Friday night, January 23, saw the Northeastern University Huskies host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first of back-to-back games at Matthews Arena. This is the first time the Huskies have hosted the Fighting Irish since 2001. However it was the 11th time that the two teams have met in competition with the Huskies holding a 6-3-1 lead in those games.
This is the second season for Notre Dame as part of Hockey East, so tonight’s points were important in the Hockey East conference, especially given that the Huskies trail Notre Dame in the Hockey East standings. The Fighting Irish also have played three less conference games to date.
The game started off with a strong effort from the Huskies, who outshot the Fighting Irish 16-5 in the first period. It was clear that freshman goaltender Cal Petersen was keeping the Irish alive as the horn sounded on that first period to keep the Huskies off the scoreboard and the score knotted at zero.
“[Petersen] was outstanding. He did what he had to do,” Notre Dame head coach Jeffrey L. Jackson said. “I challenged him this morning because he is slowly taking over our number one job. That’s what he’s capable of. It’s just a matter of him being able to do that on a nightly basis.”
The Huskies opened the second a man down when Michael Szmatula was called for elbowing just 19 seconds before the end of the first period. The Huskies stood tall and continued to dominate, scoring their first goal by Junior Kevin Roy (assisted by Dustin Darou and Matt Benning) on the evening just 2:36 into the frame, and just after successfully making the kill on Szmatula’s penalty.
Northeastern would take two more penalties in the first half of the second, however, they would continue to limit Notre Dame’s chances to fire pucks at Derick Roy, who started in net for the Huskies. Going into the second intermission the Huskies would be up by a pair—Dalen Hedges having capitalized just 13 seconds into their first power play (with assists by Mike McMurtry and Kevin Roy). The team would also find themselves entering the third down a man again.
Though the Huskies would kill off that opening penalty, they would find themselves almost immediately back on the penalty kill when they were called for a Team penalty for delay of game. The Fighting Irish capitalized on this one, just 16 seconds into the power play, when Mario Lucia would score his 16th of the season assisted by Justin Gross and Vince Hinostroza.
That goal by the Fighting Irish seemed to spark the team, who began to control the pace of the game.
“I think in the third period, we came out and played hockey,” Jackson told The Pink Puck. “We put ourselves in a hole. We can say whatever we want about what happened at the end of the game, you know. We put ourselves in a two goal hole. And I thought in the third period we started to play.”
Jackson’s reference to the end of the game was an uncalled slash by Kevin Roy who was able to then dish the puck to McMurtry who tossed it to Hedges. Hedges was able to get it past Petersen for his second goal of the game with just 90 seconds remaining in regulation.
After the game, Huskies head coach Jim Madigan spoke highly of his team’s efforts in the first forty minutes and admitted that they were playing on their heels in the third, as Notre Dame outshot them 13-8.
Hedges was understandably pleased with his efforts on the night, having gotten two goals. And he talked about the confidence the team has, even on the bench when the game became tied with 6:45 remaining in the third. However, there is no worry that they will become too confident.
“No, no. I think the whole staff, the coaches, the captains, the players, I think we’re all staying level headed,” Hedges told The Pink Puck. “So, it’s working out for us right now.”
“When you’re sub .500, it’s still easy to be balanced and neutral,” Coach Madigan added. “We’re still trying to climb out of a hole.”
Two points to the Huskies in the first of the doubleheader, but it is clear that the Fighting Irish will bring hunger and determination as the teams take to the ice again on Saturday night with another two points on the line.