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Hockey

Irish, Minutemen split weekend series

| Monday, December 5, 2016

No. 12 Notre Dame returned to action over the weekend on the road in Amherst, Massachusetts, splitting its series against UMass.

The Irish (8-6-2, 4-3-1 Hockey East) bounced back from a 5-4 loss Friday night to post a 3-0 shutout of the Minutemen (4-8-2, 2-6-1) on Saturday.

After a scoreless first period to kick off the weekend series Friday night, Notre Dame lost control of the game in the second period, surrendering goals to Minutemen senior forward Ray Pigozzi, freshman forward Niko Hildenbrand and senior forward Steven Iacobellis to fall behind 3-0 after two periods of play. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson credited the Minutemen’s effort on the ice for his team’s sluggish start.

“For whatever reason, we were not sharp in the early part of the game,” Jackson said. “Give them credit, too. They played extremely hard — made it very frustrating to play against them — so it wasn’t just us. They played pretty well, too.”

The third period turned into a riot of goals, as Notre Dame furiously attempted to mount a comeback. Freshman defenseman Andrew Peeke got the Irish on the scoreboard 68 seconds into the third period with a quick shot off a rebound, and junior forward Anders Bjork put the puck in the back of the net just three minutes later to make it a 3-2 game.

Irish junior forward Anders Bjork settles the puck and surveys the ice during Notre Dame’s 4-1 loss to UMass Lowell on Nov. 17.Mackenzi Marinovich | The Observer

Irish junior forward Anders Bjork settles the puck and surveys the ice during Notre Dame’s 4-1 loss to UMass Lowell on Nov. 17.

However, the Minutemen responded with a goal of their own on a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity. After the Irish countered with a power-play goal from sophomore defensemen Bobby Nardella to make it 4-3, Pigozzi scored what would prove to be the deciding goal off an offensive-zone faceoff at the 12:46 mark in the third period. Bjork managed to score his second goal of the game to draw the score to 5-4, but the Irish couldn’t find the tying goal during the final four minutes of play.

“We didn’t do a real good job managing the puck,” Jackson said. “Between our defensemen on the breakout at times and then a little bit in the offensive zone, where we didn’t have enough patience, where we got one play and then it was done. We were chasing and did too much chasing.”

On Saturday, as has been a theme this season, Notre Dame played much better. Sophomore forward Andrew Oglevie got the Irish off on the right foot by scoring off a rebound in the closing minute of the first period. After falling behind 3-0 the previous night, Jackson said he thought getting off to a good start was the key for the Irish on Saturday.

“The first goal is really important in any hockey game, and something we have had a difficult time doing,” Jackson said. “We tried to put a little more emphasis on it. We’ve been a pretty good second-period team and a good third-period team, so it is important to get off to better starts and not put ourselves in a hole.”

Junior forward Jake Evans provided the main offensive production Saturday, however, as his slapshot in the second period found the back of the net to put the Irish up 2-0, and later he sealed the deal with an empty-net goal in the third period.

Cal Peterson also provided tremendous effort for Notre Dame on Saturday, as the junior goalkeeper stopped all 22 shots he faced en route to his second shutout of the season and seventh of his career. Peterson helped stop five UMass power plays by coming up with several big stops in the first and second periods, and Jackson thought it was just the performance his goaltender needed in preparation for the team’s upcoming big games.

“The shutout was good for Cal, because he had a tough night [Friday],” Jackson said. “Last year, he played the whole season and saved his best for the second half of the year, so I have full confidence he’s going to have a great second half [this season]. But we have one more game here in the first semester to focus on [against Boston College] and he’ll have to focus real well for that one.”

Notre Dame will wrap the first-half of the season when it returns home to host No. 3 Boston College at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Compton Family Ice Arena. 

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