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Hockey

Irish host BU in playoffs

| Thursday, March 6, 2014

Coming off of two disheartening losses on the road to New Hampshire, the No. 11 Irish were just 4-8-1 in conference play and near the basement of Hockey East, facing a home series against No. 20 Maine. When the Black Bears took the first game of the weekend 2-1 after the apparent tying goal was waved off with no explanation, it could have tolled a death knoll for Notre Dame’s season.

Senior defenseman Kevin Lind watches the puck during Notre Dame’s 4-0 loss to Northeastern at the Compton Family Ice Arena on Jan. 24. The irish went 5-0-1 in their last six games before the post-season begins Friday.Greg Hadley | The Observer

Senior defenseman Kevin Lind watches the puck during Notre Dame’s 4-0 loss to Northeastern at the Compton Family Ice Arena on Jan. 24. The irish went 5-0-1 in their last six games before the post-season begins Friday.

Senior defenseman Kevin Lind watches the puck during Notre Dame’s 4-0 loss to Northeastern at the Compton Family Ice Arena on Jan. 24. The irish went 5-0-1 in their last six games before the post-season begins Friday.Instead, the play lit a fire under the Irish (20-12-2, 9-9-2 Hockey East). Senior right wing Bryan Rust buried two goals in the final 1:08 of the game Saturday, lifting Notre Dame to a 3-2 win over Maine and sparking a recent stretch in which the Irish have gone 5-0-1, including a 2-1 overtime victory over then No. 1 Boston College in the final game of the season.

Now, the Irish roll into the Hockey East playoffs against Boston University (10-20-4, 5-12-3) this weekend on a run that seemed highly unlikely just one month ago. Eighth-seeded Notre Dame will take on the ninth-seeded Terriers on Friday at Compton Family Ice Arena. The winner of the one-game playoff will face Boston College, Providence or Massachusetts-Lowell in a three-game quarterfinal series, depending on the results of the other two preliminary games (Merrimack at Maine and Massachusetts at Vermont.)

Although this is Notre Dame’s first season in Hockey East, Boston University is a familiar opponent for the Irish. The two teams played a pair at Compton just two weeks ago, with Notre Dame sweeping the series thanks to a pair of shutouts by senior goaltender Steven Summerhays.

The play of Summerhays has been a catalyst in the team’s recent stretch. Since the win in the second game of the Maine series on Feb. 8, the senior has allowed just three goals, posting a .979 save percentage during the run.

The Terriers come into the weekend after sweeping last weekend’s home-and-home series against No. 14 Northeastern, but the team has struggled mightily in the second half of the season. The 2009 national champions went just 1-12-2 in the second half before the Northeastern series, including a pair of 2-0 defeats to the Irish at Compton. The team has been particularly inept on the road, going just 1-11-1 on the season. The Irish, who will host the first round game, have gone 15-5-1 at home.

Despite recent successes, Notre Dame has had a hard time generating goals. With Summerhays’ recent stellar play, the Irish have not needed to fill the net, managing to win their last five games despite not scoring more than three goals in any of them.

Senior center T.J. Tynan leads the team with 31 points while sophomore left wing Mario Lucia has scored a team-high 15 goals, but the Irish have struggled to find consistent scoring.

The Irish take on Boston University in the preliminary round of the Hockey East tournament at 7:05 p.m. at Compton Family Ice Arena.

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