CHICAGO - Playing in its first outdoor game in program history, the No. 3 Miami University hockey team battled No. 12 Notre Dame until the very end, but came up just short as it fell, 2-1, Sunday afternoon in the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field in front of 52,051 people.
Trailing 2-0 midway through the third period, the RedHawks made it a one-goal game thanks to freshman forward Kevin Morris, who found the back of the net on a wrist shot off a pass from redshirt senior forward Marc Hagel.
"Hagel made a great pass and (Cody) Murphy distracted the net," Morris said. "It was a play where you just try to get the puck on net and see what happens."
The goal was Morris' sixth of the season. Freshman defenseman Chris Joyaux also tallied an assist on the play.
Miami (19-8-5 overall, 14-6-4-4 Central Collegiate Hockey Association) pulled freshman goaltender Ryan McKay with just more than a minute left in regulation, but couldn't find a way to beat Notre Dame's Steven Summerhays, who totaled 22 saves.
"We turned it on at the end," Morris said. "But when you wait more than half of the game to turn it on against a great Notre Dame team then you're not setting yourself up for success."
The Irish (19-12-1, 15-8-1-1 CCHA) scored first at the 7:18 mark of the second period. Steven Fogarty won a face off in the RedHawks' zone and Bryan Rust found an open Mario Lucia in the slot. Lucia shot a quick, hard wrister past the glove of McKay for the game's first goal.
"They were able to win the faceoff after a little bit of a scrum," McKay said. "They fed the puck over (to the middle) and I committed down early."
Notre Dame took a two-goal lead with 11:27 left in the third period, as Jeff Costello knocked in a rebound off an Anders Lee shot near the far post.
"It was a semi-breakaway," McKay said. "(Costello) had the puck and there was another guy driving wide. They shot the puck on net and it went over to the other guy."
Both teams failed to score on the power play in the contest, as Miami and Notre Dame each finished 0-for-3. The Irish committed five penalties for 21 minutes, while the 'Hawks were whistled five times for 10 minutes. No penalties were called in the third period.
The Irish edged the RedHawks in shots, 28-23, including 12-8 in the second stanza. McKay, who entered Sunday's game ranked first nationally in goals allowed at 0.98 per game, finished with 26 saves while seeing his five-game winning streak snapped.
"Anytime we can put our sport and our product out there on that national stage and in a venue like we were today, I think it's important for our sport," Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said.
Both teams had to deal with a less-than-ideal ice surface, which slowed the game down and created some odd bounces here and there. Ice repairs were made throughout the game, during both intermissions and in the television timeouts. But while the ice created some difficulties, the players thoroughly enjoyed their time in Chicago.
"Playing outside in front of over 50,000 people was a great experience," said senior captain and Vernon Hills (Chicago suburb) native Steven Spinell. "It was definitely great to be a part of this."
McKay added, "It was something I'll remember for a very long time."
Despite the loss, MU still sits in first place in the CCHA, two points ahead of Western Michigan and three in front of Notre Dame with just four regular-season games remaining.
Next up, the RedHawks travel to play a two-game set against Lake Superior State Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23. The first game of the series will be played at 7:35 p.m. while Saturday's game will start at 7:05 p.m. in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Miami then returns home for its final two games of the regular season and in CCHA history, as it hosts Ohio State Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2 at Steve Cady Arena.