Sam Herr is one of four Notre Dame players with at least five career points against UMass.

Irish Welcome UMass For Hockey East First Round

March 6, 2015

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Notre Dame is playing host to the first round of the Hockey East playoffs, opening what head coach Jeff Jackson calls “the second season” for the second time in as many seasons on its home ice at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Notre Dame finished fifth in Hockey East and welcomes No. 12-seed Massachusetts for a best-of-three series Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday nights. If Notre Dame wins the series, it advances to face No. 4-seed UMass Lowell, March 13-15, in a quarterfinal best-of-three set. Should the Minutemen advance, they would travel to top-seeded Boston University for their quarterfinal series as the league reseeds following the first weekend of play.

Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Massachusetts 5-4-0, and is 3-1-0 against UMass in the Hockey East era. The series is even at 2-2-0 at Notre Dame. The teams first met in late December, 1994, in Amherst, Massachusetts, with the Irish taking a Dec. 30 game, 6-3, before losing, 4-3 in overtime, on New Year’s Eve. The sides also split a pair of games at the Joyce Center during the 1999-2000 season with UMass claiming a 2007 game played in Tampa. The Minutemen made their Compton Family Ice Arena debut Dec. 6-7, 2013, with Notre Dame claiming the first game, 5-3, and UMass winning the second, 3-2. The Irish sweep in Amherst this year was the first non-split in series history. This is the first postseason meeting between UMass and Notre Dame.

The Irish are 39-50-3 (.440) in its postseason history. Last year, its first in Hockey East, Notre Dame went 3-2 and accomplished a rare Bostonian double, beating Boston University in a singe first round game at Notre Dame and then also eliminating top-seeded Boston College, claiming a best-of-three series in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. UMass Lowell beat Notre Dame, 4-0, in the semifinals at TD Garden. The Irish were 33-35 in 22 seasons as members of the CCHA, including a 19-8 mark at home. Under Jeff Jackson, the Irish are 21-14 in conference tournament play, including CCHA titles in 2007, 2008 and 2013. Notre Dame was 5-13-3 in the WCHA from 1971-81, an era of aggregate score series which allowed for ties.

After earning one of Hockey East’s three weekly awards each of the past four weeks, Cal Petersen kept his honors streak going this week when he was named both the league’s Goaltender of the Month and the Rookie of the Week. During February he was also named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week twice (Feb. 9 and Feb. 16) and the league’s overall Player of the Week once (Feb. 23).

Petersen led the nation with a .962 save percentage during the month of February, stopping 279 of the 290 shots thrown his way. He also posted a 1.48 goals against average in February, fourth nationally and tops in Hockey East. Petersen made at least 32 saves in each of his seven starts while also stopping all 10 shots he faced in his one relief appearance, Feb. 6 at Maine.

He helped the Irish to a 4-2-2 month that included wins over each of Hockey East’s top three teams; a 2-0 shutout of No. 10 Providence College (Feb. 13), a 3-2 win at No. 2 Boston University (Feb. 21) that temporarily kept the Terriers from clinching the league title, and a 3-1 win over No. 9 Boston College (Feb. 28).

The coda to Petersen’s remarkable February was a 55-save performance on Feb. 28 in a 3-1 win over No. 9 Boston College at the Compton Family Ice Arena on Senior Night. It marked the most saves by a Notre Dame goalie since Nov. 12, 1988 when Lance Madson made 57 saves in a 6-3 loss to Air Force. It also marked the most saves in a Hockey East regular season game since at least 2005. Petersen held the Eagles to just a single goal in a game, their lowest offensive output since Jan. 9.

Petersen made 44 saves in the team’s 3-2 win over No. 2 Boston University on Feb. 21 at the Terriers’ Agganis Arena, including 18 in the third period as the Terriers furiously tried to secure the Hockey East championship with at least a tie against the Irish that never came. Petersen stopped all 38 shots he faced in a 2-0 shutout of Providence on Feb. 13, his third shutout of the year. The three shutouts are the most by a Notre Dame freshman since David Brown also had a trio in 2003-04.

For the season, Petersen ranks fourth nationally, and first in Hockey East, among freshmen with his .923 save percentage. He stands sixth nationally, and first in Hockey East, among freshmen with his 2.39 goals against average this season.

Petersen is the first person to win the Hockey East player, rookie and defensive player of the week accolades during the regular season since Dan Sullivan of Maine claimed all three during the 2010-11 season.

Cal Petersen has made a habit of starting strong during his current run of great goaltending. Petersen has posted a shutout in six of his seven opening stanzas, including a 22-save effort against No. 9 Boston College on Feb. 28. Petersen carried a 106:08 shutout streak in the first period between Feb. 7 and Feb. 27. This has helped Notre Dame outscore its opponents 34-23 in the first 20 minutes of games this year, by far its largest margin of any period.

Vince Hinostroza’s third period game-winning goal on Feb. 21 at No. 2/3 Boston University was Notre Dame’s 100th goal of the season. The Irish became the 11th team nationally to have scored 100 goals on the 2014-15 season and the third in Hockey East at that time, joining Boston University and UMass Lowell.

Defenseman Robbie Russo is tied for the top among all blueliners nationally with 12 goals and is tied for fourth in the nation with his 30 points. Russo’s 12 goals are already the seventh-most for an entire season by a Hockey East defenseman since 2002-03. He has the only hat trick in the country this year for a blueliner and the only one in Hockey East since at least the 2011-12 season.

Anders Bjork’s game-tying goal with 3:43 left in regulation at No. 2/3 Boston University on Feb. 20 extended a scoring streak to six games. That streak has ended, but since assisting on a goal in Notre Dame’s Jan. 31 win over New Hampshire, the Boston Bruins draftee has four goals and six assists for 10 points. The 10 points since Jan. 31 tie for the third-most nationally among freshmen behind only BU’s Jack Eichel and Denver’s Danton Heinen, both with 15.

Notre Dame’s power play unit sprang to life beginning with the Jan. 10 game against Western Michigan. The Irish scored a power play goal in eight consecutive games from that evening on – its longest streak since opening the 2011 season with a run of eight consecutive games scoring on the power play. The Irish now have at least one power play goal in 11 of its last 15 games. Notre Dame has scored 15 power play goals since the streak began on Jan. 10. Nationally, the 15 goals are the third-most during this span. Only Boston University (23), and Minnesota (17) have scored more power play goals since Jan. 10 than Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s conversion rate of 28.8 percent (15 of 52) is fourth nationally and second only to BU’s 35.4 percent in Hockey East. The Irish out-dueled the Terriers on the power play Feb. 20-21 at BU’s Agganis Arena, going a combined two for six while BU was one for nine on the power play.

Vince Hinostroza had an eight-game scoring streak snapped on Feb. 14, one which included five multiple-point games, but he has not slowed down much, including two assists in Saturday night’s 3-1 win over Boston College, his 12th multiple-point game of the year. Hinostroza has accumulated 21 points (five goals and 16 assists) since this hot streak began at UConn on Jan. 18. Over that span, he ranks third nationally in points, trailing only Boston University teammates Evan Rodrigues (27) and Jack Eichel (23). Hinostroza has been particularly effective on the power play. Since Jan. 18, 10 of Hinostroza’s 21 points have been recorded with a man-advantage, the fourth-most of any player nationally over this period.

With 19 goals to his credit this winter, Mario Lucia stands tied for second in Hockey East. Only Ahti Oksanen of Boston University has more with his 22. Lucia’s 19 goals tie for 10th in the nation. Lucia’s 19 goals on the year are the most by an Irish skater since Anders Lee’s 2012-13 team-leading sum of 20. With 27 points on his junior campaign, Lucia is tied for 20th in Hockey East.

Freshman defenseman Jordan Gross has made an immediate impact at both ends of the ice. His 24 points on the year (six goals and 18 assists) rank first in the nation among freshman defensemen and seventh in Hockey East among all rookies. Gross’ 18 assists are tied for eighth overall by a freshman of any position. His six goals on the year tie for second nationally for freshman defensemen. Gross has done this while maintaining a +11 rating, tied for the best for Notre Dame with his usual defensive partner, Robbie Russo.

Notre Dame’s on-ice success has varied widely by month and the alternating rhythm continued with a 4-2-2 record in February. After starting the season with a 5-2-0 mark in October, the Irish fell on hard times in November, turning in a 1-6-2 record. Notre Dame rebounded to go 3-1-0 in December, but slumped back in January, posting a 2-5-1 record which proved to be a harbinger for a strong February.

Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson has had his share of success in conference playoff games. His teams have made 15 conference postseason runs (six at Lake Superior State and nine at Notre Dame) and compiled a 45-16 record (.738). At Lake Superior State, his teams were 24-2 while at Notre Dame, he stands at 21-14. His teams have advanced to the league final in 11 of his 15 seasons (six at LSSU and five at Notre Dame), claiming seven CCHA titles (four at LSSU and three at Notre Dame).

The Irish notched the game’s first goal of their 2-2 tie at No. 2/3 Boston University on Feb. 20 when Jake Evans rushed up ice for an unassisted goal early in the second period. It should not come as a surprise that Notre Dame would take a point by the end of the night. The Irish have either won or tied every game in which the freshman winger has scored a goal, posting a 4-0-2 mark. No. 2 Boston University is the third ranked team to drop points to the Irish when Evans scores as he also tallied this season in a tie against No. 14 Vermont and a win over No. 6 Miami.