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Irish split Hockey East road trip to Merrimack

| Monday, November 17, 2014

The Irish finished their weekend series against Merrimack with a split.

Notre Dame (6-5-1, 2-1-1 Hockey East) opened the series with a 3-2 overtime win Friday night, but the Warriors (7-3-1, 3-2-0) responded Saturday with a 4-1 win over the Irish at J. Thom Lawler Rink in North Andover, Massachusetts. Saturday’s decision marked Notre Dame’s first conference lost for the Irish this season.

“Overall, I did not think the team played very well, especially Saturday, considering the score,” junior defenseman Andy Ryan said. “We had a lot of trouble breaking the puck out of our own zone and committed way too many turnovers all over the ice.

“This did not allow us to have enough possession time in their zone or generate enough scoring chances.”

An overtime goal from freshman center Connor Hurley moved the Irish past Merrimack on Friday night, as he beat senior goaltender Rasmus Tirronen off a rebound of his own shot. Freshman right wing Jake Evans got the puck over the Merrimack blue line and gave it to Hurley, who then got past Tirronen on his rebound for his second goal of the season.

Ryan and sophomore center Vince Hinostroza posted the other two Irish goals. Hinostroza’s goal came near the end of the first period to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. Junior center Thomas DiPauli pump faked a Warrior defender and then fired a shot at Tirronen, who made the save and sent the puck to the left side. Hinostroza was there for the rebound and netted his second goal of the season.

Ryan’s goal resulted from a drive led by freshman left wing Anders Bjork. Bjork carried the puck to the left corner of the ice, where senior right wing and alternate captain Peter Schneider tried to place it in the short side behind Tirronen. The puck went under Tirronen’s pads, and Ryan pushed into the net for his first goal of the season.

“We definitely played better Friday night, and it was important that we played with the lead for most of the game,” Ryan said. “I thought we outplayed them as the game went on, especially after they tied it up in the third. We had a ton of scoring chances toward the end of the game and finally managed to capitalize on one of them in overtime.

“Their system is built to get a lead, then sit back and protect it, so the nature of the game allowed us to attack more on Friday. So Saturday night, we were unable to do that because they scored first.”

On Saturday, the Warriors outshot the Irish, 10-2, in the opening period alone. Freshman forward Mathieu Tibbet posted the first Warrior goal of the night as the first period came to a close. Freshman forward Brett Seney went down the left wing and sent a pass across the front of the goal, and Tibbet was there to place the puck inside the right post.

The Warriors went up by two just over two minutes into the second period. Junior forward John Gustafsson traveled down the right side to the goal and lifted a backhander over Irish freshman goaltender Cal Petersen’s stick hand. Sophomore forward Hamphus Gustafsson netted the Warrior’s third goal four minutes into the third period, while Tibbet recorded Merrimack’s fourth goal with a two-on-one chance midway through the period off a redirected feed from freshman forward Jace Hennig.

“The challenge was adjusting to their style of forecheck, which was the reason we struggled with breaking the puck out of the zone,” Ryan said. “It was a system not many other teams play, and we didn’t adjust to it very well.

“It allowed them to keep the puck in our zone for extended periods of time, and we were not able to generate enough speed and possession coming through the neutral zone if we did get the puck out.”

Senior defender Robbie Russo put the Irish on the board for the team’s lone goal with five minutes left in the third period. Russo scored off the rebound of Hinostroza’s shot for his fifth goal of the season.

The Irish will move on to their next Hockey East opponent, UMass Lowell, and look to improve deficiencies they experienced against Merrimack.

“We need to improve fast if we want to have success against one of the best teams in the country in UMass Lowell,” Ryan said. “They are a much tougher team to play against than Merrimack.

“Having said that, we believe we can improve fast because we have done very well at those things in flashes this season. It is just a matter of doing it for 60 minutes.”

Notre Dame hosts UMass Lowell on Thursday and Friday at Compton Family Ice Arena. Both games are scheduled for 7:35 p.m.

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About Kit Loughran

My name is Kit Loughran, and I am a senior at the University of Notre Dame. I am a Marketing major and Journalism minor. I write for the Sports Department of The Observer and cover Men's Soccer, Lacrosse, and Golf.

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