Notre Dame hockey: Walking the emotional fine line

STEVE LOWE
SBT Correspondent

SOUTH BEND -- Playing with high emotion can be a fine line in college hockey.

The same burst of passionate energy used to spark a team can become the flame that ignites trouble if those emotions run over.

Notre Dame’s hockey leaders, in particular captain Jeff Costello, and assistant captains T.J. Tynan and Stephen Johns, embody that emotional high-wire act, consistently riding the edge of inspirational play that sometimes boils over.

The latter situation popped up at times during Notre Dame’s whistle-plagued 7-3 victory over Michigan Tech on Sunday at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Costello leads this Irish in penalties through four games, and picked up three on Sunday. The final whistle he drew, for roughing, came in response to a hit on teammate Shayne Taker by Tech’s Alex Petan while Taker was on his knees next to the Huskies ‘bench. That hit earned Petan a game misconduct, Michigan Tech’s third of the game, a contest in which Tech set an Irish opponent record with 85 penalty minutes.

“It’s hockey and emotions are running high, you want to protect your teammates,” Costello said. “When someone’s taking liberties with a teammate, you want to send a message that it’s not OK.”

Fortunately for the Irish, the outcome was already in hand at that point, but just for good measure, Sam Herr scored a power play goal with two minutes to go to, making it 7-3, ND.

“It’s definitely difficult in college hockey to toe that line,” Costello said. “(Sunday) we stepped over, which it didn’t hurt us this time, but it might the next time, so we’ve definitely got to keep that in check.”

Michigan Tech drew 18 penalties, while the 4-0-0 Irish, who rose to No. 2 in the country following the weekend sweep of the Huskies, were called for 14 penalties themselves.

Not even head coach Jeff Jackson was able to keep it completely in check on Sunday, and he felt his team’s response was both good and bad.

“We need our leaders to be the guys that lead the way with that emotional control,” Jackson said. “In a game like that, they’re the guys that have to help me and help the coaches. Of course, I was a little erratic at times, too, so I’ll take credit for my emotions being lost a few times, too.”

During the post-game handshake with Tech coach Mel Pearson, Jackson said he asked his counterpart about the officiating from the Huskies’ previous weekend of play up at Minnesota Duluth, but didn’t elaborate much on Pearson’s response.

“There was definitely bad penalties out there for both teams,” Jackson said. “We took bad penalties. That’s something we have to adjust, and I’m sure he (Pearson) feels the same way as I do.”

Jackson was also asked if there was anything to take away from a game like that. He wearily rubbed his face and responded, “I’d just as soon forget about it.”

On to Duluth

Notre Dame’s first true road trip this season comes at Minnesota Duluth this weekend for a pair of games at AMSOIL Arena. The Irish have played one road game so far, a quick bus trip up to Kalamazoo for one game as part of a home-and-home series to open the season against Western Michigan.

The Bulldogs (2-1-1) are coming off a split in their first two NCHC games at Colorado College. Duluth lost on Friday, 3-1, before coming back to take a 5-1 win on Saturday.

Alex Iafallo was named the NCHC rookie of the week (the first such award handed out for that brand new conference) after recording two goals and an assist in Saturday’s UMD win.

Notre Dame’s Vinnie Hinostroza also earned rookie of the week honors in Hockey East, which he shared with Northeastern’s Mike Szmatula.

Hinostroza had two goals and an assist on Sunday and added another assist in Friday’s 3-2 victory over Michigan Tech. The freshman leads Notre Dame in scoring after four games with three goals and three assists for six points.

On the blueline, the senior defenseman trio of Johns, Taker and Kevin Lind is leading the way early on for the Irish, and not just in their own defensive zone.

Taker is second in scoring with a goal and team-best four assists for five points. Johns leads the team with a +4 rating and also in blocked shots with 11.

WHO: No. 2 Notre Dame (4-0-0) at Minnesota Duluth (2-1-1)

WHEN: Friday, 8:07 p.m.; Saturday, 8:07

WHERE: AMSOIL Arena, Duluth, Minn.

RADIO: WHFB (99.9 FM)

INTERNET: www.und.com

TWITTER: @NDHockey; @NDhockeySBT