Notre Dame tops Vermont in home matchup
Alex Bender | Monday, February 6, 2017
Playing in a crucial weekend series against Hockey East foe and No. 12 ranked Vermont, No. 17 Notre Dame came away with a critical three points to move up the Hockey East standings as they push toward conference championship season.
Coming into Friday night’s matchup in sixth place in Hockey East play, the Irish (15-9-4, 8-5-3 Hockey East) came out in their first game with a sense of urgency. The Irish drew first blood in the opening period when sophomore forward Andrew Oglevie sped through the Catamount defense to give the Irish an early 1-0 lead at the 5:59 mark. Near the end of the first period, junior forward Bo Brauer padded the lead off an assist from freshman forward Mike O’Leary, who earned his first career point with the assist after filling in for junior forward Anders Bjork, who was out with an illness.
The Catamounts (16-9-3, 8-6-2) would begin to control the game from that point onward, putting pressure on the Irish defense and junior goaltender Cal Peterson. By the end of the second period Peterson had made 28 saves, but Vermont had made it a one-score game. In the third period, the offensive floodgates opened for the Catamounts. Back-to-back goals within the first two minutes of the period gave Vermont a 3-2 lead. Quickly pushing the lead to 4-2 at the 7:43 mark, the Catamounts appeared to have the game under wraps against a tiring Notre Dame squad.
However, the Irish found a way to fight back and rejuvenate their offense. A goal by junior forward Jake Evans brought the Irish closer with 3:10 left. This was followed soon after with a game-tying goal by freshman forward Cam Morrison, sending Compton into a frenzy and the game into overtime.
The Catamounts dominated the extra period for the most part, but Peterson made six huge saves — 43 on the night — to preserve the 4-4 tie. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson thought his team showed a lot of resilience in an important game.
“I give the kids a lot of credit for coming back,” Jackson said. “We put ourselves in a bit of a hole there in the third period … but they handled it, obviously. As far as where we are, every game right now is like a playoff game.”
Going into Saturday, Notre Dame was looking to continue its momentum from the late stages of the night before. The first period saw a number of penalties but neither team would be very successful throughout the night with the one man advantage. With six minutes to go in the first, a snapshot from the point by freshman defenseman Matt O’Donnell gave the Catamounts the 1-0 lead at the intermission.
Play would largely settle down throughout much of the second period with neither team developing many strong chances. The Irish finally capitalized on their 19th shot of the night as Oglevie ripped home a wrist shot with five to go in the second. They tacked on another when junior defenseman Jordan Gross was able to find the back of the net on a low wrister with just 18 seconds left on the clock, giving Notre Dame the 2-1 lead heading to the dressing room.
To start the third, it was Vermont that emerged as the aggressor early on in the period, yet the score remained 2-1. Eventually with just about five to go, Notre Dame extended the lead and gave itself a little room for comfort off a tip-in by O’Leary, the first of his career. Jackson said he was very pleased with the play of O’Leary as well as many other freshmen and sophomores who contributed throughout the weekend.
“It’s nice to see the younger guys as the season progresses, to get a little more understanding in their game and how we have to play to be successful,” Jackson said. “All those guys play with a little bit of energy and edge, which you really need to have this time of year.”
Freshman forward Cal Burke would score on an empty net with less than two minutes to go, giving goaltender Cal Petersen an unconventional assist and putting the game away. The Irish won by a final score of 4-1 and walked away successful from the weekend.
Moving onto next week, Notre Dame heads on the road to Maine for another pair of conference games. Coming off a weekend of solid play, Jackson hopes his team can carry the momentum forward.
“[Main is] a tough team in their own building, and they’re an improved team,” Jackson said. “We’re going to have to be prepared as they’re a team that usually plays a high-tempo game, so it’s going to boil down to our puck decisions and our defensive transitions which were much better this weekend.”