Red-hot Boston College completes sweep of slumping Notre Dame

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — After being swept by two non-league opponents, maybe what Jeff Jackson’s slumping Notre Dame hockey team needs to get its mojo back is a return to Big Ten Conference play — ASAP.

Trouble is, league-leader and high-scoring Penn State is next up for the Irish whose youth was exposed once more in a 6-1 victory Sunday afternoon by a red-hot Boston College team before 3,985 watching at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

The loss was the fifth straight by the Irish (8-6-2) and made them winless in their last six and 1-6-1 since opening the season with a program-record 7-0-1 start.

“Hopefully we’ve bottomed out,” Jackson said. “We’re not playing with that level of confidence that we had earlier in the year. It’s really hard to describe. They’re keeping a good attitude, staying positive, not pointing fingers or making excuses. They’re still working but they’re not executing where we need to be successful.”

The last four losses have been in home-and-home series against Bowling Green of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (5-2 and 5-2) and now the Eagles of Hockey East, who won 4-0 Friday at Chestnut Hill, Mass., behind freshman goalie sensation Spencer Knight’s 26 saves and fourth shutout of the season.

Knight wasn’t perfect Sunday, allowing freshman Trevor Janicke’s seventh goal at 17:59 of the second period. By then the 11-4-0 Eagles already led 4-0 thanks to a pair of goals by Jack McBain and single tallies by Logan Hutsko and David Cotton.

Marshall Warren and Aapeli Rasanen closed the game’s scoring with goals in the third period that chased Irish senior Cale Morris, who was pressured all night by the veteran B.C. squad. Morris made 21 saves and freshman replacement Ryan Bischel had nine against the Eagles, who outshot the Irish 36-28 including 29-19 over the last two periods.

Knight made 27 saves, lowering his goals-against average to 1.73 for Hall of Fame coach Jerry York’s team, which won its ninth straight going into Christmas break as one of college hockey’s hottest teams. Morris, the Big Ten Tournament’s most valuable player the last two seasons who started the season injured, saw his average balloon to 3.07.

Next up for Notre Dame at the Smith Rink is Penn State, which split a two-game series at Michigan last weekend but leads the Big Ten with 21 points and lead the nation in scoring at a 4.29-goals-per-game clip. The Irish are currently fourth in the league with 15 points trailing Penn State and Michigan State and Ohio State (19 points each).

“We’re better than this, much better,” said Jackson, who has tried a lot of juggling of lines. “When this stuff happens, I have to take full responsibility for it. Whatever we’re doing is not working. We have to find ways to overcome that. That’s on us as coaches. They’re ready to work, ready to do the things that are important. But our youth is showing up.”

The Irish skated eight sophomores, four on defense, but they were exposed by 11 B.C. upperclassmen, eight of them seniors. The Eagles were aggressive from the start, even before as B.C. senior captain Cotton and Notre Dame captain Cal Burke exchanged stick slaps before the puck was dropped and had to be warned by a linesman and referee.

Burke was back with senior center Mike O’Leary with freshman Jesse Lansdell on their left, and the Irish threesome got caught up ice when the Eagles started a 3-on-2 break into the Irish zone. Mattila, a senior center, gave the puck to sophomore McBain, whose 30-foot wrister beat Morris over his left gloved hand 36 seconds in.

B.C. made it 2-0 at the 3:11 mark on junior right wing Hutsko’s goal and it became 3-0 when Cotton scored unassisted at 17:50, giving the Eagles three goals in five shots.

In between, the Irish threatened only once, getting a 58-second 5-on-3 advantage at the 8:26 mark. After the first B.C. player returned to the ice, Burke finished off a mad scramble in front of Knight at 9:47 by putting the puck into the net.

But York, who was honored with a nice tribute by Notre Dame for his recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, requested a review that showed Knight was run into by Colin Theisen, negating the goal.

Three seconds into the second period, O’Leary was whistled for a faceoff violation and Boston College converted the power-play when McBain batted his own rebound past Morrison at 2:02 for a 4-0 lead.

Janicke cut into the lead with his goal at 17:59, spinning and scoring from in close after feeds from Alex Steeves and Michael Graham. But the goals by Warren and Rasanen in the final period came within 22 seconds of each other.

“We’re going to have to take baby steps, start all over again,” Jackson said. “Right now we have to focus on us.”

Boston College 3 1 2—6

Notre Dame 0 1 0—1

First Period—Scoring: 1. Boston College, Jack McBain 3 (Julius Mattila, Connor Moore) EV 0:36; 2. Boston College, Logan Hutsko 8 (Julius Mattila, David Cotton) EV 3:11; 3. Boston College, David Cotton 8 (unassisted) EV 17:50. Penalties: Boston College 2-4; Notre Dame 0-0.

Second Period—Scoring: 4. Boston College, Jack McBain 4 (Matt Boldy) PP 2:02; 5. Notre Dame, Trevor Janicke 7 (Alex Steeves, Michael Graham) EV 17:59. Penalties (total): Boston College 2-4 (4-8); Notre Dame 2-4 (2-4).

Third Period—Scoring: 6. Boston College, Marshall Warren 3 (Aapeli Rasanen) EV 10:31; 7. Boston College, Aapeli Rasanen 8 (David Cotton, Julius Mattila) PP 10:53. Penalties (total): Boston College 0-0 (4-8); Notre Dame 2-4 (4-8).

Power-play opportunities—Boston College 2 of 4; Notre Dame 0 of 4.

Faceoffs won—Boston College 26 (8-10-8); Notre Dame 30 (11-11-8).

Blocked shots—Boston College 10 (5-2-3); Notre Dame 18 (7-2-9).

Shots on goal—Boston College 36 (7-14-15); Notre Dame 28 (9-11-8).

Goalie saves—Boston College, Spencer Knight 27 (9-10-8); Notre Dame, Cale Morris 21 (4-13-4) and Ryan Bischell 9 (x-x-9).

Records—Boston College 11-4-0, Notre Dame 8-6-2.

A—3,985 (5,022).

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