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Tampa, Fla. - The No. 9 UMass Minutemen defeated the No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4-3 on Saturday afternoon in the first game of the Lightning College Hockey Classic. The Minutemen scored three power-play goals in the contest against one of the best penalty-killing units in college hockey. Prior to the game, Notre Dame had only given up seven power-play goals all season, a 92.6% success rate. The Minutemen win erases Notre Dame's nine game winning streak, which was the longest in the nation. Cory Quirk led the Minutemen with one goal and three assists while P.J. Fenton chipped in with three assists. UMass advances to the finals of the Lightning College Hockey Classic and will face either #4 Colorado College or #17 Rensselaer on Sunday evening at 8 p.m.
The Minutemen began the first few minutes of the period carrying the play, but they were unable to get the puck past Notre Dame goaltender Jordan Pearce. The UMass all-freshman line almost put the Minutemen on the board as James Marcou took a shot from the left face-off circle that was saved by Pearce. Brian Keane followed with a shot off the rebound but Pearce was there to keep the contest scoreless.
Notre Dame started to turn the tide in their favor by creating pressure on UMass goalie Paul Dainton, but a penalty taken by the Irish extinguished any flames they had ignited in their offensive zone. Nearly half way through the period, Mike Kostka took a shot from the point that was deflected and hit Pearce, who struggled to keep the puck in his pads. Notre Dame threw multiple shots on Dainton during their first power-play, but the freshman netminder stood his ground to kill off the penalty. The Irish thought they had a goal after they jammed a loose rebound into the back of the net, but referee Stephen McInchak had already blown the whistle to cease play. The Irish continued to pressure the UMass defense, but the Minutemen offense struck first with just under four minutes to play in the period.
After Notre Dame took their second penalty of the period, Kostka netted his third goal of the season after he took a pass and fired the puck from the blue line to beat Pearce. For the Minuteman Captain, all three of his goals this season have come on the power-play. P.J. Fenton and Cory Quirk assisted on the goal. With 53.1 seconds to play in the opening stanza, however, the Irish tied the score when Erik Condra slammed the puck home for his ninth goal of the season. The period concluded with both teams tallying six shots.
Although Notre Dame dictated the play for most of the second period, the Minutemen were able to catch up late in the frame to go into the locker room tied at three. UMass opened the scoring 30 seconds into the middle stanza when Quirk deflected a shot from Davis for his fifth goal of the year. Fenton also assisted on the goal. The Irish quickly erased their one goal deficit one minute later when Christian Hanson tallied his sixth goal of the season.
The Minutemen took two penalties in the period, which allowed Notre Dame to carry the play. The penalty killing of the Minutemen attempted to retake their lead when Brett Watson gathered the puck off a turnover and went in on Pearce, who made the save. Notre Dame took the lead as the halfway mark approached. Luke Lucyk took a shot from the blue line that was deflected by a UMass defender and found its way past Dainton.
The Irish continued to generate offense on the Minutemen, but once again a Notre Dame penalty ended their attack. Marcou nearly tied the score while on the power-play, as he slipped the puck through an Irish defender's legs, but could not get a quality shot on Pearce. Justin Braun made another Notre Dame penalty hurt when he netted his fourth goal of the season after he jammed home a rebound through heavy traffic in front of the Notre Dame goal. Davis and Fenton assisted on the goal.
As time ticked down in the period, UMass continued their attack, when Alex Berry fed a pass to Watson, who shot wide. Will Ortiz followed that with a shot of his own from the slot that was also stopped by Pearce. The period concluded with each team accounting for 13 shots each in the frame.
Notre Dame once again started the period with increased pressure on the UMass defense, but Dainton continued to keep the Irish at bay, especially when he went post to post to deny a Notre Dame forward of a certain scoring opportunity. Near the midway mark of the period, UMass began to steal the momentum from the Irish. The Minutemen had multiple opportunities to take the lead, but Pearce stopped all the Minuteman chances.
With 5:34 left to play in regulation, UMass scored their third power-play goal of the game when Marcou scored his fourth goal of the season on a great individual effort. Marcou dragged the puck into his body as Pearce went down and roofed the puck under the crossbar. UMass then went to work to ice the victory, and killed off a six-on-four power-play of the Irish with less than one minute to play.