Slow start dooms Notre Dame hockey

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Guard against the slow start. Guard against the slow start.

All week, Notre Dame hockey coach Jeff Jackson fretted about the first 10 minutes of Friday night’s game against Northeastern.

His fears were realized.

The Huskies (19-15-5) scored two goals in the first six minutes and 24 seconds of the game, then kept the Irish (19-9-7) from making a run to take a 3-1 victory.

The win gave Northeastern a skate up in the best-of-three Hockey East Tournament quarterfinal series. Game Two will be played Saturday at 7:05 p.m. If a third game is necessary, it will be Sunday at 7:05.

While Northeastern was winning a pair of overtime games against Maine last weekend, the Irish had a bye. Jackson recognized the situation, and ramped up the intensity at times in practice to get his players focused on coming out fast.

No matter how hard the Irish worked in practice, simulating game speed and physicality is difficult. It showed in the early going when the Huskies out-skated and out-worked the Irish.

Lincoln Griffin and John Stevens pushed goals past Cal Petersen before the popcorn had time to burn in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

“I was nervous about the first period,” Jackson said. “We tried to prepare for it. The speed of the game and the competitiveness … They skated right by us. We weren’t ready for the speed. That certainly had a large impact on the game.

“After the (bad start), we got our legs.”

Once the Irish got their legs, they also got a goal. Jordan Gross poked a shot past Ryan Ruck to cut the Huskies’ lead in half.

And, there it stayed.

The pivotal point in the game came midway through the first period. Northeastern defender Dustin Darou was ejected with a game misconduct when he laid out Notre Dame’s Jake Evans near the blue line. Evans was down on the ice for a while, but ultimately returned to the game.

Along with the ejection came a five-minute penalty, giving the Irish a lengthy power play.

And … Nothing.

“We needed to score on that power play,” Jackson said. “That was huge for us. A five-minute major, we needed at least one.”

“The penalty kill on the five-minute major was a good momentum boost for us,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan, whose team is 16-1-2 in its last 19 games. “(Notre Dame) has a real good power play. To be able to kill that off gave us a lot of momentum.”

Twice over the course of the first two periods the Irish hit the post of the goal, but could never break the plane.

“In the playoffs, when you make two mistakes, it’s hard to come back,” said Notre Dame center Steven Fogarty. “They’re a fast team that has a lot of confidence.”

That confidence comes from the Huskies’ amazing streak.

“We don’t take winning for granted,” said Madigan, who got an empty-net goal from Tanner Pond to ice the win. “We’ve been on the other side of that ledger. The winning streak helps because, hopefully, it has created good habits and details to our game.

“If you can bring habits and details and carry them over from one game to the next, that’s a good thing.”

Starting fast doesn’t hurt, either.

FIRST PERIOD

NE – Lincoln Griffin 5 (Patrick Schule) 2:29

NE – John Stevens 10 (Nolan Stevens, Zach Aston-Reese) 6:24

ND – Jordan Gross 9 (Bobby Nardella, Mario Lucia) 7:35

Shots on goal: NE 6, ND 9; Penalties: NE 2-15, ND 0-0

SECOND PERIOD

No scoring

Shots on goal: NE 7, ND 4; Penalties: NE 1-2, ND 1-2.

THIRD PERIOD

NE – Tanner Pond 2 19:25.

Shots on goal: NE 9, ND 8; Penalties: NE 0-0, ND 0-0.

Northeastern 2 0 1—3

Notre Dame 1 0 0 —1

Shots: NE 22, ND 21; Saves: NE 20 (Ryan Ruck), ND 19 (Cal Petersen); Power plays: NE 0-1, ND 0-2; Attendance 3,698.

Notre Dame’s Jake Evans, right, competes for the puck with Northeastern’s Lincoln Griffin during the Notre Dame-Northeastern hockey game on Friday, March 11, 2016, inside the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN