The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey program opened the 2007-08 home schedule with a little bit of excitement for everyone.
There was the raising of the 2006-07 CCHA playoff championship banner to start the game, followed by two periods of tough, hard-fought hockey. Then the weatherman threw in a little wrinkle with a tornado warning that forced officials to begin the process of clearing the Joyce Center Arena following the second stanza.
After an 11-minute delay the warning was lifted and fans returned to their seats to watch Notre Dame hold on against the fifth-ranked Denver Pioneers for a 4-3 victory to start the two-game series.
"This was a good win for us," said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson. "Denver has a very, very talented hockey team. Some of our guys are still feeling their way, but we made strides tonight. There's still a lot of work to do."
The Irish win snapped a 10-game winless streak (0-9-1) against the Pioneers that dated back to Nov. 3, 1978, when both teams were members of the WCHA. The victory improved the 11th-ranked Notre Dame to 2-1-0 on the year while the Pioneers suffered their first loss to fall to 2-1-0.
Denver wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as the Pioneers turned a Notre Dame turnover into the first goal of the night at 1:42 of the first period.
Left wing Tom May picked up a loose puck in the left wing corner and fed it to Ostrow who fired a shot at Jordan Pearce. The puck deflected in front and rolled up the Irish goaltender's right shoulder and into the goal for Ostrow's second of the year.
The Pioneers dominated the period early and finished with an 11-6 shot advantage but the Irish would knot the score at 18:10 on a power play when Regan redirected an Ian Cole shot from the right point past Peter Mannino for his second goal of the year.
Denver would come back just 1:05 later at 19:15 when Bozak's centering attempt to Trotter, who was camped on the right post, hit an Irish defenseman's skate and deflected past Pearce for a 2-1 Pioneer lead after one period.
The Irish came out flying in the second period as they out shot the Pioneers, 9-3. Lawson would get the game-tying goal at 12:27, just as a Denver penalty expired. Lawson and Kevin Deeth played catch with the puck, moving the biscuit from the right wing circle to the center point. Lawson finally let the shot go with Erik Condra and Evan Rankin camped in front of Mannino. The shot went through the maze of sticks and skates in front and trickled past Mannino for Lawson's first goal of the year.
"I thought we did a good job of getting to the net tonight," said Jackson. "Guys like (Ryan) Thang, (Garrett) Regan, (Mark) Van Guilder and (Evan) Rankin showed their grittiness. We need that to be successful."
The Irish would take the lead for good at 17:48 with Thang notching his second of the year. Defenseman Brock Sheahan dumped the puck behind the Denver net to Condra. The junior right wing found Thang coming from the left wing boards and the sophomore snapped the shot past Mannino for his second goal of the season. That gave the Irish a 3-2 lead.
Following the second period as the Zamboni's were moving onto the ice, the tornado warning was issued and the fans were asked to leave the Joyce Center rink for the more secure middle section of the building. Severe storms rolled through northern Indiana most of the evening but the warnings were lifted just over 11 minutes after they were issued. The ice was finished and action resumed in the final period.
Notre Dame protected the one-goal lead until the 7:23 mark when the Irish got some insurance on a power play. Ryan fed Regan on the left side of the goal and he tried to stuff it past Mannino. The puck came loose just outside the crease and Ryan popped it over Mannino's pads for his first career goal.
"That's not the kind of goal that I usually score," said Ryan of his eventual game winner. "Regan did a great job getting the first shot to the net. We just kept banging away at it and it went in. It's great playing with those two (Regan and Van Guilder). They bring a lot of energy to the team."
Denver wasn't done though as the Pioneers cut the lead to one just 32 seconds later when Trotter converted an Irish turnover into his second goal of the young season. The sophomore picked off an errant pass and went in alone on Pearce, beating the Notre Dame goaltender with a nice move at 7:55.
From there, Pearce and the Irish defense held the fort, holding on for the 4-3 victory.
In the game, Denver out shot Notre Dame by a 20-18 margin. Pearce finished with 17 saves while Mannino had 14 in the game.