March 20, 2014
Boston, Mass. –
For the third time in the month of March, Notre Dame’s destination is Boston, Massachusetts. This time it’s the TD Garden, home of the NHL’s Boston Bruins, and this weekend, the home of the Hockey East Championship series.
The Irish will meet the tournament’s second-seeded team – UMass-Lowell – at 5:00 p.m. in the first semifinal on Friday, March 21. Third-seeded Providence College will battle fourth-seeded New Hampshire in the nightcap at 8:00 p.m. The two winners will then advance to the championship game at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 22.
All three games will be televised. In New England, fans can catch the action on the New England Sports Network (NESN) with Tom Caron and Billy Jaffe calling the action and Jamison Coyle is rinkside. Nationally, the game can be seen on the NBC Sports Network with Steve Schlanger and Ken Hodge calling the action.
This marks the second year in a row that the Irish will participate in a conference championship series. A year ago this weekend, Notre Dame was winning the final CCHA title at Joe Louis Arena with 3-1 wins over Ohio State and Michigan.
Notre Dame has the chance to do something that hasn’t been done before, and that’s winning back-to-back conference championships in different leagues. The only other team with that opportunity is Wisconsin as the Badgers won the WCHA last season and is in the running for the first-ever Big 10 title.
The Irish advanced to this weekend in Boston by upsetting the top-seeded Boston College Eagles last weekend in Chestnut Hill, taking the series, two games to one. Notre Dame is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games and is now 23-13-2 overall for the year. The Irish are ranked eighth in the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine poll and 10th in the USCHO.com rankings.
UMass-Lowell advanced to the semifinal contest with Notre Dame by knocking off Vermont a week ago, winning that best-of-three series, two games to one. The River Hawks are 5-3-2 in their last 10 and are 23-10-4 for the season. They are ranked seventh in both national polls.
As the eighth seed in the tournament, Notre Dame has come a long way.
“At this point it doesn’t matter any more where we are seeded,” says Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
“We are playing in the championships and that’s all that really matters. With only 20 games in Hockey East and the first half we had with all the injuries and things like that, we only finished five points behind the team that we are playing on Friday night. It’s not like we are a legitimate eighth seed in my opinion. Jerry York even said that. It was unfortunate that they had to play us because I believe we are better than an eighth-place team. It is still what you do on the ice and we didn’t do it on the ice to get those three, four or five points we needed to move up.”
IRISH VERSUS RIVER HAWKS
A week ago, Notre Dame faced the team that they have faced more than any other Hockey East team – the Boston College Eagles. The Irish and Eagles have met 37 times in the all-time series with BC leading with a 19-16-2 advantage.
The team that Notre Dame has met the fewest times is the one that they play on Friday – the UMass-Lowell River Hawks. The two teams met for the first time this season on Nov. 22-23 at Lowell, Mass., with the River Hawks winning both games, 1-0 and 3-1.
NOTRE DAME ADVANCING
While this is Notre Dame’s first trip to the Hockey East Championship in Boston, the Irish advanced from the quarterfinal round seven times in 23 seasons (1981-83, 1992-2013) as members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). They advanced to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in 1981-82, `99-’00, `06′-07, `07-’08, `08-’09, `10-’11 and `12-’13. The Irish won three CCHA titles in those trips in 2007, 2009 and 2013. They finished second in `81-’82, tied for third in `99-’00 and fourth in `07-’08 and `10-’11.
Notre Dame also advanced to Joe Louis Arena in three other seasons (2001-04) when the CCHA sent six teams to “The Joe.”
BEATING THE BOSTONS:
Notre Dame’s wins over Boston University in the first round of the tournament and then the quarterfinal win over Boston College last week helped the Irish accomplish something that hasn’t happened since 1988. They knocked both Boston teams out of the tournament; marking just the second time in the 30 years of Hockey East that one of those two teams isn’t playing in the Garden. The last time that happened was in 1988.
This year’s tournament also marks the first time that one of the three schools from Boston isn’t in the tournament and is the first time that either Boston College, Boston University or Maine isn’t in the tournament.
Jackson took a look back at last weekend’s win at Boston College to heap praise on his team.
“Winning the series last weekend is obviously a huge thing,” says Jackson.
“To go into their building and win two games, to win a series. That is something that they can be proud of because I don’t think we’ve had a team in here in the past that could do something like that. So they did something that was really special. They didn’t just knock off a really good team in their building, the beat the first or second team in the country twice in their building.”
POST SEASON AWARDS
Before the hockey action starts on Friday night, Hockey East held its annual awards banquet at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Two members of the Notre Dame hockey team received awards as senior defenseman Stephen Johns was selected as a second team all-star and freshman center Vince Hinostroza was named to the all-rookie team.
Johns has had a career year for the Irish as he leads the Notre Dame defense in scoring with a career-highs in goals (8) and points (20) and is +9 for the season. He has scored two power-play goals, one short-handed tally and one game winner this season.
Hinostroza was named to the all-rookie team after finishing the year second in scoring on the team with eight goals and 24 assists for 32 points. He has two power-play goals and a pair of game winners while being +8 for the year. His 32 points rank him third among Hockey East freshmen and his 1.00 point per game also is third among league rookies.
The Hockey East Awards as announced on Friday night:
First Team Second TeamGoal Connor Hellebucyk (UMass-Lowell) Clay Witt (Northeastern)Defense Ben Hutton (Maine) Stephen Johns (Notre Dame)Defense Michael Matheson (Boston College) Eric Knodel (New Hampshire) Josh Manson (Northeastern)Forward Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College) Kevin Goumas (New Hampshire)Forward Kevin Hayes (Boston College) Chris McCarthy (Vermont)Forward Devin Shore (Maine) Kevin Roy (Northeastern)
Honorable Mention: G – Thatcher Demko (Boston College); D – Garrett Noonan (Boston University) D – Michael Paliotta (Vermont); F – Bill Arnold (Boston College); Ross Mauermann (Providence).
Hockey East also awarded individual awards:
The Charlie Holt Sportsmanship Award went to the New Hampshire Wildcats who set a league record with an average of just 7.8 penalty minutes per game. The award is named after long-time New Hampshire coach Charlie Holt.
Providence College’s Ross Mauermann was the winner of the Len Ceglarski Individual Sportsmanship Award. Notre Dame’s Bryan Rust along with Massachusetts forward Conor Sheary were the runner-ups for the award. Ceglarski is the long-time coach of the Boston College Eagles.
Mauermann also shares the Gladiator Best Defensive Forward Award with Boston College center Bill Arnold. The third-place finisher was Notre Dame left wing Jeff Costello.
Northeastern defenseman Josh Manson was the winner of the Old Time Hockey Best Defensive Defenseman Award with Notre Dame blue liner Stephen Johns named the runner-up for the honor.
The winner of the Three Star Award for the player who earned the most points in three star voting following Hockey East conference games was Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt who was a first star seven times in 19 league games.
Boston College goaltender Thatcher Demko was the league’s Stop-It Goaltending Champion as he had a 1.35 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage in Hockey East games. Irish goaltender Steven Summerhays was the runner-up with a 1.89 goals-against and a .931 save percentage in 20 Hockey East games.
Rounding out the individual honors, as the Squad Locker Scoring Champion was Boston College left wing Johnny Gaudreau who had nine more points in league play that his closest competitor. Gaudreau had 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points in 20 league contests. His linemate, Kevin Hayes, was second with 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points in Hockey East play this season.
The Hockey East Rookie of the Year Award went to Vermont’s Mario Puskarich with Northeastern’s Mike Szmatula finishing second.
The Player of the Year Award went to Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau who also won the award last year. The runner-up was Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt.
The Hockey East Coach of the Year was Boston College head coach Jerry York. Northeastern bench boss Jim Madigan finished second in the voting done by the Hockey East coaches.
A WINNING COACH
Irish head coach Jeff Jackson has had his share of success in conference playoff games. Prior to this season, his teams appeared in 14 CCHA post seasons (six at Lake Superior State and eight at Notre Dame). During that time, Jackson was 42-14 (.750) in conference postseason play. At Lake Superior, his teams were 24-2 while at Notre Dame, he was 18-12.
His teams advanced to the finals in 11 of 14 seasons (six at LSSU and five at Notre Dame). In those previous 14 seasons, his teams won seven CCHA titles (four at LSSU and three at Notre Dame). Now, including Hockey East, Jackson-coached teams are 45-15 (.750) in 15 conference postseasons.
Bryan Rust TIME:
In each of the last two year’s postseasons, Bryan Rust has been the go-to-man for the Irish in the goal-scoring department. Last season, against Bowling Green in the CCHA quarterfinals, he had the overtime game winner in game one of a 1-0 Irish win and followed that with two goals, including a penalty shot in the 4-2 win in game two.
This year, Rust had three goals and one assist in the three-game series against Boston College. He had one goal in each game, including the game winner in game three. In five quarterfinal games over the last two years, Rust has six goals and one assist for seven points with two game winners.
For the year, Rust has a career-high 16 goals to go with 15 assists for 31 points. He has four power-play goals, two short-handed goals and three game winners this season.