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Hockey

Icers take on Boston College in final game

| Friday, February 28, 2014

No. 14 Notre Dame will ride a three-game winning streak into its final regular season game against No. 1 Boston College at Kelley Rink in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

The two teams will complete their season series Saturday after they faced off outdoors at Fenway Park in Boston on Jan. 4.  Led by junior forward Johnny Gaudreau’s two goals, the Eagles (25-4-4, 16-1-2 Hockey East) were able to earn a 4-3 victory over the Irish (19-12-2, 8-9-2). Senior forwards T.J. Tynan and Bryan Rust and sophomore forward Mario Lucia all had goals in Notre Dame’s losing effort. Since that loss, however, a lot has changed, Irish coach Jeff Jackson said.

Senior center and alternate captain T.J. Tynan looks for an opening in Notre Dame’s 4-0 loss to Northeastern on Jan. 24.Michael Yu

Senior center and alternate captain T.J. Tynan looks for an opening in Notre Dame’s 4-0 loss to Northeastern on Jan. 24.

“They had played the previous weekend, and we hadn’t played in four or five weeks,” Jackson said. “I think the first 10 minutes of that game, I don’t think we were ready for the speed or competitiveness of the game. I thought we turned the corner after that first 10 minutes, but we were already down 2-0.

“This is a different scenario; at least we’ve been playing better here in the last couple weeks. Our guys will be ready to play them; every team gets up for them.”

The Irish have a 4-0-1 record in their last five games, including a pair of 2-0 wins over Boston University last weekend. Junior forward Austin Wuthrich scored a goal in both games of the series, raising his season total to six.

Senior goaltender Steven Summerhays, meanwhile, increased his NCAA-leading number of shutouts this season to seven on Friday and surpassed David Brown and Jordan Pearce as the school’s all-time leader in career shutouts with 13. Summerhays was not officially credited with a shutout Saturday, as he played 59:08 of the Senior Night win before conceding the net to fellow senior goaltender Joe Rogers for the game’s final 52 seconds. Despite Summerhays’ strong recent play, senior defenseman Kevin Lind said the Irish can’t afford to let up in their preparations or effort.

“[Summerhays] is playing well, which is great because we really needed him to come back strong,” Lind said. “I think our mentality stays the same, continue doing what’s giving us success. Doesn’t matter who the opponent is, we want to take our game to them instead of waiting for them to dictate play.”

On the other side, the Eagles are on a 19-game unbeaten streak, with 17 wins and two ties since a 5-4 loss to Holy Cross on Nov. 29. Boston College has mostly relied on freshman Thatcher Demko in net to lead a unit allowing a Hockey East-low 2.00 goals per game in conference play.

Demko’s excellence has been supported by a team that has scored 74 goals in conference play, 17 more than the second-highest scoring team. Boston College’s potent offense is led by Gaudreau’s 29 goals and 63 points, both of which lead the nation. Senior forward Kevin Hayes has 22 goals and 29 assists of his own, and his 51 points are tied for second-most in the nation. Senior forward Bill Arnold rounds out Boston College’s formidable top line, which Jackson said is the best in the country.

“They’ve got great goaltending, they’ve got great defense and they have maybe the best combination of forwards in the country,” Jackson said. “That top line, since they’ve put them together, has been unstoppable. We saw it first-hand when we played them at Fenway Park.”

While Boston College has clinched the regular season Hockey East title, the Irish are still jockeying for seeding in the conference tournament — with the potential to finish as high as sixth or as low as eighth — and trying to enhance their chances of earning an NCAA tournament bid. Adding even more significance to Saturday’s game is the rivalry between Notre Dame and Boston College.

“Especially since moving to Hockey East, I think it’s our biggest [rival],” Lind said. ”Obviously, [it’s] the two predominant Catholic schools pretty much in this country. We’ve always played them pretty well, always had one-goal games against them. We’ve played in ultimate settings like Fenway Park and things like that, so I think it’s a very good rivalry.”

The Irish and Eagles face off at Kelley Rink in Chestnut Hill, Mass., at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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