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Hockey

Irish welcome top-five opponent for weekend series

| Wednesday, November 19, 2014

After a weekend split with Merrimack, Notre Dame continues Hockey East play tonight when it hosts No. 5 UMass-Lowell at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Notre Dame sophomore goaltender Chad Katunar makes a save during a 5-3 home win over Lake Superior State on Oct. 17.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Notre Dame sophomore goaltender Chad Katunar makes a save during a 5-3 home win over Lake Superior State on Oct. 17.

The Riverhawks (7-2-2, 4-0-1 Hockey East) are the only team still unbeaten in conference play and split a series with non-conference foe Penn State last weekend.

The Irish (6-5-1, 2-1-1) fell from the ranks of the conference’s unbeaten Saturday, with a 4-1 loss to Merrimack in North Andover, Massachusetts. Senior defenseman Robbie Russo — who leads all defensemen nationwide with five goals and is second at his position in the country with 12 points — tallied Notre Dame’s lone goal in the game.

Freshman center Connor Hurley won the Friday night tilt for the Irish with his goal 1:44 into overtime. Sophomore forward Vince Hinostroza and junior defenseman Andy Ryan also tallied in the 3-2 victory.

Irish junior forward Mario Lucia’s eight goals on the season put him tied for eighth nationally — just one goal off of the seven players tied for the lead.

Notre Dame’s two goaltenders split duty over the weekend — sophomore Chad Katunar picked up the win Friday night while freshman Cal Petersen took the loss Saturday.

Riverhawks sophomores forward Chris Maniccia and defenseman Dylan Zink share the team lead with 10 points each for the nation’s fifth-ranked team, while UMass-Lowell is led in goals by sophomore forward Joe Gambardella, who has five.

Junior Kevin Boyle and freshman Jeff Smith have split the goaltending duties for the Riverhawks so far this season — Boyle has a 2.69 GAA and a .913 save percentage in seven decisions while Smith has a 2.43 GAA and a .908 save percentage, in four decisions. Boyle started and won Friday’s game against Penn State for the Riverhawks last weekend, while Smith started Saturday before being pulled early in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

UMass-Lowell took all three games between the teams last year, sweeping the regular-season series 1-0 and 3-1 in a pair of home games at the Tsongas Center, before hammering Notre Dame, 4-0, in the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden in Boston.

The Riverhawks have never visited Notre Dame and Compton Family Ice Arena for a hockey game — the three games played last year are the only three in series history.

Notre Dame currently sits sixth in the Hockey East standings. However, the Irish have played fewer league games then all five teams above them. A win tonight would move the Irish into fourth place in the conference.

The puck drops tonight between UMass-Lowell and Notre Dame at 7:35 p.m. at the Compton Family Ice Arena. The series will conclude Friday, with the puck drop also slated for 7:35 p.m.

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