Notre Dame tripped up, booted from Hockey East tourney
SOUTH BEND — Northeastern can't lose right now, and Notre Dame couldn't get out of its own way, Saturday night.
The Irish tripped themselves up time and again in a disastrous second period, leading to a 6-4 loss to the blistering hot Huskies, giving them a sweep of the Hockey East quarterfinal series and a spot in next weekend's semifinals at Boston's TD Garden.
A virtual lock for the NCAA tournament heading in the postseason despite being swept, the Irish would still prefer to be playing better hockey at this time of year.
"Right now, everybody is going in separate directions a little bit," said senior left wing Thomas DiPauli. "We're not really working smart right now.
"We've just got to forget about this one."
Mario Lucia's two goals paced the Irish (19-10-7), who are 1-5 in their last six games. Tied for 10th place in the Pairwise rankings coming into Saturday, the Irish don't feel good about leaving their NCAA hopes to even the slightest amount of chance.
"The experts out there are saying we're almost a lock to make the tournament, but I wanted to go into the tournament playing with a bit more confidence than we are," said Irish coach Jeff Jackson.
Kevin Roy had two goals and two assists to lead Northeastern (20-13-5). The Huskies have now won 11 in a row and are 18-1-2 in their last 21 games, likely playing themselves into a spot in the NCAA tournament after a horrible start to their season.
Just how much confidence is Northeastern playing with right now?
"A lot," said Huskies coach Jim Madigan with a chuckle. "It's a group that has a strong, quiet inner confidence."
The Irish grabbed the early lead 15 minutes into the first period when Luke Ripley's point shot found its way through heavy net-front traffic for his first goal of the season.
The Huskies answered just before the end of the period with Colton Saucerman's power play goal to tie it 1-1.
"The whole momentum of the game changed," Jackson said of the power play goal late in the period. "That gave them life."
The wheels really came off for the Irish in the second period. It started when defensman Andy Ryan lost an edge and fell down, leading to a 2-on-1 breakaway that Roy cashed in to give Northeastern the lead.
Garret Cockerill scored just over a minute later to make it a two-goal advantage. And shortly after Lucia tripped himself in the corner of the NU zone, Dylan Sikura added another power play goal to make it 4-1, forcing Jackson to use his timeout to try and stop the bleeding.
"We got sloppy, especially coming out of our zone with the puck several times that led to turnovers," Jackson said.
Notre Dame got a fortunate bounce when a Lucia rebound ricocheted off a Northeastern defender and past goalie Ryan Ruck to cut the NU lead to 4-2 just five seconds before the second period ended.
But Roy added his second of the night on a pretty give-and-go play with Saucerman, and Tanner Pond added a sixth goal with 7:29 to play.
DiPauli and Lucia each scored late goals to make the final tally closer, but it was too little, too late for the Irish, who will try to regroup for their likely NCAA opponent in a couple weeks.
"As a team, we've got to get together this week," DiPauli said of trying to regain some of the swagger the Irish had during their 12-game unbeaten streak earlier in the season. "We've just got to get back together, maybe grill out at (the seniors players') house, have some steaks and hang out.
"Just talk about it, and then forget about it and move on."
ND - Luke Ripley, 1 (Connor Hurley) 14:38; NU - Colton Saucerman, 4 (Garret Cockerill, Kevin Roy) PP, 18:50. Shots on goal: NU 14, ND 9; Penalties: ND 4-8, NU 3-6.
NU - Roy, 9 (Sam Kurker) 2:26; NU - Garret Cockerill, 8 (John Stevens, Zach Aston-Reese) 3:33; NU - Dylan Sikura, 10 (Saucerman, Roy) PP, 5:46; ND - Mario Lucia, 11 (Anders Bjork, Jake Evans) 19:55. Shots: NU 13, ND 9; Penalties: ND 1-2, NU 0.
NU - Roy, 10 (Saucerman) 1:12; NU - Tanner Pond, 3 (Sikura, Mike McMurtry) 12:31; ND - Thomas DiPauli, 13 (Justin Wade, Hurley) 16:33. Shots: ND 11, NU 7; Penalties: NU 3-6, ND 2-4.
NU 1 3 2 - 6
ND 1 1 2 - 4
Shots: NU 34, ND 29; Saves: ND 28 (Cal Petersen), NU 25 (Ryan Ruck); Power plays: NU 2-5, ND 1-4; Penalties: ND 7-14, NU 6-12; Attendance: 4,200.