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Irish earn one point on road against River Hawks

| Monday, November 23, 2015

No. 16 Notre Dame had its chances to nab a Hockey East victory on the road against No. 5 UMass Lowell this weekend, but the Irish came away with only one point, tying the River Hawks 2-2 Friday night and losing 3-1 Saturday at Tsongas Center in Lowell, Massachusetts.

The Irish (5-3-4, 3-1-2 Hockey East) fell behind Friday night as the River Hawks (9-1-3, 5-0-3) jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the second period. But behind power play goals from freshman defenseman Dennis Gilbert and sophomore left wing Anders Bjork, Notre Dame salvaged a point and played well enough for more, according to Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.

“I think we had a pretty legitimate chance to win it a couple times in the third period and overtime,” Jackson said. “I thought we came on as the game progressed. It was just a matter of building confidence against a team that we haven’t had a lot of confidence against.”

Jackson said the turning point for the Irish came late in the first period when the Irish killed off a 5-on-3 River Hawk power play after having just gone down, 1-0. Although the River Hawks built their lead to 2-0 in the second, Jackson said that penalty kill began to right the ship for the Irish.

“After that our team started getting some confidence,” Jackson said. “We eventually scored a goal at the end of the second period and tied it in the third.”

The River Hawks blitzed the Notre Dame net in the first period, but sophomore netminder Cal Petersen kept the Irish in the game early, stopping 17 of the 18 shots he faced to get his team into the locker room trailing by only one goal. Petersen finished the game with 32 saves on 34 shots.

“He certainly kept us in the game, and he gave us a chance to get back in the game, which we did,” Jackson said of Petersen. “And that’s what you need from your goaltender in those games where you start slow.”

Jackson said Petersen’s strength is his ability to get into a rhythm when he faces more shots, but he also said the reverse is a weakness that was exposed Saturday night.

“[Petersen] always tends to be better when he faces more shots, and that’s exactly what happened in that first period,” Jackson said. “ … And then Saturday night, we outshot [Lowell] I think it was 36-16, those are the games where he needs to maybe tighten up a little bit more, so it’s just a matter of consistency in those games where he faces a lot of shots and those where he doesn’t face quite as many.”

Despite outshooting the River Hawks on Saturday night, the Irish fell, 3-1, as their special teams units struggled and the team ran into a hot goaltender. Notre Dame finished 0-for-5 on the power play and only 1-for-3 on the penalty kill, while Lowell senior goaltender Kevin Boyle turned away 35 of Notre Dame’s 36 shots.

“I don’t think we got enough pucks to the net and got enough traffic at the net,” Jackson said. “Our power play has been pretty good overall this year, but the nights when it’s been shut down, that’s probably been the biggest thing is that we’re over-passing and not shooting enough and not getting enough traffic to the net.”

Sophomore defenseman Jordan Gross regroups behind the Notre Dame net during the 3-2 Irish victory over Northeastern on Nov. 12 at Compton Family Ice Arena. Gross had four shots in Friday’s tie. Michael Yu | The Observer
Sophomore defenseman Jordan Gross regroups behind the Notre Dame net during the 3-2 Irish victory over Northeastern on Nov. 12 at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Lowell junior forward Evan Campbell got the scoring started just over five minutes into the second period, burying the first of Lowell’s two power-play goals past Petersen after Irish senior center Steven Fogarty was sent to the penalty box for slashing.

Irish senior center Thomas DiPauli answered exactly one minute later to tie the game at 1-1. Irish sophomore center Connor Hurley sent a shot on net, and DiPauli spun around and slammed home the rebound. It turned out to be the only puck to beat Boyle on the evening, despite Notre Dame’s four power-play chances in the third period.

“Both teams made adjustments, and theirs worked and ours didn’t. That’s what it boils down to,” Jackson said. “They scored two power-play goals, and we had plenty of chances to score a power-play goal to tie the game late and couldn’t get it done.

“I think some of it was the adjustments they made, and their goaltender played extremely well.”

Notre Dame returns home to host its sixth Shillelagh Tournament this weekend, welcoming No. 8 Harvard, RPI and former-CCHA rival Western Michigan at Compton Family Ice Arena.

“We can’t afford to not be ready to go because Harvard’s one of the best teams in the country as well,” Jackson said. “ … We’re going to have to make sure we take care of the puck and defend well.”

Notre Dame will take on Harvard at 7:35 p.m. Friday night and then either RPI or Western Michigan on Saturday at 7:35 p.m.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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