NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Jeff Jackson fretted over the start to Friday’s series opener in preparation for it, hoping his team would be ready from the opening face off.
Turns out those worries were well founded as a red-hot Northeastern club came out flying against Notre Dame in their Hockey East quarterfinal series opener. The Irish surrendered two goals in the first seven minutes en route to a 3-1 loss.
Northeastern (19-13-5) took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three matchup and is one win away from the Hockey East semifinals next week in Boston.
“I was nervous about the first period,” Jackson said. “We tired to prepare for it but when you have that bye, it’s always the speed of the game and competitiveness. I thought they were skating by us. We weren’t ready for the speed and the capitalized. That certainly had a large impact on the game.”
Lincoln Griffin opened the scoring at 2:29 of the first period, beating Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen high from a tough angle close to the net. John Stevens followed with his 10th goal of the season at 6:24 to put the Irish in an early hole.
Petersen faced just six shots in the first and finished with 19 saves.
But even with shots kept to a minimum in the opening 20 minutes, Northeastern created its own momentum with the spirited start. Scoring a couple goals put a fine point on how the Huskies, who have now won 10 straight and are unbeaten in their last 11, dictated play to begin the game.
“I thought the start was really good,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “I think it was key. We wanted to get a good start. We wanted to create some momentum the first five, seven minutes and we were able to do that.”
Notre Dame (19-9-7) pulled one back through defenseman Jordan Gross at 7:35 of the first period. Gross fired the puck by Huskies goalie Ryan Ruck, who totaled 20 saves, for his ninth goal of the season.
Not long after, an opportunity to even the score presented itself.
Defenseman Dustin Darou put Northeastern on a five-minute penalty kill midway through the first with a major for interference after a hit on Jake Evans. Although Evans eventually returned to the game, he had to be helped off the ice and went straight back to the locker room because of the high hit.
Notre Dame went on the extended power play only to come up empty, a decisive shortfall.
“We needed to score on that power play,” Jackson said. “That was a huge factor for us too, not taking advantage. With a five-minute major, at least getting one (goal). Part of it was Evans was the guy that got injured on that play. We had to break that unit up because we didn’t have him available.”
Both teams had power plays in the second period that resulted in nothing as neither team scored again until the waning minutes of the third.
Tanner Pond notched his second goal of the year into an empty net with 35 seconds remaining to officially put Notre Dame in an elimination game tonight. Puck drops on Game 2 of he series at 7:05 p.m.
“I’ve got full confidence in our group,” captain Steven Fogarty said. “We’ve showed to be resilient all year. We’re well conditioned, I know that’s not gonna be a probably this weekend and (tonight). I know guys are obviously unhappy with what happened (Friday) and if we can bring that mindset in (tonight) we should be fine.”