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No. 9 Irish open season with weekend sweep of Sun Devils

| Monday, October 10, 2016

No. 9 Notre Dame kicked off its 2016 campaign in dominant fashion this weekend, besting Arizona State in the Friday night season opener, 9-2, followed by a 4-2 win on Saturday.

The Irish (2-0) had no trouble with the Sun Devils (0-2) on Friday night, opening the offensive floodgates as soon as the puck dropped. Junior forwards Anders Bjork and Bo Brauer each led the Irish with two goals, and sophomore defensemen Bobby Nardella tallied two as well. Junior defensemen Jordan Gross and sophomore forwards Andrew Oglevie and Dylan Malmquist also chipped in goals for Notre Dame, which by the end of the game had 12 players notch at least one point. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson talked about the speed of his team and how it contributed to their offensive production.

“I thought, especially early in the game, we were using our speed really well,” Jackson said. “I thought that was putting them on their heels, and that’s how we have to play. We want to play fast and push the puck out of our zone and into the neutral zone as quickly as possible.”

Irish junior forward Connor Hurley skates up the ice in Notre Dame's 4-2 victory over Arizona State.Kelly Vaughan | The Observer
Irish junior forward Connor Hurley skates up the ice in Notre Dame’s 4-2 victory over Arizona State.

The overpowering speed of the Irish forced the Sun Devils into many hooking penalties throughout the game. Notre Dame outshot ASU, 51-19, mainly because the Irish outnumbered the Sun Devils on the ice much of the game due to the ASU penalties. The Sun Devils racked up 116 minutes in penalties, and the Irish capitalized, with six of their goals coming on power-play opportunities, which Jackson thought were executed well throughout most of the game.

“When we stayed with our structure, I thought we were really good,” Jackson said. “In the second period we got a little too creative, a little individualistic — we weren’t as sharp passing the puck – but that’s what happens when you get a three goal lead. I thought we were good moving the puck. Different guys were a threat, and that’s what a good power play does. It’s not just one guy, it’s got to be three guys.”

On Saturday, Notre Dame picked up where they left off the night before with a goal by junior forward Connor Hurley off an assist by Bjork 62 seconds into the game. ASU quickly responded no more than 20 seconds later to tie it up, and that would end the scoring for the period, although Notre Dame did generate some exciting chances. ASU would take a couple of penalties in the last minute of first-period action that ultimately carried over to the second. The game stayed tied at 1 and it seemed that the Sun Devils would be staying in this one.

Starting off with a 5-on-3 advantage, Notre Dame was able to take back the lead early in the second with power-play goal by Bjork 50 seconds in. A Notre Dame penalty five minutes later allowed ASU to generate some strong chances, and it would finally convert off a goal in front that just cleared the shoulder of junior goalkeeper Cal Petersen. The two teams would go back-and-forth for a solid stretch of the second as each side tried to take the 3-2 edge in the game. As the second period began to wind down, the Sun Devils presented themselves with a couple of huge opportunities, but thanks to a tremendous save by Petersen and a disallowed goal due to a penalty, the game stayed at 2-2 and the Irish continued to fight to avoid the upset.

The second intermission did Notre Dame well as the team came out with a flurry of chances right off the bat, and capitalized on a rebound less than two minutes into the period to reclaim the lead. The goal would come yet again off the stick of Bjork, making it his second of the night. Leading the offensive effort throughout the weekend for the team, Bjork recognized how important the strong starts to the period were for the Irish.

“I think that’s a big objective of ours and something we’ve been focusing on, [is] just coming out strong and setting the tone for the period,” Bjork said. “We haven’t always done that, so the leaders on the team have really stressed it and that’s helped us to make it happen.”

Notre Dame would stay on the attack and didn’t let up as they continued to press the Sun Devils in an effort to extend the lead. Eventually after tacking on an empty netter, the Irish survived the upset bid and walked away with a 4-2 victory. Jackson said he was pleased overall with the weekend and recognized that the team now faces a tough test next weekend as it take on No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth.

“We’re playing a very good hockey team come this weekend and we’re going to have to eliminate some of the things that hurt us this weekend,” Jackson said. “We committed too many turnovers this weekend and against a team like Duluth, that’ll kill you, so we have to just be a little bit smarter with the puck at the offensive blue line specifically.”

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