Irish skate away with win in series with Maine
Alex Carson | Monday, February 9, 2015
As the second intermission drew closer during Notre Dame’s game at Maine on Saturday night, it looked as if the teams might go into the Alfond Arena dressing rooms tied 1-1.
Instead, the Irish (12-14-4, 7-5-4 Hockey East) seized the moment, scoring three times in the final two minutes of the period en route to a 5-1 victory over the Black Bears (10-17-3, 5-9-2) to ensure that Notre Dame would leave Orono, Maine, with three points in hand.
Irish junior left wing Sam Herr started the goal rush when he scored with 1:49 left in the second period off a feed from senior right wing Austin Wuthrich before goals from sophomore center Vince Hinostroza and freshman center/right wing Jake Evans blew the game open in the 84 seconds that followed.
“All of the sudden, you get a goal, and you get some momentum and boom, boom you get two more,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “It gives you confidence when your team has that ability, especially because that’s a hard thing to do on the road.”
Notre Dame’s 5-1 win Saturday came on the heels of Friday’s game in which the offenses had most of the fun as the Irish and Black Bears played to a 4-4 tie.
Maine sophomore forward Blaine Byron put the hosts ahead just 4:02 into the game, but a pair of Irish freshmen soon put the visitors ahead as left wing Anders Bjork and defenseman Jordan Gross scored twice in less than a minute. The goals started Hinostroza’s prolific weekend — he assisted both of them en route to a six-point weekend — that saw him hit the 25-assist mark, third most in the nation.
“I think he’s playing more focused hockey,” Jackson said. “… The last six weeks here he’s really elevated his game because he’s moving his feet and starting to play with confidence.”
The Black Bears drew even through a power-play goal from junior forward Will Merchant a few minutes later.
After an Irish goal and pair of Maine second-period goals, junior left wing Mario Lucia buried his 18th goal of the season in the period’s final minute, tying proceedings at 4-4 after 40 minutes.
Sophomore goaltender Chad Katunar started Friday’s game for the Irish, but after allowing four goals in two periods, Jackson pulled him in favor of freshman Cal Petersen. The decision was the biggest of the series, Jackson said.
“[Petersen’s] goaltending was probably the most important factor of the entire weekend,” Jackson said. “We’re not going anywhere unless we get that kind of goaltending. … He came in and settled the game down.”
Petersen stopped all 10 Maine shots in the third period and overtime Friday, allowing the Irish to get a valuable road point in a game in which Jackson said his team finished strong.
“You’re always playing to win, but points on the road are huge, especially in February,” Jackson said. “I was really pleased that we played our best hockey in the latter stages of the game, which probably gave us some momentum going into Saturday night.”
Midway through the first period Saturday, Bjork opened the scoring with his second goal of a four-point weekend four minutes into the game before Maine equalized three minutes later.
But after that initial offensive spurt, both teams remained scoreless until Notre Dame’s outburst in the final minutes of the second period.
Petersen saved 33 shots Saturday, including 15 in the final stanza, to give the Irish the goaltending they needed to close out their second win in three games, while Hinostroza completed his weekend with an empty-net goal in the final minutes.
“Coming back the next night and winning in their building — which is a really tough venue — says a lot about our guys,” Jackson said.
The three-point weekend kept Notre Dame in fifth place in the Hockey East standings, just one point behind Providence and two behind UMass Lowell.
“The positive thing is that we’re in control of our own destiny,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a very tough schedule coming up here, so it’s good to have that ambition … but I want us to go into the playoffs playing really good hockey. If we can mirror Saturday night for the rest of the season, we give ourselves a chance to do something special in the playoffs”
Notre Dame returns to action this weekend when it hosts Providence on Friday and Saturday.