the CCHA this weekend, Notre Dame has clinched a first-round bye in the conference playoffs.
“This was a big win for us,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said. “It was nice to bounce back from Friday’s loss and get a win in the series. It keeps the playoff race interesting.”
Notre Dame got a strong performance in goal from Summerhays and found its penalty killing as the Irish were able to kill off a five-minute major called late in the first period.
“There were two key things that happened for us [Sunday] based on how our team was playing in the second half of the season,” Jackson said.
“The first one was responding to that major penalty and killing it off. The second one was when they scored, to make it 2-1, we settled down and we played OK because we’ve had problems sometimes with too much emotion or not enough emotion in shifts after goals and situations like that.”
After killing off the penalty early in the second period, the Irish got on the scoreboard first as Lucia collected his 10th goal of the season at 12:42 off a faceoff to the left of McKay.
Freshman center Steven Fogarty won the draw to right wing Bryan Rust, who moved toward the slot. He found Lucia waiting alone and the freshman whipped a one-timer past McKay to put the Irish in front 1-0.
The score would stay that way until the third period when Costello scored a clutch goal off a Miami turnover in the neutral zone for his eighth of the year at 8:33 as the banged the rebound of an Anders Lee shot over McKay’s glove hand to make it 2-0.
“We forced a turnover in the neutral zone and Anders picked it up at the blue line,” Costello said. “I could see he was going to take it to the goal so I followed him in. He got off a good shot and it came right back to me and I got the rebound high over his glove.”
From there, the Irish defense and Summerhays tried to hold off the Miami attack. The RedHawks broke through at 9:36 of the third when Morris directed a shot past Summerhays for his sixth of the year to cut the Notre Dame lead to 2-1 with more than 10 minutes left in the game. But the Irish defense held them off to protect the 2-1 victory.
Each team was 0-for-3 on the power play.
The Irish were happy with the win and were pleased to be able to do it in Chicago, the hometown of seven members of the Notre Dame roster.
“This was an unbelievable experience,” said Irish defenseman Sam Calabrese, a native of Park Ridge, Ill., a Chicago suburb.
“It was a great atmosphere. When you come out to warmups, I think that’s the first time you really realize that this place is going to be packed. It was a great atmosphere. … It was great to have all of my family be able to see it and not have to drive two hours to South Bend [Ind.]. I know a lot of the other Chicago boys had family here and everyone was thrilled to play in this game.”