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Hockey: Irish head into break with ‘disappointing’ split

Isaac Lorton | Sunday, December 8, 2013

Notre Dame’s weekend series with Massachusetts was a tale of two nights, as the No. 13 Irish took advantage of three power-play goals Friday to win 5-3, while on Saturday the Minutemen converted on a power-play goal with 2:47 left in the game to win 3-2.  

“[Friday night] was an ugly win,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We played better in the third period. We did what we had to do.” 

“[Saturday's loss was] disappointing,” Jackson said. “I thought we played a lot better tonight and lost. We had a chance to score a few goals in the first period and we couldn’t finish. The difference in the game was special teams. They capitalized on the power play, we didn’t.”   

Special teams played a crucial role in both games. On Friday, the Irish (10-7-1, 3-4-1 Hockey East) and Massachusetts (4-11-2, 2-7-2) combined for 15 penalties for 30 minutes. Notre Dame capitalized on three of its power plays, while the Minutemen mustered two power play goals. On Saturday, both teams had seven penalties for 14 minutes in the penalty box, and t

he rash of penalties contributed to a season high in shots allowed by Notre Dame on Friday. Irish senior goaltender Steven Summerhays made 36 saves on 39 shots, while Minutemen junior goaltender Steve Mastalerz blocked 27 on 32 shots in the series’ first game.”A number of [Massachusetts' shots] were on the power-play situations, especially the five-on-threes” Jackson said. “They put a lot of pressure on us. They are very aggressive with their forecheck and we turned too many pucks over, especially early in the game.”   

The Irish jumped to an early 1-0 lead in the game’s fourth minute when, after being hauled down on a breakaway, senior left wing and captain Jeff Costello converted a penalty shot for his fifth goal of the season. 

Notre Dame picked up a 2-0 lead on a goal from sophomore left wing Sam Herr four minutes later. Senior center T.J. Tynan kept the puck in the offensive corner, spun around a Minutemen defender and hit Herr with a pass in the middle, who put it past Mastalerz

Notre Dame then became familiar with the penalty box, committing four penalties in the next eight minutes, which resulted in two five-on-three power plays for Massachusetts. Notre Dame killed three of the four penalties but conceded a goal with 10:55 on the clock. Massachusetts freshman center Steven Iacobellis gathered a pass from senior defenseman Joel Hanley, found the left side of the net wide open and knocked it in to make the score 2-1. 

“After they scored right away off the first five-on-three, and then to get another one against us right away, you don’t see that very often,” Summerhays said. “It would have been easy for us to point fingers at the refs and kind of back down and let them score on the five-on-three, but we had great blocks and the defense got good clears. Anytime you can kill a five-on-three, let alone a 1:45 one, that’s a big confidence boost, and I think we really rode that the rest of the period.” 

In the second period the teams each scored a power-play goal to make the game 3-2 to end the middle stanza. Irish sophomore defender Andy Ryan launched a laser-like slap shot past Mastalerz at 13:34 to take a 3-1 lead, but the Minutemen responded with five seconds left in the second with a power-play goal of their own on a wrist shot from Minutemen senior center Branden Gracel

Sophomore Mario Lucia took advantage of Notre Dame’s three power plays in the third, scoring on two of them to make the score 5-2. Lucia knocked home a rebound seven minutes into the period and 10 minutes later hit a one-timer top-shelf past Mastalerz. The Irish gave up a late goal to Minutemen freshman right wing Brandon Wahlin but closed out the game to win 5-3. Lucia credited Notre Dame’s strong power play to the return of senior right wing Mike Voran, freshman center Vince Hinostroza and sophomore center Thomas DiPauli.    

“Our power play was struggling prior to not having our guys back,” Lucia said. “So it is good to have two good units.” 

On Saturday, the Irish fell behind Massachusetts for the first time all weekend. Notre Dame split the first period with the Minutemen 1-1, with Herr deflecting a shot from Ryan past Mastalerz for the Irish tally, but then conceded a power-play goal to Hanley in the third minute of the second period to go down 2-1.. Notre Dame tied the game up at 2-2 with 1:32 left in the second period as Hinostroza kept the puck in the offensive zone along the left boards then fed a pass to Lucia in the middle of the ice, who placed the shot past Mastalerz. The Irish led Massachusetts in shots on the game 35-22 but were unable to convert on their early opportunities, including a two-minute five-on-three power play in the 12th minute of first period. 

“[Friday] night pucks were going in and we weren’t overly sharp,” Jackson said. “But it isn’t a matter of how pretty it is. It’s a matter of getting pucks to the net and getting pucks through.”   

With 4:18 left in the game, Costello got a two-minute penalty for slashing when he attempted to knock in a shot that had rebounded off of Masatlerz, missed the puck and hit Mastalerz’s pad instead. Minutemen senior center Adam Phillips netted the game winner 1:31 later to give Massachusetts the 3-2 victory.   

“Yeah, it was definitely frustrating,” Costello said. “That was one of the better games we have played in this last stretch here and obviously it is frustrating to lose a goal that late in the game. Everyone battled [Saturday night] and it came to me making a stupid play at the end of the game that cost us.” 

The Irish will now take a break and return to the icen Jan. 4 against Boston College at Fenway Park in Boston.

Contact Isaac Lorton at
ilorton@nd.edu