ND advances past BC
Sam Gans | Monday, March 17, 2014
No. 11 Notre Dame did something this weekend it hadn’t in more than a month: lose a game. But it only did so once in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinals against No. 2 Boston College, winning twice in Chestnut Hill, Mass., to advance to the Hockey East semifinals.
The eighth-seeded Irish (23-13-2, 9-9-2 Hockey East) won the deciding third game, 4-2, on Sunday over the top-seeded Eagles (26-7-4, 16-2-2). That victory, coupled with a 7-2 rout on Friday, sent Notre Dame on in the tournament, despite a 4-2 loss Saturday.
Boston College freshman forward Ryan Fitzgerald struck first Friday to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead with 2:23 remaining in the first period. But Irish senior defenseman Stephen Johns scored his sixth goal of the season with less than 10 seconds left in the period to tie the score.
Johns scored again just 2:50 into the second period on the power play to give Notre Dame a lead it never relinquished, and sophomore forward Mario Lucia provided some breathing room midway through the second period with his 16th goal of the season.
The floodgates opened in the third as Irish junior forward Peter Schneider scored twice and senior forward Bryan Rust and sophomore forward Thomas DiPauli also found the back of the net to make the margin 7-1 before the Eagles added a late goal.
The Irish entered the series off a 3-2 win over ninth-seeded Boston University in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs March 8 at Compton Family Ice Arena. The Eagles earned a bye and last played March 1 in a 2-1 overtime loss to Notre Dame. Irish coach Jeff Jackson said the long break may have impacted Boston College on Friday.
“We forced them into some turnovers, and we capitalized,” Jackson said. “Our guys played really well, and I think that the bye week — that hurt BC. They weren’t as sharp as I expected them to be.”
After Friday’s shellacking, the Eagles responded strongly Saturday. Rust gave the Irish a 1-0 lead just 39 seconds into the game, but Boston College scored the game’s next four goals — two in the first period and two in the third. Eagles junior forward Johnny Gaudreau — the top pointscorer in the country and runaway favorite to win this year’s Hobey Baker Award as the best player in the nation — tallied two goals and two assists in the victory.
It was Notre Dame’s first defeat since a 2-1 loss to Maine on Feb. 7 and snapped an Irish eight-game unbeaten streak and six-game winning streak.
Boston College continued the momentum early into Sunday’s game as Eagles senior forward Kevin Hayes scored less than five minutes into the game. But Johns scored his third goal of the series later in the first to knot the score. Irish sophomore forward Sam Herr gave Notre Dame a brief advantage early in the second period with his 14th goal of the year before Boston College senior forward Patrick Brown made the game even again less than four minutes later.
Rust, however, gave the Irish a 3-2 lead with less than five seconds remaining in the second period, and Irish senior captain and forward Jeff Costello put the game away with a goal in the game’s final two minutes.
Irish senior goaltender Steven Summerhays stopped 30 shots in the win. Gaudreau had recorded a point in 31 straight games entering Sunday but was held off the scoresheet for just the second time this season.
“It was three games in three days, which college kids aren’t accustomed to, but that applies to both teams, and I think the tempo of the game wasn’t quite as high as Friday or Saturday, which probably favored us,” Jackson said. “So overall, I think our guys did a good job defending. I thought we transitioned well from that defense — we scored a couple of really nice goals off transition.”
With the win, Notre Dame prevented Boston College from appearing in the Hockey East semifinals for the first time since 2004. The series victory also helps Notre Dame’s chances to clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Irish currently sit eighth in the PairWise rankings. The six conference tournament champions and the top 10 teams in the PairWise that do not win a conference tournament make up the 16-team tournament field.
Up next for the Irish is a meeting Friday with UMass-Lowell in TD Garden in Boston at 5 p.m.