ND extends unbeaten streak with sweep of New Hampshire
Zach Klonsinski | Monday, January 25, 2016
Mario Lucia buried the game winner with 8:15 left in the third period Saturday to lead No. 13 Notre Dame to a road sweep of conference foe New Hampshire and extend the team’s unbeaten streak to 12 games.
Lucia paced the Irish (14-4-7, 10-1-2 Hockey East) in both of this weekend’s contests. The senior left wing notched three points, two goals and an assist in Notre Dame’s 5-1 victory over the Wildcats (8-12-4, 2-6-4) on Friday night before scoring the game-winning goal during the 3-2 Irish victory the following evening.
Lucia has begun to find his groove over the last month of action. The senior has scored six goals in Notre Dame’s last six games after only scoring three goals in the first 19 games of the season.
“We always know [Lucia]’s got the ability and the scoring ability, but for whatever reason he struggled at the start of the year offensively,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said about the Plymouth, Minnesota, native Sunday afternoon. “There’s no better time than the second half and especially in the stretch run here for him to start heating up.”
Jackson said while he would like to see a little more consistency in Lucia’s game, when the 6-foot-3, 206-pound winger is “playing with his jam” he has the ability to take control of a game.
“The goal he scored [Saturday] night, that was a power forward’s move,” Jackson said. “He took the puck, he protected it, he took it to the net, and he didn’t give up because he scored on maybe the second rebound even.
“It was a big time goal. It was a pro hockey goal.”
Lucia was far from the only Irish player to extend notable personal streaks over the weekend. Sophomore left wing Anders Bjork pushed his current point streak to 10 games (seven goals and eight assists over the span) while sophomore center Jake Evans and freshman defenseman Bobby Nardella bumped their streaks to six and seven games, respectively. Bjork scored a goal Friday night and then chipped in an assist Saturday while Evans mirrored him, assisting on senior left wing Sam Herr’s goal Friday night before scoring a power play goal himself Saturday night. Nardella dished out three total helpers on the weekend.
Jackson maintained consistency throughout the lineup has allowed his team to sustain its high-level of play since the Irish began their unbeaten streak with a 3-1 win over Western Michigan on Nov. 28.
“We’ve had many different games, different types of games,” Jackson said. “Some games we’ve relied on our goaltender too much. Some games it’s been our special teams that’s done a really good job, but I think it’s just right now the balance we’re getting from our four lines and our six defensemen.
“ … It certainly makes it tough to play against when we’ve got that many guys who are all playing at the same level.”
The Irish were in control of Friday’s game from the opening minutes. Sophomore center Connor Hurley put Notre Dame ahead just 3:15 into the game, and Lucia stretched the lead to 2-0 just over three minutes later. Bjork, Herr and Lucia’s second also scored for the Irish, while the Wildcats beat sophomore netminder Cal Petersen on a penalty shot at the end of the second period.
On Saturday, Notre Dame jumped out to a 2-0 lead again on power play goals from senior center Thomas DiPauli and Evans, but the Wildcats scored a pair of second period goals to tie the score headed into the third period. Lucia’s third goal of the weekend put the Irish in front for good though.
Notre Dame returns to Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend to face No. 4 Boston College on Friday at 7:35 p.m. The Irish and Golden Eagles met in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, on Dec. 10, when Notre Dame scored three third period goals to stun its rival en route to a 4-3 victory.