BATAVIA — Whenever Batavia/Alexander and Notre Dame meet on the frozen pond, it is clear that the rest of the season doesn’t matter and you can throw the records right out of the window.
And that was never more evident than Tuesday night’s battle between the Blue Devils and the Fighting Irish at Falleti Ice Arena.
Notre Dame struck early, but Batavia/Alexander’s Matt Tambe struck for two big second-period goals and Trevor Rarick did the rest in net as the Blue Devils held on for a 3-2 win in front of a packed house to avenge an early-season loss to the Fighting Irish.
“It’s just another game, but it really means a lot to the seniors,” said Rarick. “I’m kind of speechless. That is my first win against ND and I’ll never see them again, so it was a great way to end the rivalry for myself.”
Notre Dame topped Batavia/Alexander 3-2 on Dec. 8.
And following a slow start, the Blue Devils have started to gain some momentum as they have won three straight games and four of six to creep within one game of .500 at 7-8.
Moreover, a lot of that success has had to do with the work of Rarick, the senior netminder.
He entered the game at 6-7 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage and was coming off of his first shutout of the season against Gates-Chili Saturday.
“Trevor is doing what he has to do — he is giving us a chance to win every night,” said Batavia/Alexander coach Paul Pedersen.
On Tuesday evening, Rarick allowed a goal on the second shot he saw — from Notre Dame’s Mason Versage — but then stifled the Fighting Irish for most of the remainder of the game and finished with 23 saves.
“We have to keep this game in perspective — it’s only one game,” said Pedersen. “We’re trying to just play it game by game. We’re trying to just gel throughout the season so when we hit February hopefully we’re hitting our stride.”
Notre Dame’s Jimmy Johnson was almost equally impressive in net as he once again rose to the occasion of a big game and stopped 26 Batavia/Alexander shots in the losing effort, many in spectacular fashion.
Despite the gallant effort, the Fighting Irish have now lost six of seven and dropped to 3-10.
Amidst a hard-hitting, fast-paced start, Versage’s goal came just 5:15 into the contest when the Blue Devils failed to clear the puck. Zach Blew set Versage up and he beat Rarick over the right shoulder for the quick 1-0 lead.
Rarick then settled in and kept Notre Dame at bay with numerous clutch early saves — including one on a Ryan Webster breakaway with four minutes left in the first — as the Fighting Irish were able to get quality shots throughout the opening frame.
Batavia/Alexander was then finally able to break through with 1:33 left in the first when Adam Siedlecki backhanded in a rebound of a Tambe shot to tie the game at 1.
Both Rarick and Johnson finished with nine saves in the first period.
However, a hooking penalty with 0.2 seconds remaining in the period set up the Blue Devils in the second.
Tambe took the opening faceoff of the second, went up the right side and beat Johnson between the pads just nine seconds in to give Batavia/Alexander a 2-1 lead — a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Blue Devils then controlled the next six minutes before Tambe struck again with just over 8 1/2 minutes left in the frame.
On the breakaway, Siedlecki slid a pass cross-ice to Tambe, who fumbled the puck at first but eventually beat a sliding Johnson with what would turn out to be the game-winning goal.
Yet it wasn’t easy.
“Any time these two teams play, you know that it is going to be down to the wire,” said Pedersen. “It’s going to be a physical game.”
With two minutes left in the second, the Blue Devils picked up a four-minute major penalty that carried over into the third period, but the Fighting Irish got just three shots off and were unable to cut into the Batavia/Alexander lead.
“That really killed their momentum, I think,” said Rarick. “Four minutes on the power play is a long time, but our team has a great power play kill.”
Finally — after Johnson was able to withstand a pair of Blue Devils barrages early on in the third — Notre Dame was able to get back to within one.
With just over seven minutes remaining, Blew was able to tip in a shot by Jake DeBellis that just beat Rarick to make it 3-2.
“As a goalie, you have to knock that out of your mind, you have to forget it,” said Rarick. “They needed three, they couldn’t get three and we held them off.”
With Johnson off the ice in the final minute, Rarick turned back a furious Notre Dame push to hold on for the cross-city victory.
“They scrambled, they worked hard and they stuck it out,” said Pedersen.
Blew’s goal was his 11th of the season, while Tambe’s two tallies give him eight for the year.
Notre Dame is next in action on Friday when it travels to take on Saranac/Peru, while the Blue Devils will be at Brockport on Saturday afternoon.
“Our seniors are great leaders,” said Rarick. “There is a lot of tradition with the Ice Devils and it’s a tradition of winning. We know we have to instill that tradition in the underclass.”