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Notre Dame falls short in Hockey East tournament

| Tuesday, March 15, 2016

After closing out the regular season with a shutout win to secure third place in Hockey East, the Irish came out flat in the conference tournament and were unable to skate out of the quarterfinals.

No. 12 Notre Dame (19-10-7, 15-5-2), having finished in the top four of the conference in the regular season, earned a bye through the opening weekend and the right to host their quarterfinal matchup at Compton Family Ice Arena.

However, the Irish drew a red-hot, sixth-seeded Northeastern team in the second round and dropped the first two games to the No. 14 Huskies (20-13-5, 10-8-4) in a best-of-three series over the weekend.

Though Notre Dame had skated to a win and a tie in a pair of games against Northeastern back in November, the Huskies have been unbeatable recently. Through the first two rounds of the Hockey East tournament, the Huskies have now extended their winning streak to 11 games and are 18-1-2 since the middle of December.

Because of Northeastern’s current streak, the bye week could have actually hurt more than it helped, according to senior defenseman Andy Ryan.

“It is hard to know how much it affected us, but I think it probably had an impact,” Ryan said. “We were not prepared for the start of the game on Friday night, and it looked like we did not take advantage of the bye week, which was disappointing.”

In the opening game of the weekend Friday night, sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen surrendered a pair of goals in the first seven minutes of the first period. Sophomore defenseman Jordan Gross quickly cut the deficit in half at 7:35 of the opening frame. However, the comeback attempt ended there, with the Irish failing to score on a five-minute powerplay in the first period and hitting a number of posts throughout the game. Northeastern added a late empty-net goal to bring the final score to 3-1.

Sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen guards the net during Notre Dame’s 6-4 loss to Northeastern in the Hockey East Tournament on March 12. Petersen made 28 saves on the day.Michael Yu | The Observer
Sophomore goaltender Cal Petersen guards the net during Notre Dame’s 6-4 loss to Northeastern in the Hockey East Tournament on March 12. Petersen made 28 saves on the day.

Then on Saturday, an outburst of scoring from both squads resulted in ten total goals, but Notre Dame came out on the short end of a 6-4 decision. Petersen gave up his highest goal total of the season to the Huskies on Saturday, letting in all six Northeastern goals.

The upside for Notre Dame from Saturday’s game, if there is one, should be that it snuck four goals past freshman goaltender Ryan Ruck, who has posted a .915 save percentage on the season. Sophomore defenseman Luke Ripley gave the Irish a first period lead on his goal, while senior left wing Mario Lucia scored twice and senior center Thomas DiPauli added another to keep the score close.

The two losses capped a disappointing end to the season for the Irish, who dropped five of their final six games against tough competition, including Providence, Boston University and Northeastern.

“[The level of competition] has certainly increased greatly because of the caliber of teams we have been playing,” Ryan said. “I think the biggest thing is it has become much harder to score against these teams, especially since it’s towards the end of the season. This means that we have to be almost perfect defensively and take advantage of our opportunities to score when we do get them.”

Now the Irish are forced to watch as the Hockey East tournament concludes next weekend without them. Notre Dame will wait until Sunday to hear if it did enough to earn a spot in the 16-team NCAA tournament field, but Ryan said the team believes it can make a run if it makes the tournament.

“The team is still optimistic about our tournament chances,” Ryan said. “I think we understand that as long as we get into the tournament, then anything can happen.”

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