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Hockey

Notre Dame troubled by inconsistency between the pipes

| Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hank Aaron is reported to have said, “Consistency is what counts. You have to be able to do things over and over again.”

Irish coach Jeff Jackson, now more than halfway through the season, has yet to find that level of consistency in either of the two young Irish goaltenders, sophomore Chad Katunar and freshman Cal Petersen, neither of whom has emerged as the No. 1 guy between the pipes.

“As soon as one steps up and says, ‘Hey, this is my job,’” Jackson said. “Neither one of them is close to a 92 save percentage right now. If somebody stepped up and showed me some consistency.”

In 13 starts and 14 games played, Petersen has allowed 34 goals on 354 shots for a .904 save percentage, while Katunar has a .900 save percentage in nine starts and 10 games played.

Irish freshman goalie Cal Petersen tracks the puck during Notre Dame’s 3-2 overtime loss to Union College on Nov. 28 at Compton Family Ice Arena. Petersen is 5-8-1 with a .904 save percentage between the pipes.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish freshman goalie Cal Petersen tracks the puck during Notre Dame’s 3-2 overtime loss to Union College on Nov. 28 at Compton Family Ice Arena. Petersen is 5-8-1 with a .904 save percentage between the pipes.

Jackson has been adamant throughout the season that he will continue to use two goalies until one performs at a high level for a full 60 minutes. The past weekend’s series against Western Michigan showed just that philosophy, as Petersen started Friday and Katunar got the nod Saturday.

“Cal played well on Friday until the very end,” Jackson said. “The last two goals were not great goals. He’s got to find a way to be the closer. He has to learn to play better in the third period, how to make sure that’s when he buckles down, doesn’t psych himself out. But, remember, he’s a freshman.

“And then Saturday night, I started Chad and thought that at least two of those goals were not good goals.”

Notre Dame (9-11-2, 4-2-2 Hockey East) lost both games to the Broncos (9-9-2, 2-6-2 NCHC), allowing four goals in each game.

Jackson said he has not seen the mental fortitude he wants in his starting goalie.

“I think it’s important you’ve got to close strong,” Jackson said. “You have to finish a game. It’s no different than a great starting pitcher going nine innings or even having the relief pitcher mentality. Can you be [Mariano] Rivera in the ninth?”

The tides seemed to have shifted from the beginning of the season, however. Katunar started the season as the regular Friday night starter, and Petersen would close out the weekend. More recently, Petersen has had the opportunity to prove himself Friday night to earn the starting spot Saturday.

Over break, Petersen got the first start of the Florida College Hockey Classic against then-No. 6 Miami (Ohio). After earning the 3-2 victory with 18 saves Dec. 28, Petersen started the next game against Lake Superior State, which the Irish lost 2-1.

Last weekend, Petersen had the same opportunity, Jackson said, but the two goals he allowed in the third period gave Katunar the start Saturday.

“Yeah, I probably would have [started Cal on Saturday],” Jackson said. “I did that in the tournament, and I probably would have this weekend.”

It may be “easier to get into a groove” as a goalie and build consistency in net playing every night and not rotating, Jackson said, but he added Petersen and Katunar still “have to play well” with the opportunities they are given. As the Irish move forward into Hockey East competition, Jackson said he will treat the two young netminders the same as he would any at other position.

“When you have a another guy right behind you, breathing down your back, you’ve got to play well,” Jackson said. “It’s no different than anybody — forwards, defenseman — if you play well, you play again. Most of our guys play back-to-back [nights], but if guys don’t have a great night, generally they get taken out of the lineup. It’s almost the same with goaltenders — you’ve got to play well to earn that next night, and then you keep that going.”

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