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Hockey: Weekend split halts win streak

Jack Hefferon | Monday, November 28, 2011

Riding a 10-game unbeaten streak, No. 3/2 Notre Dame took the long ride up to No. 14/13 Lake Superior St. over the weekend for a pair of key conference games. The team played some of its best hockey of the season during Friday night’s 4-1 win, but the Irish were left with a sour taste in their mouths after a 5-2 loss Saturday.

Friday’s action got off to an exciting start, as the Irish (10-3-3, 7-2-3 CCHA) jumped out to a 1-0 lead just three minutes into the game off a goal from junior left winger Nick Larson. The Lakers (10-4-2, 6-3-1-1) evened the score just 20 seconds later, but the frenetic pace was calmed by Irish junior goaltender Mike Johnson, whose 29 saves kept the Lakers off the scoreboard for the rest of the night.

The game-winning goal came from the Irish powerplay early in the second period. Freshman right winger Austin Wuthrich found freshman defenseman Robbie Russo in the slot, and Russo finished the play with a rocket into the back of the net for his third goal of the season. All three of Russo’s goals have come from the point on the powerplay, which has made the young freshman yet another weapon in Irish coach Jeff Jackson’s arsenal.

“We expected Robbie to come in and be an impact player for us as a freshman,” Jackson said. “Part of the reason we recruited him was because of his poise. Now we finally have a guy out there that not only can make a play with the puck, but can also shoot the puck, and that’s a key to a good powerplay. I wish he’d shoot the puck more frequently sometimes. It definitely gives our power play a threat from the top.”

Notre Dame put the game on ice with goals from sophomore forwards Bryan Rust and T.J. Tynan, and it looked to carry the momentum from 11 straight unbeaten decisions into Saturday’s matchup.

However, things were stacked against the Irish before the game started Saturday, as Jackson benched three regular forwards. Sophomores Michael Voran and David Gerths were sidelined for missing a team meeting, and Larson was punished for taking a misconduct penalty the night before.

Things didn’t go much better after the drop of the puck, as sophomore defenseman Steven Johns took a penalty just 10 seconds into the game. That led to the first of three Lakers powerplay goals on the night.

“It was doomed from the start of the day,” Jackson said. “The officiating from one night to the next was night and day, for both teams. I don’t think we were prepared for the change in philosophy going from one night to the next. We took some unnecessary penalties, but they wouldn’t have been penalties on Friday. We need to be able to adjust to that.”

Despite the loss, one bright spot for the Irish was Rust, who scored in the first period to run his streak of goal-scoring games to four. And while the Irish may have been excused for running out of steam in their fourth game of the week, Rust said fatigue was not the issue on Saturday.

“I wouldn’t say we got tired,” Rust said. “Yeah, it’s been a long stretch, but we just had a bad game. We didn’t make the smart plays like we should have, we didn’t compete as hard as we should have, but I have no concerns that we won’t be right back where we should be this Friday night.”

Friday’s upcoming matchup is against future conference opponent Northeastern, a team that will force the Irish to play their best hockey if they want to start another winning streak.

“They’re a typical Hockey East team with the up-tempo style and good forwards, and real good goaltender,” Jackson said. “They’re going to be a pretty good challenge for us. I expect it to be two good hockey games.”

 

 

Contact Jack Hefferon at whefferon@nd.edu