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Irish victorious in Hockey East playoff opener against Boston University

| Saturday, March 8, 2014

No. 11 Notre Dame burst out to a fast start and held on late for a 3-2 win over Boston University in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs on Saturday night at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Junior forward Peter Schneider put the eighth-seeded Irish (21-12-2) up 3-1 with a top-shelf finish over the right shoulder of Boston University sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor 3:07 into the third period. The ninth-seeded Terriers (10-21-4) pulled within one with 5:38 left in regulation when freshman forward Robbie Baillargeon scored on the power play, but Irish senior goaltender Steven Summerhays was able to shut the door the rest of the way.

Schneider’s goal gave the Irish their second two-goal lead of the game. Irish senior forward and captain Jeff Costello made the score 2-0 midway through the second period with a shot through O’Connor’s five hole just after an Irish power play concluded. But Terrier junior forward Evan Rodrigues put Boston University on the board shortly before the second intermission.

“I think we were kind of sitting back on our heels a little bit once we got the lead instead of going at it more,” Costello said. “They pressured us hard and came at us hard which caused some turnovers and they were getting chances off those, and we can’t do that when we have that 2-0 lead.”

The Irish opened the scoring 6:28 into the game with a goal from senior forward Bryan Rust. After a Terrier turnover in the Notre Dame offensive zone, Irish senior forward T.J. Tynan fed Rust alone in front, who made a move to beat O’Connor and finish the backhand goal.

Rust’s goal set the stage for play that was largely controlled by Notre Dame until the game’s latter stages. The Terriers earned a five-on-three with 6:40 left in the third, and Baillargeon scored just seconds after the first penalty’s expiration. Boston University had just 14 total shots in the first two periods before firing 13 in the final 20 minutes.

“We had a little bit of a breakdown there in the second period for a couple of shifts where we turned pucks over and they ended up scoring, and then obviously giving them a five-on-three, that’s not a healthy thing,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said. “Other than that, I thought we had good control of the game for the most part.”

The win over the Terriers was Notre Dame’s fifth straight in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten streak, which includes a pair of 2-0 wins over Boston University in Compton on Feb. 21 and 22. The victory also marked the last home game for Notre Dame’s 11-man senior class.

“It’s a fitting way to go out with the class we have here,” Costello said. “We enjoyed every game we had in the Joyce [Fieldhouse] and here, so it’s definitely exciting to get the win.”

Sixth-seeded Maine and seventh-seeded Vermont were both victorious in their opening round contests. As a result, the Irish will travel to top-seeded Boston College — who had a bye — for a quarterfinal series next weekend. The Irish defeated the Eagles (25-5-4) on the road 2-1 in overtime on March 1. Unlike the first round, which was single elimination, the quarterfinals are a best-of-three series.

“To us, I don’t think it really matters who we play next,” Schneider said. “BC’s obviously an excellent team, but we’ve got to play our game, and we won there last week and we’re going there to win again.”

Contact Sam Gans at [email protected]

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