Petersen, Irish sweep Huskies in Hockey East opener
Brett O'Connell | Monday, November 2, 2015
The Irish offense came alive during its first weekend of Hockey East play, as Notre Dame swept Connecticut in a two-game weekend series — first winning on the Huskies’ home ice in Hartford, Connecticut, on Saturday and then claiming a second victory at the Barclays Center in New York on Sunday.
The first of the two games, falling on Halloween afternoon, was the more hotly-contested of the two, with the Irish (3-1-2, 2-0-0 Hockey East) needing a third-period goal by senior left winger Sam Herr to break the 1-1 tie and secure the victory for the Irish.
Irish head coach Jeff Jackson praised the play of sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen, who stopped 14 of 15 shots, on Saturday. Peterson would add 19 more saves the following day, bringing his regular season save percentage to .913.
“I thought Cal Petersen really made a difference [on Saturday], especially at the end,” Jackson said. “I always compare a goalie in the third period to a closer in baseball, you have to have that ability to step up when the game is on the line, and he has shown that growth over the last six months.”
Sophomore defenseman Jordan Gross also tallied his first goal of the season to break the game’s scoring open just 16 seconds into the second period during a four-on-two chance that originated in front of the Irish’s own net. The goal marked Gross’ second career power-play tally.
The Irish penalty kill, which had a shaky start during the preseason, has settled down — the Irish are on a run of 21 consecutive successful penalty kills, including five in Saturday’s game. The Irish limited the Huskies (3-4-0, 1-3-0) to six shots in those five attempts, keeping pucks to the outside and protecting the slot to allow Petersen clear lines of vision to the shots that did make it through.
While the first game of the weekend remained close throughout, the Irish quickly asserted themselves in the second matchup. Notre Dame scored three even-strength goals in the first period and never let the Huskies within striking distance on the way to a 8-2 rout to secure the series sweep.
Senior alternate captain and center Thomas DiPauli led the Irish in scoring with an explosive afternoon, tallying a goal and three assists on the way to accruing a plus-five rating. This outburst came despite a very aggressive Huskies squad that came out seeking their first lead of the series, according to Jackson.
“We were fortunate to jump on them early and it gave us some life,” Jackson said. “The first couple of shifts they were all over us. Once we scored that first goal, we loosened up and started playing the way we want to play — good transitions and fast out of our own end.”
Jackson said the game the first full effort he has seen from his squad this season.
“We made some progress today,” Jackson said. “I thought we played a 60-minute hockey game for the first time this season, and our special teams have been a real positive for us. All four lines played and when all four lines are playing, that means we are playing well – staying out of the penalty box, rolling four lines and finishing with speed.”
The Irish also managed to kill off all four of UConn’s power-play chances Sunday, extending their penalty-kill streak.
Notre Dame returns home this weekend for a pair of nonconference home games against Minnesota on Friday and Saturday.