NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Steven Fogarty has gone from centering a line that needed to be broken up to helping power the Notre Dame hockey team to its first home sweep of the season.
Head coach Jeff Jackson split up Fogarty, Mario Lucia and Sam Herr a couple weeks ago in hopes creating more balance across all four lines. He put them back together last Saturday and reaped the reward this weekend with a two-game sweep of Massachusetts in a Hockey East series.
Fogarty scored the opening goal both nights en route to a 3-1 win Friday and 5-1 win Saturday, paving the way for a second sweep of the conference campaign.
Notre Dame (8-4-4, 5-1-2 Hockey East) swept Connecticut on the road last month.
“They were struggling a bit when they were together before,” Jackson said. “That’s why I broke them up. But I think that right now they gave us a lot of high quality minutes. I thought they played really well and not just offensively. They worked hard, they came back. They did things defensively that gave us some opportunities offensively.”
Fogarty scored the first of his weekend pair at 3:38 of the opening period Friday. Defenseman Andy Ryan left the puck for winger Mario Lucia, who in turn dropped it for Fogarty to shoot from near the top of the right circle.
Sam Herr screened UMass goaltender Nic Renyard as the wrist shot cruised by for a 1-0 lead. Lucia now has seven assists this season.
Getting onto the score sheet recently — Herr and Lucia scored in the Shillelagh Tournament last week — has helped free the line up of some early season stumbles.
“I think at the beginning of the year, it’s hard to put your finger on one thing,” Fogarty said. “But we were just putting too much pressure on ourselves. Having three senior, three captains on a line, it is pressure. Now I think we’re kinda just letting this go off our back and just playing. We’re all capable of making plays. When we’re doing that is when we’re playing our best.”
Dawson Cook built on the lead Fogarty established with a goal for the fourth line at 7:02 of the first period, finishing off a wraparound attempt by Joe Wegwerth. Thomas DiPauli then added his team high seventh goal at 15:53 of the second period to make it a 3-0 Notre Dame lead.
UMass turned up its offense in the second period with 15 shots on goal after managing just four in the first period, but still couldn’t solve Irish goalie Cal Petersen.
Petersen, who finished with 27 saves, didn’t allow a goal until Shane Walsh scored from the slot at 4:01 of the third.
“He’s been playing really well,” Fogarty said. “If you have that confidence to know there’s a guy like that back there, it lets you make plays. There’s definitely some breakdowns and that’s when goalies need to step up and make plays and he’s been doing that.”
Fogarty started the Irish on the front foot again Saturday with his sixth goal of the season at 3:33 of the first period, although UMass would be quick with an answer.
Walsh scored again, pushing his season total to 11, not quite four minutes later. But that would be the only time the Minutemen solved Petersen for the rest of the night. Petersen finished with 28 saves, including 12 in the first period.
He’s allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts, all victories.
“For me it’s kinda just sticking with the process,” Petersen said. “I think our team has obviously tightened down on defense and turned it into offense a couple times, which is good. But for me personally it’s just kinda sticking with the process, managing my rest during the week. I think it’s really helped out. The team is playing really well in the defensive zone and I think that’s shown.
“I can just worry about first save opportunities rather than some difficult shots. A lot of credit goes to them.”
Petersen had an on-ice view as the Irish then scored four unanswered goals.
Dylan Malmquist established a 2-1 heading into the first intermission with a goal at 8:52, which came direct from a face off win. The freshman has six goals this season.
Connor Hurley followed with his second goal of the season at 4:55 of the second period, deflecting an Andy Ryan shot at close range. Anders Bjork then added two goals in the third period for a 5-1 win.
Notre Dame will take that momentum to No. 3 Boston College next week in the final game before the holiday break.
“Confidence is everything,” Jackson said. “The fact that we’ve had some success here in the last three games couldn’t come at a better time. It’s probably the best weekend for Cal Petersen as well. Like I said, they’re another measuring stick for us. They’re a similar caliber team to Harvard. It’s always challenging to play them in their building, but I like where we are. I think that we’re making progress, which is the most important thing for me.”