NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the second night in a row, the Notre Dame hockey team waited until the final minutes of a game to attempt to rally for a win over the University of Maine.
The Irish saw themselves on the short end of a 2-1 score on Saturday night with less than 1:30 left in the contest.
That's when senior right wing Bryan Rust took over. He would get the game-tying goal with 1:08 left on the clock and then 24 seconds later, he beat Black Bears goaltender Martin Ouellette with a shot from the high slot to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat to give Notre Dame the 2-1 win.
Maine got goals from Cam Brown and Ben Hutton to offset a power-play goal from T.J. Tynan to build the 2-1 lead.
The Irish would out shoot the Black Bears by a 42-22 margin as Ouellete turned in another stellar performance with 39 saves. Steven Summerhays finished with 20 saves in the Notre Dame goal.
The win snapped a three-game Notre Dame losing streak and improves the Irish to 16-12-1 overall and 5-9-1 in Hockey East. They now have 11 points in the conference and move into a tie for eighth with Massachusetts with five games left to play. Maine falls to 13-10-3 on the year and is now 7-5-2 in the conference; good for 16 points and a fourth-place tie with New Hampshire.
"I thought last night if that disallowed goal had counted that maybe that would be a turning point for us," said Irish coach Jeff Jackson.
"Maybe tonight was. That's what I have to hope. They (Maine) didn't quit, they kept on coming. We just have to keep on pushing forward."
Maine got on the scoreboard first, taking a 1-0 lead at 8:24 of the opening period on a wrap-around goal by Brown.
The freshman center came from behind the goal and jammed a shot off of Summerhays' shoulder and inside the right post for his fourth of the season.
The Irish would answer back with a power-play goal at 13:44 with Tynan teaming up with Mario Lucia to make it a 1-1 game.
Vince Hinostroza came off the left boards with the puck and fed it to Lucia below the goal line. Lucia stepped out towards the goal and found Tynan waiting in the slot. The senior center tucked a shot up under the cross bar for his seventh of the season.
The Black Bears would retake the lead in the second period, scoring on a five-on-three power play opportunity. With Kevin Lind and Jeff Costello in the penalty box, defenseman Ben Hutton scored from a bad angle on a shot from the right wing and along the goal line at 11:41 to make it a 2-1 game. For Hutton, the goal was his 10th of the season.
The score would remain 2-1 as the Irish continued to pressure Ouellette in the Maine goal. The Irish had 28 shots through the first two periods and could only dent the Black Bear netminder once.
"I thought that we had some good scoring chances in the third period, but both teams were a little tired and a little slow," said Jackson.
"It's harder to generate chances when teams have played two tough games. But our guys persevered and they went down to three lines and I kept rolling four. Hopefully that paid off in the end."
With time running down, the Irish took a timeout with 1:20 left and coach Jeff Jackson pulled Summerhays in favor of a sixth attacker.
"The intensity revs up. We have an extra guy going to the net (with the sixth attacker)," said Bryan Rust concerning the late heroics in both games of the series.
"We were getting one guy to the net all weekend but when we got that second guy we scored each night."
Off the face off in the right circle, Tynan won the draw back to defenseman Shayne Taker. Taker moved it back to Tynan who returned it to Taker. The senior blue liner moved past a Maine defender and slid a pass to Rust in the high slot. He wasted no time and one-timed a high wrist shot that beat Ouellette to his glove side to tie the game at 2-2. The goal was Rust's 10th of the season and came with 1:08 left in the game.
Summerhays returned to the goal and a face off, the puck went from Stephen Johns to Taker who caught Rust streaking through center ice. As the defense backed in, Rust carried the puck to the top of the face-off circles and drilled a wrist shot past Ouellette that beat the Maine goaltender over his catching glove with 44 seconds left to give the Irish a 3-2 lead. The goal was the 11th of the year for Rust and his second multiple-goal game of the season.
"The pass went d-to-d and I just filled underneath their forechecker," said Rust describing his second goal of the night.
"There was so much open ice there. The other four guys were back at the blue line. Shayne (Taker) hit me with a pass in the neutral zone. I had a lane to the net and their guy dropped so I pushed a little farther and got a shot on net and it was lucky enough to be a goal."
From there, the Irish held the Black Bears at bay to salvage a pair of points on the weekend. Notre Dame was 1-for-6 on the power play and snapped a three-game streak without a power-play goal. Maine was 1-for-2 in the game.
"This time of the year, it's playoff hockey for us," said Jackson.
"Every point is important. We just have to worry about each game and take them one at a time. It's the same old story, the same old cliche from coaches. It's about the process and there is a lot of truth to that."
The Irish take to the road next weekend, Feb. 14-15, when they travel to Providence, R.I., for a pair of games with the Providence College Friars. Both games start at 7:00 p.m.