Russo suspended for this weekend’s series against New Hampshire
Alex Carson | Thursday, January 29, 2015
Notre Dame will be without senior defenseman Robbie Russo when it hosts New Hampshire for a two-game series at Compton Family Ice Arena tonight and Saturday.
Russo, the nation’s leading scorer amongst defensemen, was suspended two games following an incident in the final minute of a 4-2 loss at Northeastern on Saturday. Russo was initially handed a two-minute slashing minor, however, upon further review, Hockey East opted for the suspension.
“The slashing play by Russo was deemed a dangerous play that was subject to supplemental discipline,” Hockey East Director of Communications Brian Smith said in an email response to a request for comment. “It was similar to an incident from the previous season where there was a swinging slash on a player shooting into an empty net and a two-game suspension was issued.
“Hockey East received input from others who are in the business of issuing supplemental discipline and their responses ranged from one game to three games. As safety of the athletes are a major concern to the league, a two-game suspension, consistent with precedent, was deemed the appropriate league response.”
Irish coach Jeff Jackson was unavailable for comment on the suspension; however, he discussed Russo’s contribution to the team this season Wednesday.
“[Russo]’s been huge,” Jackson said. “… He plays with poise offensively, and he’s learned to be able to mix defense with offense.”
While Notre Dame (10-13-3, 5-4-3 Hockey East) will be without Russo as it looks to rebound from an empty weekend at Northeastern, it will get center Dawson Cook back this weekend after the freshman missed the last three games with a concussion.
The Wildcats (8-14-2, 3-8-1) sit tied at the bottom of the Hockey East standings after being swept by Maine last weekend. Jackson drew parallels between New Hampshire and his team.
“They have three or four freshmen defensemen, they’ve got a young goaltender I think,” Jackson said of the Wildcats. “… There’s some similarities between them and us. They’ve always been a good program, they’ve always been well-coached and they’re gonna be challenging … they had a tough weekend last weekend and so did we.”
Jackson pointed to taking care of the puck as a key area of focus heading into the series.
“For us it’s about trying to sustain possession, make good plays at both blue lines to where we don’t turn pucks over,” Jackson said. “They’ve got a very good group of forwards and if you make mistakes with the puck, they’re gonna come after you.”
While the Irish have struggled as of late, they still sit seventh in the Hockey East standings; a three-point weekend would jump them into fifth, while a pair of wins could see them climb as high as fourth.
“To me, I met with our leadership group and the most important thing is that we need to try to come up with points every weekend,” Jackson said. “… We have to take care of the games in our building as much as possible.”
After this weekend’s series with New Hampshire and a trip to Maine next weekend, the Irish finish their season playing three top-15 teams – home series with No. 12 Providence and No. 14 Boston College sit on either side of a trip to No. 2 Boston University — and Jackson said that the team is conscious of their tough finish ahead.
“We want to put ourselves in the best position in the conference standings so we can go into the playoffs on a positive note,” Jackson said. “… It’s going to be tough when you finish off your season with Providence, Boston University and Boston College.”
Despite handing freshman goaltender Cal Petersen four consecutive starts, Jackson said that he has not written off sophomore Chad Katunar as an option at the position.
“I’m not done with Chad,” Jackson said. “… I don’t want to lose Chad mentally; I gotta keep him sharp, and I still think he has the ability to be a number-one guy. Cal had moved ahead of him a little bit, and Chad is certainly still in the mix to play this weekend.”
“[Cal] had a great game Friday night. … Saturday, I thought that he could have stopped a few of the goals and that’s where I have to get him over the hump. You have a good night, and then you have to come back with a good night.”
After starting the year with just a six percent success rate through 21 games — a mark that was last in the nation — the Irish power-play unit has scored in five straight games.
“We have to sustain it,” Jackson said of the power-play success. “We’ve been getting a goal a game and if we can sustain that, it helps us a lot.
“Both units are scoring too and that’s a great thing.”
Looking to defend their home ice, Jackson said the Irish find an extra spark when the crowd is a factor.
“When the student section is full and the band is there in full complement, it’s an impressive building and our team feeds off of that,” Jackson said. “It creates a home-ice advantage for us. Our guys, when they see that, they get energized.”
Puck drop for tonight’s game between the Irish and Wildcats is slated for 7:35 p.m., while Saturday’s contest is set to get underway at 6:35 p.m.