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Hockey: Irish drop first games at home

Sam Gans | Sunday, December 4, 2011

For five games, smooth skating graced the Compton Family Ice Arena as the Irish opened up their brand-new facility with a 5-0 home record. That took a drastic turn Friday and Saturday, as the No. 2 Irish dropped their first pair of contests in the Compton Arena to Northeastern this weekend.

The Irish (10-5-3, 7-2-3-0 CCHA) got off to an embarrassing start against the Huskies (6-7-2, 3-7-2 Hockey East) on Friday, giving up three goals within 4:13 of the opening faceoff on the way to a 9-2 blowout loss.

“I think this may be the worst loss that I’ve experienced since I’ve been here,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said after Friday’s game. “I wasn’t very fond of the effort, but I have to take responsibility. I didn’t have these guys ready to play tonight.”

The scoring opened just 30 seconds into the game after a Notre Dame turnover when Northeastern sophomore center Braden Pimm received a pass near the top of the crease from sophomore right wing Cody Ferriero and beat Irish junior goaltender Mike Johnson. The turnover was the first sign of things to come.

“We were mishandling the puck, turning pucks over,” Jackson said. “They caused us to give up pucks in our own end, especially. But through the neutral zone, that was the first turnover that led to the first goal, not being strong with the puck … We were soft tonight. We played soft.”

When freshman defenseman Dan Cornell scored the first goal of his career from near the blueline to put Northeastern up 3-0 on just three shots, Johnson was removed from the game for sophomore Steven Summerhays.

“The way the team was playing in front of [Johnson], it’s better to pull him then than have him give up four more [or] three more because of mistakes in front of him,” Jackson said. “I have a lot of confidence in him and his character. And I know he’ll be back.”

Summerhays did not fare much better though, allowing four goals on 12 shots before making way for fellow sophomore Joe Rogers to see his first action of the season in the game’s final 15:24.

The Irish did not score their first goal of the game until they were down 6-0 with 12 seconds left in the second period, when sophomore center T.J. Tynan’s powerplay slapshot beat Huskies junior goaltender Chris Rawlings. Junior left wing Nick Larson added a third period goal when he deflected a shot from sophomore defenseman Kevin Lind, but both goals ultimately proved to matter little.

“That was a disgrace to the jersey and I can’t remember the last time we gave up nine goals like that,” senior co-captain and defenseman Sean Lorenz said. “We’ve got to be better. Plain and simple.”

The Irish came out with a much stronger physical effort Saturday night and broke through early in the second period with the game’s first goal by junior center Riley Sheahan. The Huskies managed to tie the game when Pimm scored his third goal of the series at the 13:02 mark of the second. Huskies junior left wing Steve Quailer tallied his fifth goal of the season 5:19 into the third period on the powerplay, and that would be all Northeastern would need to hold on to a 2-1 victory.

Despite the result, Jackson was pleased with the effort from the Irish on Saturday compared to the previous night’s defeat.

“It’s always tougher on the second night of a series, but we had to play with more grit, there’s no question about that, and I thought we did a better job for the most part,” Jackson said. “And the difference in the game was four-on-four and special teams, bottom line.”

Johnson was inserted back into the lineup for Saturday’s contest and performed well, tallying 13 saves and yielding just two goals against Northeastern.

“I knew he’d come back,” Jackson said of Johnson. “That’s the kind of kid he is. He is our guy. He’s the guy that I have all the confidence in. He had a couple tough games, but he responded and I expected him to.”

Despite strong goaltending and defensive play, the Irish had difficulty getting quality scoring opportunities. When the Irish did get chances, they had trouble getting the puck past Rawlings, who finished Saturday with 22 saves.

Despite scuffling to a three-game losing streak, the Sheahan said there is plenty of confidence in the locker room.

“We can’t panic too much. We’re on a little bit of a losing streak, but we’ve got to come back and practice hard and stay positive and enthusiastic,” Sheahan said. “We’re a close-knit team, and I don’t think we should let this affect us, and I don’t think we’re going to. We just have to stay positive and stay together.”

The Irish take the ice next Friday when they travel to Ferris State for a two-game series against the Bulldogs.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu