|Who: Notre Dame (15-16-5) vs. Massachusetts (10-21-2)
When: 7:35 p.m. ET tonight; 7:05 p.m. ET Saturday; 7:05 p.m. Sunday (if necessary)
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena; South Bend, Ind. (5,022)
|Radio: 99.9 FM (WHFB)
Hockey people know nothing can spur an unexpected playoff run like a hot goaltender.
Jeff Jackson just so happens to be coaching perhaps the hottest shot stopper in the country as the Notre Dame hockey team begins its postseason this weekend with a Hockey East first round series against Massachusetts at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Petersen won Hockey East goaltender of the month for February after allowing just 11 goals while facing 290 shots. He led the nation with a .962 save percentage during that stretch and managed a 1.48 goals-against average, fourth in the country and best in the league.
Petersen made at least 32 saves in each of his seven starts, including a staggering 55 stops in a 3-1 win against No. 9 Boston College.
“I’m really starting to figure things out,” Petersen said. “Obviously, the team has been playing a lot better. I’m really not seeing those high opportunity scoring chances with odd-man rushes. But really it’s just kind of the experience. The guys that do really well in this league are the older guys usually. Kinda just battling that learning curve.
“The first half of the season you’re truly a freshman. The second half, I think even the coaches will mention you’re not really considered a freshman anymore. I think that held true to me.”
Notre Dame (15-16-5) finished fifth in the Hockey East standings thanks to a 4-2-1 close to the regular season, all Petersen starts. He beat Maine, split with No. 11 Providence, took a win and tie at No. 3 Boston University then split at home against Boston College.
Next up is a best-of-three series against Massachusetts, which ended up last in Hockey East wit ha 5-16-1 record in league play. Notre Dame had a 10-7-5 record against conference foes.
Two of those wins came — a 7-5 shootout and 4-0 shutout, respectively — came at Massachusetts in early December. But neither Petersen nor Jackson expect the Minutemen to look anything similar to the squad they dispatched back then.
Petersen hopes to settle in quickly to his first college playoff series after a deep run with his major junior team last year in the United States Hockey League.
“It’s a lot of similarities that hopefully I can take and put into play when we face off against UMass,” he said. “But kinda the main thing I’m looking at is play obviously amps up when it comes to playoff time because it’s do or die. I expect the UMass team to be a completely different hockey team than they were when we faced off around Christmas time.”
Petersen needed just 14 saves Dec. 6 to shut out Massachusetts, which managed just a single shot in the first period.
Turning in a similar result tonight would get Notre Dame off to a strong start in its quest to make the quarterfinal round, which will require a road trip if it happens. Jackson hopes preparing his goaltender the same will net that result.
“It’s just like a starting pitcher or a starting quarterback,” Jackson said. “Most coaches probably just stay away if they’re playing well. I did goalie drills (Tuesday). We did work before practice like we have all season long just to keep him sharp, working on fundamentals. That’s what I do for him right now. It was a lot more coaching early.”