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Irish close out regular season by hosting Terriers

| Friday, February 21, 2014

No. 15 Notre Dame will honor its 11-man senior class this weekend when it hosts Boston University in the final games of the regular season at Compton Family Ice Arena beginning tonight.

The Irish (17-12-2, 6-9-2 Hockey East) currently sit in a tie for seventh in Hockey East with Vermont, while the Terriers [8-18-4, 3-10-3] occupy 10th place. Last weekend, Notre Dame made progress in climbing the conference tables with a 2-2 tie and 3-0 win on the road against No. 12 Providence. As the sun sets on the regular season, Irish coach Jeff Jackson said the Irish have to replicate the success they found against the Friars.

Freshman center Vince Hinostroza, center, and senior center T.J. Tynan jostle with Maine players during Maine’s 2-1 win over the Irish on Feb. 7.  A tying goal scored by senior left wing Jeff Costello was called off by the officials.Michael Yu
Freshman center Vince Hinostroza, center, and senior center T.J. Tynan jostle with Maine players during Maine’s 2-1 win over the Irish on Feb. 7. A tying goal scored by senior left wing Jeff Costello was called off by the officials.
“Hopefully this last weekend wasn’t an anomaly,” Jackson said. “We need to build up some consistency here, especially with two home games coming up. Regardless of who we’re playing against, this league is too good to take time off. We can’t afford that anymore. If we want any chance of doing anything in the Hockey East playoffs, or making the NCAA tournament, we’ve got to win games. It’s plain and simple.”

Key to Notre Dame’s success against Providence was the play of its senior class. Seniors scored four of the five Irish goals on the weekend, as center T.J. Tynan, center David Gerths, right wing Bryan Rust and left wing Jeff Costello all found the back of the net. The most impressive performance, however, was from senior goaltender Steven Summerhays, who stopped 83 out of the 85 shots he faced on the weekend and added his NCAA-leading sixth shutout on Saturday. Jackson said he believes Summerhays could carry the Irish far if he continues to perform at such a high level.

“I thought he was the difference [last weekend],” Jackson said. “[Providence] elevated their game, and he had to make some really good saves. When he’s focused, there’s a difference. If we’re going to have any chance in the playoffs, he’s going to have to play like that.”

With Senior Night approaching this Saturday, Jackson said the gutsy efforts of Summerhays and the other seniors have shown as the season wanes is the perfect representation of their careers at Notre Dame.

“They’ve certainly put their imprint in the program,” Jackson said. “I haven’t had any issues with any of them off the ice. I think this past weekend was a pretty good example, I mean I don’t think anyone played harder than that group of seniors. Some guys, you think of a few years back, might’ve checked out a little bit, since we weren’t having the kind of season they expected to have. This group hasn’t done that.”

While the seniors had success last weekend, sophomore left wing Mario Lucia and freshman center Vince Hinostroza struggled and were held scoreless. Jackson said Lucia, who leads the Irish with 15 goals, and Hinostroza, second on the Irish with 21 assists, must be able to maintain their performance even as pressure mounts.

“The big thing right now is that we need to get Hinostroza going again with Lucia,” Jackson said. “It’s playoff hockey right now, and the young guys who haven’t been through it have to find a way to grit their way through it. It’s not easy. There’s been times where those guys have had their way offensively, and right now they’re not having that same level of success.”

On the other side of the ice, Boston University is shooting for its first road win of the season. Sophomore forward Danny O’Regan and junior forward Casey Hohmann are tied for the team lead with nine goals each, and sophomore goalie Matt O’Connor has taken the lion’s share of minutes in net. While the Terriers have a losing record, they have a number of quality wins this season, including over Providence, then-No. 2 Wisconsin and then-No.17 Vermont. As such, Jackson said that Notre Dame can’t afford to take the Terriers lightly.

“[Boston is] rebuilding,” Jackson said. “They have a new coach, David Quinn, who I know pretty well. I think he’s got to build that team in his own style of play. They’re young, they’ve got some skill. From what I’ve seen they’re a good transition team offensively. And as we’ve found out, there’s not a weak link in this conference.”

Notre Dame’s seniors will take the ice for their final regular season home series at Compton Family Ice Arena at 7 p.m. Friday night against Boston University.

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