Northeastern's Dalen Hedges scored with less than three minutes left in the game to give the Huskies a 3-2 win and the 2013 Shillelagh Tournament championship on Saturday night at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Hedges goal capped a Northeastern rally that wiped out a 2-0 Irish lead with three unanswered goals. Notre Dame defensemen Shayne Taker (ppg) and Stephen Johns (shg) staked the Irish to that 2-0 lead only to see the Huskies get goals from Torin Snydeman, Braden Pimm and Hedges to take the win. The Irish were 7-0-1 when leading after two periods going into Saturday's game.
The victory was the third all-time for Northeastern at the Compton Family Ice Arena as the Huskies won twice in December of 2011 in the new building.
With the loss, Notre Dame falls to 9-6-1 overall while Northeastern is now 9-5-1. The two teams will meet again at the Compton on Jan. 24-25, 2014 in a pair of Hockey East league contests.
The Irish placed four players on the all-tournament team as defensemen Robbie Russo and Johns were selected as were forwards Bryan Rust and T.J. Tynan. Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt and Pimm were honored following the game. Tynan, who had a goal and three assists for four points in the tournament, was selected as the most outstanding player. In the third-place game, Western Michigan defeated Alabama-Huntsville by a 1-0 score.
"This game boiled down to penalties. We had that game in control, but the penalties turned things around," said Irish coach Jeff Jackson.
"We don't have enough guys right now to try to kill off eight power plays. We are relying on the same guys all the time and we end up giving the puck away for the goal. That's where it all started."
Still playing short-handed on the front line with four forwards out of the lineup, the Notre Dame defense stepped up getting a pair of special team goals in the game.
Taker put the Irish ahead with a power-play goal at 13:34 of the opening stanza on a goal that was set up by Rust and Tynan.
Tynan carried the puck off the right-wing boards and found Rust alone in the slot. Instead of shooting, Rust dropped it to Taker at the left point who fired a low, hard wrist shot with Sam Herr screening Witt in front. The shot made it through Witt's pads and Taker had his career-high fourth goal of the year and the Irish had the 1-0 lead.
Notre Dame's lead would go to 2-0 at 9:02 of the second period as Johns scored short-handed for his second goal of the weekend and fourth of the year.
The senior blue liner carried the puck out of his own zone and broke in over the Northeastern blue line on a 2-on-1. Instead of passing he shot from the bend in the left circle and Witt made the stop. Johns followed his shot and tucked the rebound under Witt to give the Irish a two-goal lead.
Despite the strong weekend offensively, Johns was disappointed in the results.
"This was a pretty demoralizing loss," said the senior defenseman.
"I thought we were playing some of our best hockey this year in the first period and early in the second, but it all just disappeared."
Just over three minutes later, Northeastern got on the scoreboard at 12:10 when Snydeman snapped a wrist shot over Notre Dame goaltender Steven Summerhays' glove hand for his fifth of the season to cut the Irish lead to 2-1.
At that point, Notre Dame had a 14-4 edge in shots in the period but the momentum was beginning to change.
"We were playing really well. In the second period, we were all over them," said Jackson.
"The momentum of the game just changed with penalties. I thought we got comfortable tonight with the 2-0 lead."
A pair of Irish penalties at 13:20 and 14:24 gave the Huskies a five-on-three power play for 1:36 and although they failed to score, they ran off eight shots on the two-man advantage as Summerhays stopped all eight chances.
On the night, Northeastern had eight power-play chances, but were 0-for-7 before capitalizing on the eighth at 10:01. Sophomore right wing Kevin Roy did the work as he stickhandled through the Irish penalty kill, pulling the defense towards him near the bottom of the left circle. He then flipped a pass in front to Pimm who was camped at the top of the crease where he redirected it past Summerhays for his seventh of the season to tie the game at 2-2.
"We had a lot of stick penalties, guys being in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Johns.
"We did a good job of killing penalties but it finally caught up to us in the end."
The two teams traded chances as time wound down and it would be Roy and Pimm who combined to set up Hedges' game winner as he tipped a centering feed by Pimm past Summerhays from the right side to put Northeastern ahead by the final score of 3-2.
For the night, Northeastern out shot Notre Dame by a 35-33 margin. Witt finished the game with 31 saves and the win while Summerhays took the loss with 32 saves. The Huskies were 1-for-8 on the power play while the Irish cashed in just once on four chances. In their 16 games this season, Notre Dame has scored at least one power-play goal in 13 of those games.
The Irish close out the first half of the 2013-14 season next weekend with an important Hockey East series as they play host to the University of Massachusetts on Dec. 6-7. Friday's game has a 7:35 p.m. start time while Saturday's game will start at 6:35 p.m.
** IRISH NOTES**
** This was the fourth Shillelagh Tournament hosted by Notre Dame. After winning in 2009 and 2010, the Irish finished third in 2011 and second in 2013.
** Notre Dame defensemen scored five of the team's seven goals in the Shillelagh Tournament. Sophomore Andy Ryan (ppg), Robbie Russo (shg), Shayne Taker (ppg) and Stephen Johns with two goals, including a short-handed tally paced the Irish attack.