Last night, Anders Bjork became the seventh different Notre Dame skater to reach the 20-point plateau on the season.

Winner-Takes-All For Irish on Sunday at No. 14 UMass Lowell

March 15, 2015

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No. 5-seed Notre Dame (18-18-5) faces No. 4-seed UMass Lowell (19-11-6) today at 4 p.m. EDT at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the decisive Game 3 of a Hockey East quarterfinal series. The winner will advance to the TD Garden in Boston for next weekend’s league semifinals and championship game. Hockey East has a $9.95 pay-per-view web stream of the game available at The game can be heard on radio on 99.9 FM in South Bend or globally via WatchND.

Notre Dame is 5-1 in games when it faces elimination from the Hockey East tournament. The Irish beat Massachusetts twice last weekend after losing the first game of their best-of-three first round series and also defeated UMass Lowell last night. Last year, Notre Dame beat Boston University in a single first round matchup and downed Boston College in Game 3 of its quarterfinal series with the Eagles. Notre Dame’s lone loss was to UMass Lowell in last year’s semifinals. Notre Dame’s seniors are 7-2 in their careers in games when facing conference tournament elimination. The Irish claimed victories over Ohio State and Michigan in the 2013 CCHA semifinals and championship game, respectively. In 2012, Notre Dame fell to Michigan in Game 2 of a CCHA quarterfinal series after also losing Game 1.

After being shutout on Friday night, Notre Dame responded with a 4-2 win on Saturday. The Irish are 3-1 this year following a shutout. Notre Dame also beat Boston College, 3-1, on Feb. 28 a night after being shutout, and rebounded from a 3-0 shutout loss to Minnesota-Duluth on Oct. 12 with a 5-3 win over Lake Superior State on Oct. 17. The consecutive losses came at No. 1 Minnesota on Nov. 7-9, losing 4-2 after being shutout 5-0. ND is 12-9 under Jackson after being shutout.

Tonight is the equivalent of a professional Game 7 when the winner wins a tied series to advance on and the loser’s season ends. Notre Dame faced this scenario a week ago today and, as usual, prevailed, beating Massachusetts, 7-0. It was the 10th time that Notre Dame had faced this winner-takes-all Game 3 scenario and the Irish are 8-2 all-time, winning each of the last eight games. On the road the Irish are 3-1 in Game 3s. This is the second consecutive year that the Irish have been in this situation in the Hockey East quarterfinal round. Notre Dame upset top-seeded Boston College in the 2014 Hockey East quarterfinals, beating the Eagles, 4-2, on their home ice in a Game 3 on March 16. Notre Dame took the first game of that series, 7-2, but BC won the second, 4-2. The CCHA also used a best-of-three format in postseason rounds prior to reaching the semifinals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, providing the Irish with their first eight Game 3 experiences.

Notre Dame is 4-7 in best-of-three series when losing Game 1 since joining the CCHA in 1992-93. In each of the four instances that Notre Dame has won Game 2 after losing Game 1, the Irish have also gone on to win Game 3 and the series (2002 at Nebraska-Omaha, 2003 at Miami, 2008 vs. Ferris State and 2015 vs. Massachusetts). Notre Dame was last swept in a best-of-three series in the 2012 CCHA quarterfinals, losing 2-1 (2OT) and 3-1 at Michigan.

Notre Dame is looking to join the 2004 Boston University Terriers as the only teams to win a Hockey East playoff series after being shutout in a game. No. 8-seed BU lost Game 2 of its quarterfinal series 4-0 at No. 1-seed Boston College that year but victories in Game 1 (3-2) and Game 3 (4-2) sent the Terriers onto the FleetCenter.

Notre Dame aims to join the 2003 New Hampshire Wildcats as the only teams to eliminate both UMass branches in the same Hockey East playoffs today as the Irish aspire to defeat UMass Lowell in the quarterfinals after eliminating the Amherst flagship campus’ team last weekend. Last year, the Irish similarly eliminated both “Boston” teams, beating Boston University at home in the first round before defeating Boston College in the quarterfinals in Chestnut Hill. Notre Dame became the fifth team to eliminate both BU and BC from the same Hockey East playoffs, joining the 2000 and 2002 Maine Black Bears and the 1985 and 1996 Providence College Friars.

The Irish have been starting games strong of late. Notre Dame entered last night’s game 0-8-0 this year when trailing after the first but rallied back from a 1-0 hole for a 4-2 victory. The Irish last won a game when trailing after 20 minutes on Jan. 18, 2014, when, matching last night’s pattern, Lake Superior State held a 1-0 advantage after the first period of a game that the Irish would win 4-2. It marked the third time this year that Notre Dame had won when trailing after two periods (now 3-13-1), also doing it at UMass (Dec. 5) and in Estero, Florida, vs. Miami (Dec. 28).

Mario Lucia scored his 21st goal of the season last night – the game-winning goal on the power play with 9:30 left in the game. Lucia’s 21 goals are the most by a Notre Dame player since 2010-11 when current NHL Calder Trophy candidate Anders Lee of the New York Islanders had 24 and T.J. Tynan had 23. Lucia’s 21 goals are tied for second in Hockey East and 10th in the nation. His next goal will be the milestone 50th of his Irish career. Lucia also assisted on Anders Bjork’s game-tying goal at 4:43 of the third period. It was a good night all-around for the Lucia family. Lucia’s father, Don (Notre Dame `81), coached Minnesota to a 6-2 win over Penn State on Senior Night at Mariucci Arena to clinch the Big Ten regular season championship.

Freshman Jordan Gross picked up his 20th assist of the year when he fed Mario Lucia on his game-winning power play goal in the third period. Gross leads all freshman blueliners nationally with both his 20 assists and 26 points on the year. The 20 assists rank seventh nationally among all freshmen regardless of position and tie for 11th among all defensemen regardless of class.

Sophomore Vince Hinostroza collected his 33rd assist of the year last night on Mario Lucia’s goal. No Notre Dame player has had more than 33 assists since current Ottawa Senator Erik Condra had 34 in 2006-07. Hinostroza’s 33 assists tie for fourth in the nation behind just Jack Eichel (41) and Evan Rodrigues (36) of Boston University and Mike Reilly (36) of Minnesota.

Notre Dame presently stands at 18-18-5 on the year and, with a win on Sunday, would ensure finishing the 2014-15 season at no worse than .500. The Irish have finished with a winning record in seven of the last eight years with the exception coming in 2009-10 (13-17-8).

7 HAVE 20:
With his game-tying goal in the third period last night, Anders Bjork became the seventh different Irish skater to collect 20 points on the season. With 20, he joins Vince Hinostroza (44), Robbie Russo (37), Mario Lucia (32), Thomas DiPauli 29), Jordan Gross (26) and Steven Fogarty (21).

UMass Lowell, whose success under head coach Norm Bazin has been predicated on a rigid defensively-minded system, not surprisingly has had tremendous results when leading after two periods. Last night, Notre Dame became the first team this year in 19 tries to beat the River Hawks when trailing after two periods as UMass Lowell entered the game at 16-0-2 in that situation. Rallying to take the lead with a three-goal third period, the Irish became just the third team in 83 games over the past four years to beat UMass Lowell when trailing after two. The River Hawks entered last night 75-2-5 under Bazin in that situation.