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Lucia powers Notre Dame’s growing offense

| Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Junior left wing Mario Lucia tallied his first collegiate hat trick Oct. 18 against Lake Superior State in Notre Dame’s 5-1 victory.

Irish sophomore goalkeeper Chad Katunar watches a shot fly by during Notre Dame’s 5-3 win over Lake Superior State on Oct. 17.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Irish sophomore goalkeeper Chad Katunar watches a shot fly by during Notre Dame’s 5-3 win over Lake Superior State on Oct. 17.

His dad, Don Lucia, also the head coach of the Minnesota hockey team, was present at the game. This is a rare occurrence for the Lucia family, as Mario’s games usually conflict with the Golden Gophers’ schedule.

“I think it made it special because both of my parents were there,” Lucia said. “Obviously, my mom comes every weekend, but having my dad there made it extra special because he doesn’t get to come to every one of my games.”

The younger Lucia said his father’s presence at his games usually makes for a good omen.

“It was pretty funny because he has been able to watch my last three hat tricks going back to juniors, so maybe he’s a lucky charm,” Lucia said.

Notre Dame got off to a rough start to this season, Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. Jackson said part of the struggles came because the team’s young players were still acclimating themselves to the program, while its veterans were trying to pick up the slack, which created a tense situation.

“I thought a lot of the veterans were trying to do too much, trying to become something they are not,” Jackson said. “Their roles are increased and enhanced, but what they do for the team hasn’t changed. I think they have started to get back to doing the things that they do well.”

Jackson said the early complications are smoothing out as veteran players return to playing simple and within the system, as they did last season.

“The older guys are getting their games back, getting back into the mindset and roles that they succeed at,” Jackson said.

Lucia has been one such player who has found his role again, as he has scored in four of Notre Dame’s first six games. He has racked up six goals, including the hat trick against Lake Superior State, and has two assists as well.

Irish junior left wing Mario Lucia tangles with defenders during Notre Dame’s 3-2 loss to Rensselaer on Oct. 10.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish junior left wing Mario Lucia tangles with Engineer defenders during Notre Dame’s 3-2 loss to Rensselaer on Oct. 10.

Lucia also scored in Notre Dame’s season opener against Rensselaer. He said getting the first goal out of the way made it easier for him to get back to form.

“It’s always nice scoring in the first game; it’s a lot of weight off your shoulders,” Lucia said. “When you get that first goal … you can just relax and and play the game that you have been playing that got you here to Notre Dame.”

Jackson emphasized the need for the Irish to be more aggressive toward and around the net.

“The biggest thing is still going to be … to make sure we do a good job of trying to getting pucks to the net and get traffic to the net,” Jackson said. “We can teach defense; that’s not going to be a factor. … I think when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be more about making sure we find ways to generate offense.”

Lucia has led the team in this area, as five of his goals have come from putting in rebounds or deflecting shots past the goalie.

“[I have been successful] by just getting to the net and having fortunate bounces,” Lucia said. “… It was nice to help the team win and to get the goals and start off the season like I have.”

Lucia said his mentality is to simply get the job done, whatever it may be, and goals will follow.

“Just being hungry every night,” Lucia said of his goals for each game. “I want to help our team, whether it’s scoring goals or making plays or getting assists or being gritty.”

Lucia will lead the Irish against Vermont on Friday in their first Hockey East match of the year, and he said he hopes his play will result in Notre Dame’s continued offensive production. Next weekend, the Irish take on the Golden Gophers, and Lucia joked that he hopes his dad’s presence again will lead to another hat trick, or possibly even two.

“We will see,” Lucia said.

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