Irish in control of Hockey East

Steve Lowe Tribune Correspondent
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND— Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen is still looking for his first shutout of the season, but he realizes there are bigger goals out there for the Irish.

Winning a Hockey East championship is right near the top of that list.

Petersen came close to that first shutout Saturday night, stopping 40 of 41 Maine shots, and Jake Evans had a goal and two assists to lead the Irish to a 5-1 win and Hockey East sweep of the Black Bears.

With Boston College’s 5-5 tie at Merrimack, No. 8 Notre Dame took over sole possession of first place in the league. The Irish own a narrow one-point lead with four regular season games left to play.

“That means we can control our destiny,” Petersen said. “Our destiny is in our hands, and from the beginning, we wanted a championship. We have the opportunity to do that with these next four games.”

Those final four games of the regular season won’t be easy, though, with two on the road at No. 5 Providence and two at home against No. 7 Boston University.

Irish coach Jeff Jackson’s focus is more on finishing strong ahead of the Hockey East tournament, and more specifically, on next Friday in Rhode Island.

“The higher we finish, the better, and if we can win a championship along the away, that would be great, but we’ve got four games ahead,” Jackson said. “Friday night’s the only thing that matters at this point.”

Petersen has been stellar during Notre Dame’s current 13-1-3 run, giving up just over a goal and a half per game in the stretch that began at the end of November, and he was on again Saturday night. With the Irish up 5-0, Petersen was well on his way to that elusive first shutout, but Maine’s Brendan Robbins broke it up when he scored with 2:49 to play.

“It’s kind of getting weird now,” said Petersen, who stopped 61 of Maine’s 63 shots on the weekend. “I keep telling myself I’m saving it for later, but we’re kind of running out of games for that.”

“I was rooting for the kid to get a shutout, he’s played so well for us,” Jackson said. “Maybe he’ll get it at the most important time of the year.”

The Irish (18-5-7, 14-2-2 Hockey East) picked up their fifth two-game sweep in Hockey East play, and have won four straight and eight of their last nine. Maine (7-19-6, 4-12-2) has lost four in a row.

As they’ve done nearly all season, the Irish scored first. Evans undressed Maine defenseman Sam Becker with a highlight-reel move, sliding the puck between his legs before regaining possession and beating Morris five-hole, 13:55 into the first period.

That marked the 24th time in 30 Irish games that they’ve taken a 1-0 lead.

Petersen withstood a barrage through the first half of the second period as Maine outshot Notre Dame, 18-10, but the Black Bears also committed five penalties in the period, and the Irish increased their lead.

Sam Herr whacked home a rebound just 31 seconds into the second, and Connor Hurley added a 5-on-3 power play goal 14 minutes later to make it 3-0.

“Tonight we were a little sloppy,” Jackson said. “We were trying to do too much individual stuff, and that’s part of the reason why they had 40 shots.”

Anders Bjork topped Evans for the prettiest goal of the night when he broke down Maine defenseman Eric Schurhamer and went top shelf on Morris to make it a four-goal lead in the third period. Dylan Malmquist made the rout official when he knocked in his own rebound a minute and a half later to make it 5-0.

FIRST PERIOD

ND - Jake Evans, 7 (Justin Wade) 13:55. Shots on goal: ND 14, UM 8; Penalties: None.

SECOND PERIOD

ND - Sam Herr, 10 (Jack Jenkins, Evans) 0:31; ND - Connor Hurley, 5 (Jordan Gross, Mario Lucia) PP, 14:04. Shots: UM 18, ND 10; Penalties: UM 5-10, ND 0-0.

THIRD PERIOD

ND - Anders Bjork, 11 (Luke Ripley) 3:06; ND - Dylan Malmquist, 9 (Evans, Bobby Nardella) 4:37; UM - Brendan Robbins, 4 (Steven Swavley, Eric Schurhamer) 17:11. Shots: UM 15, ND 11; Penalties: ND 2-4, UM 1-2.

UM 0 0 1 — 1

ND 1 2 2 — 5

Shots: UM 41, ND 35; Saves: ND 40 (Cal Petersen), UM 30 (Matt Morris 23, Rob McGovern 7); Power plays: ND 1-5, UM 0-1; Penalties: UM 6-12, ND 2-4; Attendance: 5,022.