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Hockey: Notre Dame splits series with Gophers

Casey Karnes | Sunday, November 10, 2013

No. 4 Notre Dame earned a split against No. 1 Minnesota in front of a raucous home crowd at the Compton Family Ice Arena, prevailing 4-1 in Game One before falling 5-4 in the second matchup.
The Irish (7-3, 1-1 Hockey East) opened the weekend in front of a sellout crowd Friday night but were unable to jump on the Gophers (6-1-1) right out of the gates. Minnesota used speed and aggression to put early pressure on the Irish defense, outshooting Notre Dame 17-11 in the first period.
Irish coach Jeff Jackson said there is always an adjustment period when the Irish play a No. 1 team, regardless of their degree of preparation.
“It was everything we expected,” Jackson said. “It was a high-tempo, high-paced game. I think we played a little tight in the early stages of the game. I think our guys were a little nervous in the first 10 minutes.”
Enabling the Irish to stay in the game was the strong play of senior goaltender Stephen Summerhays, who had 31 saves on the night. Summerhays’s 17 saves in the opening period allowed the Irish to enter the first break with a 0-0 tie. According to sophomore left wing Sam Herr, the goalie’s performance allowed the Irish time to build confidence.
“We kind of struggled in the first 10 minutes, and they were taking it to us,” Herr said. “[Summerhays] got us through the first 10 minutes. We just bared down on defense, and after we realized we could create opportunities from defense to transition, that’s when we started taking over the game.”
Herr, Notre Dame’s leading goal scorer, also played well, adding his sixth goal of the season. Senior forward Bryan Rust opened the scoring in the second period, driving unassisted to the net and maneuvering around Gophers sophomore goalie Adam Wilcox to put the shot home. Minnesota quickly responded when junior defenseman Ben Marshall knocked home a one-timer from junior forward Sam Warning.
The game would remain tied until, on the Irish power play, Herr took a pass from freshman center Vince Hinostroza and forced it between the legs of Wilcox for the goal with 3:06 left in the second period. After some recent struggles in man-up situations, Herr said the two powerplay goals were exactly what the Irish needed.
“That’s a confidence booster,” Herr said. “That’s been our problem, even last year. Tonight, to put in two, … everyone on the ice now is a little bit more confident, and we’ll be able to make more plays.”
The Irish would add two more goals in the third. Junior right wing Garrett Peterson scored his first of the season before senior left wing Jeff Costello put home an empty netter in the final seconds. After claiming the 4-1 victory, Jackson credited the crowd for energizing the Irish.
“It was just a great crowd, so they want to do well,” Jackson said. “Our student section, when they’re all there like that, it’s such a difference. They were our sixth man tonight.”
The Irish were unable to sustain the same defensive effort the following night, falling 5-4 to the Gophers. Minnesota came out aggressively early, notching a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes.
Gophers freshman forward Taylor Cammarata started things off by squeezing the puck between Summerhays and the post on the power play for his third goal of the season. Gophers freshman forward Hudson Fasching added another for the visiting team shortly thereafter, converting an Irish turnover into an unassisted goal.
The Irish made it 2-1 when Hinostroza hit senior defenseman Shayne Taker to set up a slapshot that made it past Wilcox’s glove side, but Gophers freshman forward Justin Kloos scored only three minutes later to extend the Minnesota lead to two. Jackson said he knew the Gophers would come out firing after putting only one goal on the board Friday.
“I expected [Minnesota] to be better, and I didn’t think we were as good,” Jackson said. “And that combination, obviously, is not a good one. [Summerhays] wasn’t as sharp as [Friday night]. It’s tough to play two great games in a row. I thought it was the result of a lot of mistakes in front of him, too, so I don’t put that on him.”
Irish sophomore left wing Mario Lucia put a goal on the board with 17 seconds remaining in the first period to pull the Irish within one before the break. The Irish added two more goals in the second stanza, one from Lucia and one from senior defenseman Stephen Johns. Hinostroza assisted on both of Lucia’s goals, giving him three assists on the night and a team-best nine on the season, but he left the game with a lower body injury and did not return.
Lucia, whose father Don Lucia played at Notre Dame and is now head coach of the Gophers, said his two goals topped off a special weekend for him.
“It was nice having my dad here for parents’ weekend. It was pretty special for him to come on the ice for that. I enjoyed the experience, but it would have been a little better if we would have swept. I could have rubbed it in a bit more.”
Fasching notched his second goal of the night early in the second period to put Minnesota up 4-2 before Notre Dame strung together the goals from Lucia and Johns to even the score. The back-and-forth contest ended when Minnesota freshman defenseman Jake Bischoff put home a shot 8:57 into the third period, and the Irish failed to respond. Even with the loss, Jackson said his team showed the country its potential this weekend.
“We didn’t play our A game tonight, and we still had a chance to win,” Jackson said. “At least we know when everybody is going that we can compete with the best teams in the country.”
The Irish return to play next weekend with a pair of home games against Merrimack.
Contact Casey Karnes at wkarnes@nd.edu