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Irish seize sole possession of first place in Hockey East with sweep

| Monday, February 15, 2016

The Irish find themselves alone in first place in Hockey East after a weekend sweep of Maine at home.

No. 8 Notre Dame (18-5-7, 14-2-2 Hockey East) never trailed the Black Bears (7-19-6, 4-12-2) in either game, using a three-goal third period to secure a 4-1 victory Friday before cruising to a 5-1 win Saturday.

The Irish and the Black Bears skated to a 1-1 tie through two periods Friday night as Maine junior goaltender Matt Morris seemed determined to win the game himself, stopping 30 shots along the way.

Notre Dame broke through midway in the third period, however, on a goal from freshman right winger Jack Jenkins. It was just his second goal of the season, and his first career game winner. He filled in for injured freshman center Andrew Oglevie this weekend.

“It was huge with [Oglevie] out of the lineup,” Irish senior center Thomas DiPauli said of Jenkins’ performance Friday night. “We knew that Jenks had to play a good game, and he did. He did everything that was asked of him. It’s always awesome to see a guy like that bury one. Sometimes it just takes getting the puck to the net, which he did. And sometimes it just sneaks in. Everyone’s happy for him. He’s a great guy. It was good to see that.”

DiPauli also played a large role in Friday night’s win, scoring Notre Dame’s first goal and then added an empty net insurance goal in the closing minutes.

Senior left winger Mario Lucia added a power-play goal just a minute and a half after Jenkins’ goal, pushing the Irish lead to two goals with less than ten minutes to play.

“Right now, with this team, I just have to assume that somebody’s gonna step up,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said Friday night. “It’s the dog days right now. It’s also playoff time. These games are almost like playoff hockey.”

Notre Dame came in Saturday night looking to build on the momentum from Friday night’s third period breakout, and it did just that.

Sophomore center Jake Evans staked the Irish to a first-period lead when he cut between two defenders and slipped the puck between the Morris’ legs.

Senior left wing Sam Herr, sophomore forwards Connor Hurley and Anders Bjork and freshman left wing Dylan Malmquist each scored a goal for the Irish on their way to a five-goal lead.

Sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen surrendered a late goal to Maine, preventing his first shutout of the season, something Petersen and the Irish have been working for more and more recently.

“It’s kinda getting weird now,” Petersen said. “I keep telling myself that maybe I’m saving [a shutout] for later, but I guess we’re kinda running out of games for me to do that.”

Irish sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen corrals a loose puck during Notre Dame’s 5-1 win over Maine on Saturday.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Irish sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen corrals a loose puck during Notre Dame’s 5-1 win over Maine on Saturday at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Though Notre Dame was never really threatened by Maine over the weekend, the Black Bears actually outshot the Irish in both the second and third periods on Saturday, racking up 41 shots total on Petersen.

“I think we’re doing really well right now,” Petersen said. “I think probably the biggest part is if one part of our game is lacking there’s another part there to pick it up. We kind of balance each other out well. Guys are doing their jobs, understanding their roles. It’s nobody trying to do too much. I think this was kind of a dangerous weekend looking in [towards the end of the season] just because, obviously, looking forward to Providence and BU, and I think guys handled themselves really well and were able to execute in kind of a challenging situation.”

Because No. 3 Boston College skated to a 5-5 tie at Merrimack on Saturday night, the Irish sit alone atop the conference standings with just four games left to play.

“We’ve tried to stay focused on the next game,” Jackson said. “That’s the mantra around here; the next game’s the most important game. One of our goals is to get to Boston Garden, and in order to do that, finishing in the top four, and the higher you finish the better you are, because it leads to home ice. It leads to last changes. It gives you advantages, so the higher we finish the better. And if we can win a championship along the way, that’d be great. We’ve got four games ahead of us, but Friday night’s the only thing that matters at this point.”

Notre Dame returns to action Friday for a road series against No. 5 Providence before closing out the season the following weekend against visiting No. 7 Boston University.

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