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Power play difficulties lead to loss

Justin Schuver | Monday, October 11, 2004

Notre Dame’s youth and inexperience manifested itself in the form of a stagnant Irish penalty kill as the team lost 4-1 to No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth (1-0-1) Friday night at the Joyce Center. The loss of five seniors to graduation has really hurt the Irish (0-1-1), but nowhere has the pain been felt more than on the Notre Dame power play. The Irish were 1-for-12 on the power play Friday, and had several opportunities on 5-on-3 but could not capitalize.”You simply haven’t had an opportunity this early in the season to practice the 5-on-3,” Irish coach Dave Poulin said. “It would be nice to pour out five guys who’ve done it before, but we just can’t do that yet. You look at Duluth and they’re starting out with the exact same power play they put out there last year minus one guy. Nine of their 10 guys are exactly the same, and that’s a pretty nice option.”On the 5-on-3, the hesitant nature always comes from trying to make the perfect play. It’s okay to score ugly goals and we’re going to have to do that this year.”Despite Minnesota-Duluth’s experience on special teams, the Irish penalty kill still did an admirable job, holding the Bulldogs to 1-for-8 on their own power play Friday night and a total killing rate of 2-for-20 in the series.Forward Matt Amado gave the Irish a lead early on with a power play goal, but Notre Dame stymied continuously by Minnesota-Duluth goalie Josh Johnson and was unable to increase its one-goal advantage. Perhaps Johnson’s biggest save came in the second period with the score 2-1 in favor of the Bulldogs, when he robbed Mike Walsh’s point-blank shot from the crease with a stunning glove save.”I didn’t feel like we were really sharp from the first touch of the puck,” Poulin said. “I don’t know whether it’s the mental side that leads to the physical side not being there. Even the focus from last night wasn’t there, and we shot wide and missed shots too often, and the times we did get the puck on net their goalie was there to make a great save.”Poulin also elected to change his goalie from Thursday, starting sophomore David Brown in net instead of Morgan Cey. Brown made 28 saves on the night, while Johnson made 27 for the Bulldogs.Amado’s quick wrist shot from the right dot at 3:40 of the first period gave Notre Dame an early 1-0 lead. Defenseman Wes O’Neill set up the shot with a perfect pass from just inside the blue line, allowing Amado to slap the puck past Johnson as he moved over to try to make the save.”We’re feeling really good after that first goal,” Amado said. “We were really full of energy and were making good decisions with the puck and keeping up that high tempo.”The Irish lead didn’t last through the period, with freshman forward Mike Curry picking up a loose puck and beating Brown with a power play goal of his own at 17:39 of the first period.The second period was a mess of penalties and odd-man opportunities for both teams. It was the Bulldogs who were able to take advantage, with Justin Williams making a perfect pass to Tim Stapleton on a 2-on-1 break. Stapleton then had no problem beating Brown for the goal at 12:20 of the second period.”The play that hurt was that second goal,” Poulin said. “I thought that the second goal was really disappointing because we’ve been working on our 4-on-4 play. What happened was we had a forward relaxing in the neutral zone and we had a simple pass to make but we missed that pass and before you knew it we were down 2 to 1.”The Bulldogs added two insurance goals in the third period, with Brett Hammond scoring just inside the right post and Curry pitching in a backhanded goal late in the period to put the game away.The Irish open conference play this weekend with a pair of games at Miami (Ohio).