Notre Dame tops No. 6 UMass Lowell
Tobias Hoonhout | Monday, November 21, 2016
After suffering a convincing loss on Thursday night, the Irish returned the favor Friday, dominating UMass Lowell 4-1 to split the two-game set.
From start to finish, the Irish (6-4-2, 3-2-1 Hockey East) played fast and physical, and by the end of the game, they were dominating all aspects of the ice. While Irish head coach Jeff Jackson blamed himself for the lack of preparation Thursday, he was happy with the complete turnaround Friday.
“I can’t totally explain it — like I said [Thursday], I’ll take responsibility — maybe we weren’t as ready as we needed to be against a team of that caliber, and [Friday] we were,” he said. “All aspects of the play without the puck were not good yesterday, and today they were. We finished more checks, we blocked shots [and] we made a bigger commitment to doing the things you have to do to win games, especially against really good teams.”
At the start of the game, both teams came out looking to take an early lead. While the Red Hawks (8-4-2, 4-2-0) had scored 35 seconds into the game on Thursday, Notre Dame appeared determined not to make it easy. The first period was a tight affair, with not a lot of clear chances, as each team only had six shots each in the first period. Irish sophomore defenseman Dennis Gilbert hit the pipe early just minutes after junior captain and goaltender Cal Petersen saved a shot by Red Hawks senior center Evan Campbell. UMass Lowell did have three power plays in the period, but it failed to capitalize on those early opportunities.
In the second period, junior forward Anders Bjork sparked Notre Dame to life, as he scored the first goal of the period and assisted on the second. Bjork and sophomore defenseman Bobby Nardella, who had a goal and two assists on the night, combined their efforts in the first goal, as Bjork took the pass from Nardella and hammered it across goal to break the deadlock.
“He’s one of the best players in the country right now, it’s pretty easy to play with someone like him,” Nardella said of Bjork. “He was there in the slot, and I just saw him. And he’s good at finding guys too and getting open, and he’s got a really good shot — he’s leading the country in scoring I think or something — so it’s not hard to play with a guy like that.”
UMass Lowell responded just under seven minutes later, when junior forward Jake Kamrass skated behind the net and slipped in a pass to freshman forward Kenny Hausinger, who slotted it home past Petersen. It was a potential momentum-shifting goal, as the energy from the first goal was sucked out of the building.
But the Irish responded minutes later. Bjork was once again involved, as he, Nardella and freshman defenseman Andrew Peeke passed it around the blue line, waiting for an opening, and with junior forward Dawson Cook blocking the net, Peeke fired from distance, and the puck flew over Red Hawks freshman goalie Tyler Wall into the top corner. Jackson said he was very pleased with the team’s ability to go ahead and then respond after giving up that lead.
“Scoring the first goal was huge, and scoring the second goal was probably more important,” he said. “Just in the response — showing that we were not going to change the way we played just because they scored a goal. But they are tough to score on, they are a very good defensive team, they don’t give you a lot, they’ve got a lot of grizzled guys out there, their vets in their system make it hard to generate offense, they’re defense-first and we need to be a little more of that way ourselves at times.”
The Irish then added a third to close out the period, as Nardella collected a pass from sophomore forward Jack Jenkins and whipped it in to put Notre Dame in firm control of the game.
The third period was all Notre Dame, as it dominated the puck, with the team’s speed and physicality wearing down UMass Lowell. Cook scored the team’s fourth goal when he blocked a shot on one end — starting the rush — and then finished the play when he slotted home a rebound off of a shot from Peeke. Jackson said it was the culmination of a great night for the Irish, and it knocked Wall out of the UMass Lowell goal.
“When our team is playing well, that’s how we’ve played,” Jackson said. “If we are using our speed, getting pucks in behind the defense and putting pressure on them, eventually they wear down. And last night, we didn’t put any pressure on their defense, so we did a much better job of eventually wearing them down over three periods.”
The Irish next play when they host the Shillelagh Tournament on Friday and Saturday.