Irish tie longest active winning streak in country with seven
Tobias Hoonhout | Monday, November 20, 2017
No. 4 Notre Dame continued its winning ways this weekend, as the Irish (10-3-1, 4-0-0 Big Ten) used a strong defensive effort to hold Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) (2-7-3, 1-4-1 ECAC) to one goal over two games.
The sweep marked Notre Dame’s seventh-straight win, which is tied with Boston College for the longest active streak in the country. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson was pleased with his team, especially defensively.
“We have some quality players back there,” Jackson said postgame Saturday. “We dressed seven tonight, we were short a couple guys. We’ve done that quite a bit in the first half because we have so much ability back there. We’re sitting out two senior defensemen; it’s hard but when you have guys that can get us out of our zone, you’ve got to play the guys that make good puck decisions.”
On Friday, the Irish jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after senior forward and captain Jake Evans and sophomore forward Cal Burke scored back-to-back goals in the first period. Notre Dame never looked back, and added a power-play goal in the third and an empty-netter to close out the 4-1 win. Sophomore goalie Cale Morris stopped 38 of the 39 shots he faced.
But the Engineers bounced back with a strong showing on Saturday night, holding the Irish to scoreless after three periods and 0-for-3 on the power play. Morris was equally up to the task, as he made 25 saves for his second career shutout. In overtime, sophomore forward Cam Morrison deflected a shot from sophomore defenseman Andrew Peeke in front of the net to give the Irish the win.
“That’s his game, he’s a net-front guy,” Jackson said on Morrison. “I actually sat him a shift or two because he kept on falling down — it had something to do with his skates and his edges, the equipment manager sharpened them up on the bench a bit and he goes out and scores the game winner, but that’s his game. He’s a net-front guy, he competes there, he’s got a goal-scorer’s instincts.”
Jackson was particularly impressed with Morris, who has emerged as the clear frontrunner to claim the starting goalie spot during Notre Dame’s win streak.
“He’s been good, knock on wood, he’s been good for the last month, that was a big question mark from everybody from the outside perspective, who was going to replace [former Irish goalkeeper] Cal Petersen,” Jackson said. “Cale Morris quietly sat back behind Cal last year, and got better. It’s hard to do when you don’t play, but he was patient, he had a good attitude about it, he worked hard, and now its his turn and now he’s taking full advantage of it.
“ … He got more composed, the biggest thing for me is that he’s very calm in net and I think he learned a little of that from Cal, but I think that the biggest part of his game right now is his ability to move in the crease, his skating ability, his edge control and he’s being patient — he’s not dropping early, and he’s doing a great job of controlling rebounds.”
The RPI series marked a departure from Notre Dame’s conference slate, as the Irish now will play Big Ten opponents for the remainder of the season, starting with a home series against Minnesota next weekend. Jackson said he is pleased with his team’s play so far into the season, especially as the Irish have gotten players back from injury.
“In a lot of ways it’s still fairly in the season, but since we’ve started to get guys back I think we are starting to get a feel for who’s on what line, who’s on the power play and so on and so forth,” he said. “Getting healthy is allowing us to develop some chemistry with our lines and our defensive pairs. With goaltending like we’re getting and our defensive core we just need to score enough goals to win and I think this weekend was a good example of that.”