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Hockey: Irish split series with Merrimack

Conor Kelly | Sunday, November 17, 2013

On a weekend when Irish senior goaltender Steven Summerhays was on top of his game, it took two crazy deflections for Merrimack to get the puck past him. But the two scores were enough for the Warriors (3-6-1, 0-3-1 Hockey East) to salvage a 2-2 tie with the No. 4 Irish (8-3-1, 2-1-1) on Saturday night at Compton Family Ice Arena. Merrimack freshman forward Vinny Scotti erased a 2-1 Irish lead with just 1:06 remaining in the game to rob Notre Dame of a weekend sweep after the Irish took the first game of the series 4-0 on Friday.
“The way it finished obviously [was disappointing],” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “Both their goals were bounces, and that’s what makes it tough. I thought that given the circumstances our guys played pretty well.”
The limits of Notre Dame’s forward depth came into play as the Irish were forced to skate just three lines for most of the game, with regulars freshman Vince Hinostroza, sophomores Steven Fogarty and Thomas DiPauli, and senior Michael Voran all out with injuries. Notre Dame controlled the play for the game’s first two periods, outshooting Merrimack 25-12, but the Warriors upped their play in the third and outscored the home team 14-6 over the final 20 minutes.
“They’re playing four lines, and we’re playing three,” Jackson said. “It’s inevitable that you’re going to get a little tired, but I thought that for the most part our guys handled it really well. Third period they picked it up and started being more aggressive with their defensemen that tired us out a little bit.”
Irish senior defenseman Shayne Taker opened the scoring on the power play in the first period, rifling a wrist shot through a screen past Merrimack junior goaltender Rasmus Tirronen, and senior forward T.J. Tynan extended it to 2-0 in the second on a great individual effort. While killing a penalty, Tynan picked the pocket of a Merrimack defenseman and beat two more Warrior players to the net, sliding a backhand under Tirronen’s pads.
“The positive for us is that we scored a power play goal and we scored a shorthanded goal,” Jackson said. “The penalty kill killed off penalties, and special teams kept us in the game tonight.”
The Warriors narrowed the lead to a goal late in the second when sophomore forward Clayton Jardine one-timed a shot from the point that deflected off a Notre Dame defender and up and over Summerhays. Still down by a goal late in the third, the Warriors pulled Tirronen with 2:06 remaining for an extra attacker, and the move paid off as a series of blocked shots resulted in Scotti finding an open net with just over a minute remaining.
“The fact that were up 2-1 with that situation, I’d take it again,” Jackson said. “We had two blocked shots on that, and the puck bounced right to their open guy.”
Neither team mustered strong chances in the overtime period, leaving the game in a tie.
On Friday, Summerhays stopped all 31 shots Merrimack sent his way in leading Notre Dame to the 4-0 win. Freshman forward Ali Thomas got the Irish on the board in the second period with his first career goal, and two goals from junior forward Peter Schneider and a tally from sophomore forward Mario Lucia provided all the insurance Summerhays would need.
“I think [the Warriors] were just throwing everything they could on net,” Summerhays said. “I think they saw some of the Minnesota game tape and noticed that I gave up some bad angle goals, but I thought we really limited their quality scoring chances.”
The win was Notre Dame’s first home victory in a Hockey East game, and the game began with a ceremonial puck-drop by Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna to mark the first Hockey East game at Compton.
The Irish now sit fourth in the conference standings and will travel to No. 16 Massachusetts-Lowell next weekend.
Contact Conor Kelly at ckell17@nd.edu