Merrimack's Vinny Scotti scored with 1:09 left in the game to wipe out Notre Dame's 2-1 lead as the Fighting Irish and the Warriors battled to a 2-2 overtime tie on Saturday night at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Scotti's goal came after Merrimack pulled its goaltender with over two minutes left in the game with Notre Dame protecting the one-goal margin.
Defenseman Shayne Taker and center T.J. Tynan staked the Irish to a 2-0 lead early in the second period, with power play and short-handed goals respectively but Notre Dame could not come away with the win and the sweep of the weekend series.
Clayton Jardine scored Merrimack's first goal of the night at 8:17 of the middle stanza.
The tie gives the #3/#4-ranked Irish an 8-3-1 overall record and a 2-1-1- mark in Hockey East play. The Warriors are now 3-6-1 on the year and 0-3-1 in conference play.
Notre Dame entered the game playing short-handed as four of the team's regular forwards and one defense were out of the lineup with injuries.
"I was happy with the way we played tonight. I thought we played the game plan pretty close to the vest," said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
"They did what they had to do; they played with pretty good discipline. We did good things with the puck; we didn't turn the puck over in key areas of the ice. I thought we defended well. We were really good the first two periods then I thought there was a little bit of a fatigue factor in the third."
Taker opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 12:17 of the first period to stake the Irish to a 1-0 lead.
With Merrimack's Shawn Bates off for a cross-checking penalty Notre Dame got the first of its five power-play chances in the game and capitalized. Mario Lucia moved the puck from behind the Warriors goal to the right corner to Sam Herr who got it back to Taker at the right point. The senior from Surrey, B.C., moved towards the middle of the ice and whipped a wrist shot towards the Merrimack goal. The shot made its way through a screen and over Warrior goaltender Rasmus Tirronen's glove and under the cross bar for Taker's third goal of the season.
"I really didn't even see the shot go in," said Taker when asked about his goal.
"The only thing that I look at there is the two guys getting it through (to the net). The forwards put their hands up, so I guess it went in."
The score would remain that way until early in the second period with Merrimack on the power play. As the puck was being moved across the blue line, Tynan got his stick in the way a pass and the puck cleared the zone towards neutral ice. Tynan continued to pursue and was able to poke the puck from two Warrior defenders and broke clear on a breakaway.
The speedy center raced in on Tirronen and made a nice move in front, going to his backhand before sliding the puck under Tirronen's pads for the short-handed tally at 1:33 to give Notre Dame the 2-0 lead. The goal was Tynan's second of the year and first short-handed.
"That was a great individual effort on the goal. It was a highlight reel goal," said Jackson.
"I was planning on changing, but I saw the guy chasing the puck looked a little tired. I thought I could catch him sleeping a bit. I did a swim move to get around him and then just went to my back hand and it went in," said Tynan in describing his short-handed tally.
The lead stayed at two goals until the 8:17 mark of the second when Jardine cut the lead in half as he slapped a shot from the top of the left circle that beat Steven Summerhays in the Irish goal to make it a 2-1 contest. The goal was Jardine's first of the year.
In the third, Merrimack took the play to the Irish outshooting Notre Dame by a 14-6 advantage but Summerhays and the short-handed Irish held on.
With 2:06 left in the game, the Warriors pulled Tirronen from the goal in favor of a sixth attacker and they were able to get the right bounces that led to the tying goal with 1:09 left.
"Once they called the timeout, I figured they would pull the goaltender at that point," said Jackson.
"Every coach has a different in that philosophy (on pulling the goaltender). It gives them more opportunity. We couldn't ice the puck. We got it out a couple of times, we had to make sure we got it all the way down (the ice), preferably in the net."
As Merrimack controlled the puck Jardine took a shot from the right side that was blocked by an Irish defenseman in front. The puck found its way to Jordan Heywood in the high slot and he fired a shot at Summerhays that was blocked in front. That rebound made its way to the left circle where Scotti was camped and he fired a shot inside the left post to tie the game at 2-2 and send the game into overtime. The goal was Scotti's second of the season.
"Giving up the late goal is definitely disappointing. I thought we should have beaten that team," said Tynan.
"That goal was tough to swallow. We had two tough bounces on their goals. But that is the game of hockey."
In the five-minute overtime, each team was able to muster just one shot on goal as the score remained even at 2-2 after 65 minutes of action.
Merrimack out shot the Irish by a 32-27 mark. Tirronen finished with 30 saves on the night while Summerhays had 25 saves in the game.
Notre Dame was 1-for-4 on the power play while the Warriors were 0-for-2.
The Irish will continue their Hockey East schedule next weekend, Nov. 22-23, on the road, when the Irish travel to Lowell, Mass., to face the UMass.-Lowell River Hawks. Notre Dame and UMass.-Lowell have never faced each other in college hockey action.
* Notre Dame was without the services of forwards Vince Hinostroza, Thomas DiPauli, Mike Voran and Steven Fogarty and defenseman Eric Johnson, who are all out of the lineup with injuries.
* T.J. Tynan's short-handed goal was the sixth of his Notre Dame career and moves him into a tie for fourth on the school's all-time list. The record for short-handed goals is seven and held by three players - David Bankoske `93, Mike McNeill ` 88 and Kevin Humphrey `81.
* The tie game was the first regular-season tie for the Irish at the Compton Family Ice Arena. The last time a Notre Dame game finished in a tie at home came on Jan. 29, 2011 at the Joyce Center when the Irish tied Miami, 2-2.