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Irish leave Boston with three points from weekend

| Sunday, February 22, 2015

On the back of a star performance from freshman goaltender Cal Petersen, Notre Dame stole the weekend from No. 3 Boston University, with a 2-2 overtime tie Friday night and a 3-2 victory Saturday night.

Irish freshman goaltender Cal Petersen watches a puck sail by in Notre Dame’s 5-2 loss to New Hampshire on Jan. 30. Monica Villagomez Mendez | The Observer
Irish freshman goaltender Cal Petersen watches a puck sail by in Notre Dame’s 5-2 loss to New Hampshire on Jan. 30.

With the three points this weekend, the Irish (14-15-5, 9-6-5 Hockey East) clinched a home-ice advantage for the first round of the Hockey East tournament and kept alive their hopes of a top-four spot and first-round bye. They currently sit in a three-way tie for third place in Hockey East with UMass Lowell and Providence.

“It was probably our biggest weekend of the year as far as playing team hockey, getting good goaltending, getting good special teams,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We had to play 60 minutes each night, and the guys responded in a real positive way. Good timing going into the playoffs, and it helps with preservation. At least we clinched a spot at home in the first round and put ourselves back in the hunt for a top-four spot.”

Petersen was a large part of Notre Dame’s success this weekend, going up against the fourth-best offense in the country that is averaging 3.63 goals per game and has the top two point scorers in the nation in freshman forward Jack Eichel and senior forward Evan Rodrigues.

“He’s got to be our best player at this point in the season,” Jackson said in a post-game press conference. “If you play one of the best offensive teams in the country, you’re going to have to have great goaltending.”

Petersen stopped 78 of the 82 shots he saw on the weekend, including 44 Saturday night.

“We’ve been seeing great goaltending. I’ve talked to Cal about having the ability to close a game like a closer in baseball, and he did that this weekend, which is a big step for him and for us,” Jackson said. “… These past three or four weeks he’s played some of his best hockey here.”

The Irish took advantage of their power-play opportunities Saturday, with two goals on five chances. Notre Dame took a 2-0 lead in the second period after junior forward Sam Herr put home a rebound off junior defenseman Robbie Russo’s shot and then went up 3-1 early in the third period with a goal from junior center Vince Hinostroza. Jackson said having senior captain and center Stephen Fogarty and senior forward Austin Wuthrich back was crucial in the success of the power play.

“I thought [Saturday] night, we did a better job moving the puck on the power play,” Jackson said. “Getting Fogarty back and even Austin Wuthrich back on one shift of the power play — they’re both playing injured at this point — but they both did a good job, and they helped bring both units back to where they need to be.”

Russo had three assists Saturday night, setting up junior forward Mario Lucia for his first period goal to give Notre Dame the early 1-0 lead. It was Lucia’s 18th goal on the season and Russo’s 15th assist. Russo has 27 points this season, but Jackson said his game has consisted of much more than occasionally igniting the Irish offense.

“I think he’s an All-American,” Jackson said in a postgame press conference. “I think he should be a Hobey Baker Candidate, in my opinion. I think he doesn’t get the recognition, but it’s not just about the points. He’s defended as well as he has been offensively, and that’s a rare quality for a defenseman. You get a guy that’s a point guy, generally they are high-risk defensively, but this kid has played as well defensively as he has with the puck.”

Although pleased with the weekend, Jackson said he has been making sure his team knows this upcoming weekend against No. 10 Boston College is extremely important if his team wants to even consider the NCAA playoffs.

“This is the time of year where everybody is playing somewhat desperate,” Jackson said. “I think our guys realize their team life is at stake, and they’re going to have to have a great finish in order to keep the season going. I think they realize the time has passed, and now we have to act, and if we don’t it will be a short-lived playoff life. We want to try and keep on building on what we’ve done the past few weeks.”

Notre Dame will host Boston College at Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend, with games at 7:35 p.m. Friday and 6:05 p.m. Saturday.

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