Robbie Russo helped carry the Notre Dame hockey team last weekend to valuable points and delivered a milestone win to his head coach in the process.
Jeff Jackson collected win No. 400 on Sunday as the Irish defeated Connecticut 6-1 in Storrs on the strength of a Russo hat trick. Russo also scored a goal and picked up an assist in the series opener Friday, a 3-3 tie at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Jackson is the seventh Division I head coach to reach 400 wins. He leads all active coaches with a .663 winning percentage and is now 218-136-38 in his 10 seasons at Notre Dame.
“I didn’t even know until the guys turned around on the bench and wanted fist pumps,” Jackson said. “That statistic is so overrated because there’s so many players that I’ve had, so many coaches that I’ve worked with and even our support staff. Everybody’s involved in each one of those wins. I don’t get it as far as the individual accolade. The only thing I worry about is the next one. That’s all that matters to me right now.”
Russo became the first Notre Dame defenseman to record a hat trick since Frank O’Brien in 1988. Russo now leads all defensemen nationally with 11 goals and 24 points total this season.
Connecticut actually opened the scoring Sunday with a goal from Kasperi Ojantakanen at 16:16 of the first period. Russo scored the first of six straight Irish goals at 19:12 of the first to begin the comeback.
Walk-on winger Joe Aiken scored his first career goal at 12:33 of the second period then Mario Lucia scored on a power play at 18:19 to give the Irish a 3-1 lead at the second intermission.
Russo scored twice in the first 13:09 of the third to finish off the hat trick. Justin Wade scored his first of the season at 17:05 for the sixth tally. Goaltender Cal Petersen finished with 28 saves in a second consecutive start, but it was Russo that stole the show.
“He’s been special all season long,” Jackson said. “If he’s not the best defenseman in the country, he’s one of the best. He’s not doing it by sacrificing defense. He’s played with Jordan Gross, a freshman, all season long. He’s done a good job of mentoring him. He’s helped a really young blue line a lot this his performance.”
Notre Dame (10-11-3, 5-2-3 Hockey East) took four points on the weekend with Friday’s home tie.
Russo scored at 6:27 of the first period and Lucia gave the Irish a 2-1 lead at 8:45 of the second before Connecticut beat Petersen twice on breakaways — Shawn Pauly at 14:35 and Cody Sharib at 15:16 — for a 3-2 Huskies lead heading into the third period.
Austin Wuthrich scored on the power play at 11:37 of the third period to salvage a point. Russo recorded his lone assist of the weekend on the goal.
“Russo got it through,” Wuthrich said. “It actually hit Sam Herr in front, the puck bounced and I just banged in the rebound … I just spun and tried to hit it towards the net and it happened to go in.”
Notre Dame climbed to fifth in Hockey East after the weekend with 13 points despite having played just 10 league games. Boston University and UMass-Lowell sit atop the standings with 18 points in 12 games played. Vermont is third with 15 points in 12 games and Boston College fourth with 14 points in 13 games.