Nov. 28, 2013
Lowell, Mass. – Senior goaltender Joe Rogers will chronicle Notre Dame’s travels in Hockey East this season as the Irish travel to face several new opponents. His second installment comes from Notre Dame’s first-ever visit to Lowell, Massachusetts where Notre Dame met the University of Massachusetts at Lowell for the first time in the program’s history on November 22-23.
On The Road Again
Thursday, Nov. 21
Our first-ever trip to Lowell, Massachusetts started like all road trips do – at the Compton Family Ice Arena – as we packed up for the trip and got set to load the bus for the ride to the airport.
Guys started getting to the locker room around 11 am to pack their bags. Some packed bags, a few guys got a bike ride in before the trip, just to get loosened up because we would later arrive in Massachusetts and go to the rink for a practice in their building.
We ate lunch and got a nice surprise from some girls at Pasquerilla East who dropped off goody bags for the trip. It was probably a little more candy than Coach Jackson would have liked for us to have but it was a nice gesture from the girls and the dorm. I didn’t finish it all but I know a lot of guys did.
From there the trip was pretty typical as we went through security and headed for the plane. It’s a cool feeling to see that big sucker waiting there for us.
We headed up the stairs and were met by the flight attendants who were all decked out in Notre Dame gear which was a nice touch. They had drinks and snacks for us while all our gear was being loaded. A couple of them were on our previous trip so they were glad to see us and made the trip comfortable and made the team feel right at home.
I noticed that on this flight that the guys were a lot more studious. With the end of the semester coming, guys have term projects and group presentations coming up so I noticed a lot of lap tops opened up and guys working on the trip that took about an hour-and-a-half. That’s all part of time management that you learn over the years. It was a good, quiet time to get some work done and a lot of guys took advantage of it.
A lot of people probably don’t know where Lowell, Massachusetts is. It’s located 25 miles northwest of Boston so the one thing I noticed as we began our descent was this big body of water to the east. At first you don’t realize it but it was the Atlantic Ocean. So that’s how close we were to both Boston and the ocean.
From the airport we headed to our hotel, winding through the back roads before we got to the highway. It reminded me of home in Michigan. We got to our hotel and had a quick snack before we were back on the bus to head to the Paul E. Tsongas Center in Lowell, where we would practice and play our series against the River Hawks on Friday and Saturday.
We were staying about 10 miles from the rink, but we got introduced to a New England traffic jam on Interstate 95 heading north. We don’t see much of that in South Bend, but we were bumper-to-bumper on a six-lane highway. It took us about a half hour to travel the 10 miles in stop-and-start traffic. I guess we forgot it was 5:15 or so and it was a work day and people were heading home for the night.
The Tsongas Center was a really nice rink, a fairly new facility that looked like it had seats for about 6,500 fans. The locker rooms were nice with plenty of space. The goaltenders and defensemen were in one room and the forwards in another.
We got on the ice and had a good Thursday skate. Lots of quick shots and tempo to get the blood flowing after a long day of travel.
After practice we returned to the hotel for a nice stir fry dinner which was something different than the usual chicken and pasta, so the guys were pretty enthusiastic about that. After that guys went back to their rooms, watched a little TV, did some school work and surfed the internet before turning in. Our series with UMass-Lowell this weekend is a big one, so everyone wanted to be ready to start on Friday.
Friday, Nov. 22
We got started at 8:00 am on Friday morning and had breakfast and then a pre-series strategy meeting where the coaches went over the game plan for the weekend.
We headed over to the rink for our morning skate that again was up-tempo and about 30 minutes where we skate to get the blood flowing and loosen up for the game that night. More than anything it’s a lot of shots to let the goalies feel the puck, to let the skaters get a lot of shots. We ran through some of our systems and then guys worked on different skills at the end.
At one end of the ice, guys were showing their power and broke a sheet of glass at the end of the ice as one of their shots broke the plexiglass. It didn’t quite shatter but there was a hole in the bottom and the rest of it had the spider-web splintering. So the rink staff had to replace that.
We returned to the hotel and had our pregame meal. After that pretty much everyone goes back to their rooms to get a nice nap for the game. The game was set for 7:00 p.m., so we planned on leaving at 4:30 to plan for the traffic going north on a Friday night. The coaches like us to get to the rink about two hours before the game as they start to get us focused on the game ahead.
I notice that the bus was pretty quiet as guys had a determined look in their eyes. They knew this was a big series and wanted to be ready for the puck to drop at 7:00.
When we got to the rink, guys got into their usual habits. Some guys like to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, others like to play a game of “Kicks” (with a soccer ball), some just sit in the room and listen to music in their head phones, others work on their sticks. The coaches meet with the power-play units and the penalty killers to go over what we will try to do each night and then we get ready for warmups.
This building was pretty warm even down on the ice as it started to fill up. We had a pretty good warm up and felt good coming off the ice and then it was game time.
We knew we were in for a battle. In the first period things were pretty even until late in the period when we took a couple of penalties that got us into some trouble.
On the second penalty, one of our players checked a UMass-Lowell player into our bench. I didn’t realize it at first because I was at the other end of the bench, but there was a big commotion at that end. All of a sudden, one of their players was standing on our bench. Then our trainer, Kevin Ricks rushed to the other end of the bench. I thought their guy got hurt but then Ricksy was grabbing Chad Katunar’s hand and they were headed to the locker room. I guess when their player got flipped onto our bench his skate caught Chad’s hand and he was cut and had to get stiches. It was crazy for a few seconds there until we figured out what was going on.
Our penalty killers did a good job killing the first penalty but Lowell popped one in with 30 seconds left on that power play to take the lead.
In the locker room, there wasn’t much said as guys understood what we had to do to get back in the game. The coaches made a few adjustments and we went back to the ice.
It was pretty intense throughout the game. it was loud on the ice as the crowd was really into it. They were a factor especially after they scored that first goal, they really got into the game. The atmosphere was pretty fun to play in.
Both goaltenders played great and we had some good flurries in the third but couldn’t score. It’s always tough to lose, but to lose 1-0 after getting 40 shots on goal was tough.
We didn’t have a chance to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We had to get things worked out and get back to it early on Saturday.
Saturday, Nov. 23
Our pregame rituals were a little different on Saturday for the second game of the series because the game was played at 4:00 p.m. because it was televised. So, we had pregame meal at 10 am with a choice of breakfast or the chicken and pasta we usually have.
We left for the rink at 1:30 with everthing loaded on the bus to leave after the game. It was a nice day outside, not too cold and the sun was out for a nice, late New England fall day. The traffic wasn’t bad at all and we made it to the rink in about 15 minutes and started back into our pregame routines.
Again they had another big crowd with a white out with all their fans wearing white. The student section was full early and they were buzzing so it was good to see that kind of energy from the crowd early in the day.
The game was really a carbon copy of the night before with lots of action and tight checking. I thought we had picked up some momentum early when it looked like Sammy Herr scored at the far end of the rink. The refs waved it off and called him for goaltender interference. That was a double whammy because they took a goal away and then had to kill a penalty.
UMass-Lowell scored on the power play and then we were called for another penalty and they scored another one on a screened shot from the point to make it 2-0.
The momentum really shifted because I thought we were playing hard and just weren’t getting any bounces or breaks. We continued to battle and finally broke through in the second on a nice play by (T.J.) Tynan as he set up Rusty (Bryan Rust) on a power-play chance that made it 2-1.
In the third we kept pushing the play but couldn’t get that tying goal. The game got to the final minutes and we pulled Summerhays for an extra man, but they scored their third goal to put the game away.
The weekend was frustrating because we put in 120 hard minutes and we came out with two losses. It stings a bit, but we have to put it behind us and get ready for the Shillelagh Tournament next weekend.
We packed the bus and headed to the airport where our flight was delayed an hour or so until the plane got there. We waited on the bus and had our postgame meal there. We finally got back to South Bend around 12:15 am where we had another surprise. It was nice and cold and it had snowed during the day.