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Hockey: Sure signs of ‘Rust’

Matt DeFranks | Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It wasn’t the prettiest goal in the world. But it counted.

Sophomore right wing Bryan Rust’s overtime winner with 1.1 seconds remaining against Boston College on Nov. 18 trickled into the net after sneaking past Eagles junior goaltender Parker Milner. Since then, Rust has been riding a four-game goal steak.

“That was the spark,” Rust said. “I had to get one lucky one in order to start the streak. Hopefully, I can keep it going into Christmas break and hopefully, afterwards too.”

Both Rust and Irish coach Jeff Jackson attribute the streak to an uptick in confidence from the Novi, Mich. native.

“Confidence is everything,” Jackson said. “Once he got that softy against Boston College at a key point in the game, he got a little confidence. He’s starting to play the way I expected him to play at the start of the season.”

Rust started the season with an assist in Notre Dame’s 4-3 season-opening loss to Minnesota-Duluth and chipped in his first goal in a tie against Northern Michigan.

He now has five goals and two assists on the year. His goal streak is the longest active streak on the team.

“The first few weeks of the season, I wasn’t as aggressive as I wanted to be,” Rust said. “I wasn’t battling as hard as I knew I should have.”

A year ago, Rust tallied six goals and 13 assists while playing in 40 of Notre Dame’s 44 games. Now, Jackson sees Rust as a possible secondary scorer for the No. 2 Irish, who possess talented sophomore forwards T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee.

“He’s one of them [that can be a secondary scorer],” Jackson said. “These are all guys that are working hard, they just need to be in those situations where they can score a goal and take advantage of it. There’s a number of guys that I feel can contribute offensively.”

Jackson also said Rust’s production was something he expected at the beginning of the year.

“He works as hard as anyone,” Jackson said. “He’s prepared to practice every day. I’m glad to see him start to have a little success because that’s really what we expected at the start of the season.”

Rust, a third-round selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2010 NHL Draft, is placed on the same line as Tynan and Lee, forming a potent trio for Notre Dame (10-3-3, 7-2-3-0 CCHA).

“T.J. and Anders both have great vision and play-making ability,” Jackson said. “[Rust] just has to be at the right place at the right time. He shouldn’t feel like he needs to pass it all the time, especially if he’s in good scoring areas.”

While some may think playing with talents such as Tynan and Lee detracts from Rust’s opportunities, he said it helps him out.

“It’s actually surprisingly not as tough as you think,” Rust said. “It actually gives me more confidence because they’re always going to be there making plays. I’ll be able to take my chances.”

Rust’s four-game streak came during one of the most daunting stretches of Notre Dame’s schedule, a gauntlet that featured four top-15 opponents in eight days — with three of them on the road. Rust said the success against the tough competition was due to his ability to make the small plays.

“It’s all about working hard, making the little plays, getting pucks out of the [defensive] zone, getting pucks into the offensive zone, making hits,” Rust said.

Rust, whose brother attended and played hockey at Michigan, decided to come to Notre Dame in part to escape his brother’s shadow.

“I had to make my own path,” Rust said. “I’ve been in his shadow in my life. Throughout my life, I’ve been compared to him.”

With his recent streak, Rust has begun to make a name of his own.

“If he gets to the net and starts getting some confidence, [he can be effective],” Jackson said. “He has the ability. It’s just a matter of him taking shots and getting into those dirty zones for rebounds and deflections.”

Rust will try to extend his goal streak this weekend when the Irish welcome Northeastern (4-7-2, 3-7-2 Hockey East) to the Compton Family Ice Arena.kane, Wash.


Contact Matthew DeFranks at [email protected]