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Minnesota takes sweep over Irish

| Monday, November 10, 2014

No. 14 Notre Dame had a disappointing weekend against No. 1 Minnesota as the Irish were dominated in both contests at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers won 5-0 Friday before returning Sunday to hand Notre Dame a 4-2 defeat.

Freshman Cal Petersen started in net in both games for the Irish (5-4-1, 1-0-1, Hockey East) but had little chance against a balanced onslaught from the Gophers (7-1). Five different players found the back of the net for the home team Friday. Sophomore forward Justin Kloos opened the weekend’s scoring with a first period power play goal, and freshman forward Leon Bristedt netted his first goal of the season in the second period. The Gophers got three pucks by Petersen in the final period on their way to the commanding victory.

Sunday, the Gophers again had a balanced offense, as four separate players lit the lamp. Senior forward Sam Warning opened the game with his third goal of the season and sophomore forward Hudson Fasching and junior defenseman Mike Reilly made it 3-0 by the end of the first period. Notre Dame’s two goals both came in Sunday’s second period as senior defenseman Robbie Russo cut the lead to 3-1 and senior right wing Austin Wuthrich followed a Minnesota goal with one of his own to make the score 4-2.

Irish coach Jeff Jackson said he liked the play of the offense in the second and third periods, but they did not find a rhythm until too late. Overall, he said he was unimpressed with the way his team handled the occasion against a great team.

“We played an exceptional team, and we did not play very well,” Jackson said. “I thought we played better in the last two periods. We played with a lot more intensity and started doing things with the puck and making plays, which we didn’t do for four periods. I think we were intimidated, frankly.”

Minnesota outshot the Irish, 44-20, Friday and was dominant again Sunday as it tallied 31 shots to Notre Dame’s 23. Junior Adam Wilcox spent the weekend in the net for the Gophers and racked up 43 saves over the two outings. Meanwhile, Petersen made 39 saves Friday and got six more Sunday before being pulled for sophomore Chad Katunar after the Gophers got out to a 3-0 lead.

Despite the team’s struggles, Jackson acknowledged the prowess of the Gophers and tried to glean some positives out of the series for a young Irish team that features 11 newcomers.

“Anytime you play in that environment, it certainly helps you for the future,” Jackson said. “It’s an intimidating environment if you’ve never experienced it before, and a lot of our guys haven’t, so it is helpful for them.”

With the losses, Notre Dame’s six-game unbeaten streak came to an end and the Irish face a stretch of four consecutive Hockey East contests. Currently, the Irish sit in a tie for seventh in the conference, but no team has played more than six conference games. The Irish head to Merrimack next weekend before hosting No. 6 UMass-Lowell on Nov. 20 and 21.

Irish senior defenseman Robbie Russo controls the puck during Notre Dame’s 3-2 loss to Rensselaer on Oct. 10.Michael Yu
Irish senior defenseman Robbie Russo controls the puck during Notre Dame’s 3-2 loss to Rensselaer on Oct. 10.
Jackson said the visit to Merrimack (6-2-1, 2-1-0) would be a trying experience, particularly fresh off tangling with the Gophers.

“The games ahead are going to be extremely challenging,” Jackson said. “Next weekend against Merrimack, we’ve never played them before, and it’ll probably be the exact opposite of what we had this weekend. It’ll be a small venue, defensive style and we have to re-establish how we’re going to challenge teams. We’re playing well right now and competing hard.”

Merrimack’s Lawler Rink has a capacity of 2,549, just more than a quarter of Mariucci Arena’s capacity of 10,000 and half of Compton Family Ice Arena’s 5,000.

Jackson said the Irish were eager for a different kind of challenge against Merrimack and were also eager to play the conference leading Riverhawks (6-1-2, 4-0-1) at home in two weeks time.

The Irish play Merrimack on Friday and Saturday night. The puck drops at 7 p.m. each night.

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About Josh Dulany

Originally from Texas, I grew up overseas and attended high school in Ethiopia. I have always followed sports intently and enjoy watching and playing practically any sport. I am double majoring in Marketing and FTT.

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