ND earns win, tie in first series with Huskies
Alex Carson | Monday, January 19, 2015
Irish coach Jeff Jackson recorded his 400th career win and senior defenseman Robbie Russo notched four goals, including a hat trick, as Notre Dame took three points from a home-and-home series with Connecticut this weekend.
The Irish (10-11-3, 5-2-3 Hockey East) kicked things off with a 3-3 tie against Huskies (7-11-5, 4-5-2) on Friday at Compton Family Ice Arena, before winning 6-1 in the return game Sunday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Russo, who opened the weekend’s scoring for the Irish with a four-on-four goal in the first period Friday, closed the weekend with a hat trick Sunday, the first for an Irish blueliner since Frank O’Brien’s hat trick in February of 1988.
Russo now finds himself atop the NCAA leaderboards for points (24) and goals (11) by a defenseman.
“He’s just brought his full game together,” Jackson said. “He’s doing what he’s always been capable of doing offensively; he’s playing with a lot more assertiveness and he’s still doing a good job defensively.
“He’s certainly if not the best right now, he’s one of the best college defensemen in the country.”Prior to Notre Dame’s offensive explosion Sunday, Connecticut took the lead on a power-play goal with 3:44 to play in the first period when freshman center Kasperi Ojantakanen fired a shot off the post and past Irish freshman goaltender Cal Petersen.
It was the only time the Huskies beat Petersen on Sunday, who followed a 17-save performance Friday with a 28-save one Sunday.
“He played well [today],” Jackson said. “He didn’t face a lot of hard shots. … He made the saves he needed to and that’s what we need from our goaltender.”
Russo leveled the score right before the first intermission when he buried a one-timer past Huskies sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols with 48 seconds to play in the period.
It was a sign of things to come the rest of the way for the Irish, who overcame a tendency of late struggles to secure a lopsided victory.
At the 12:33 mark of the second period, senior center Joe Aiken scored his first career goal for the Irish to put Notre Dame up 2-1. Sophomore right winger Ben Ostlie provided the assist for his first collegiate point.
With 1:01 left in the second period, junior left winger Mario Lucia buried a rebound on the power play to give the Irish a two-goal lead headed into the final stanza. It was Lucia’s second goal of the weekend and 15th of the season, a mark that leads the team.More importantly for Jackson and the Irish, it marked a third consecutive game with a power-play goal — a department in which Notre Dame has struggled this season.
“We made one more personnel change, and it looks like we might have some chemistry [on the power play units], not with one group but two,” Jackson said. “It’s a positive, but we’ve still got to work to improve it.”
Russo tallied twice more after the second intermission — 2:55 and 13:09 into the third period — to get his hat trick, and sophomore defenseman Justin Wade joined Aiken in notching his first career goal when he beat Nichols to finish the scoring with 2:55 to play.
“It was especially special for [Wade and Aiken],” Jackson said.
The win was the 400th of Jackson’s career as a head coach. However, he minimized the importance of his total win total.
“To me, it’s more about trying to win championships and to graduate kids,” Jackson said. “That number, it’s really not about that.”Friday’s game got off to testy start when Huskies sophomore defenseman Ryan Segalla was issued a five-minute major and game disqualification for hitting from behind in a play that concussed Irish freshman center Dawson Cook. Irish right winger Peter Schneider was penalized after the play for an elbow in retaliation, setting up the four-on-four situation that led to Russo’s first goal.
Notre Dame’s lead did not last long, though, as a turnover behind the net gave Huskies freshman left winger Spencer Naas an opening in the slot to fire past Petersen to level the score seven minutes later.
Lucia put Notre Dame back ahead 8:45 into the second period when he tapped one in from senior right winger Austin Wuthrich across the goalmouth, but the Irish entered the third period down 3-2 after a two-on-one and breakaway in quick succession allowed Huskies junior center Shawn Pauly and senior left winger Cody Sharib to each score and put the visitors ahead.
The Irish, however, secured a point when Wuthrich got a goal of his own, slapping the puck past Nichols on the power play to tie the game up with 8:23 to play.
“I just spun and tried to hit it towards the net and it happened to go in,” Wuthrich said.
Despite Notre Dame’s 44-20 shot advantage on the night, the Irish were unable to find the winner the rest of the way, settling for a 3-3 tie.
The Irish return to action when they visit Boston next weekend for a series against Northeastern on Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m.