NOTRE DAME, Ind. - One particularly bad stretch of hockey leaves Notre Dame awaiting its NCAA tournament fate.
Northeastern blitzed the Irish with three goals over the course of three minutes and 20 seconds in the second period Saturday as it headed to a 6-4 victory, sweeping the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series after a 3-1 win Friday.
Kevin Roy had two goals and two assists to send the Huskies into the semifinals.
On the other end, Notre Dame (19-10-7) has now lost five of its last six games after crashing out of the league tournament. All that remains now is finding out whether the regular season was enough to earn an NCAA tournament bid.
“Unfortunately, that’s out of our control now, which is terrible,” winger Thomas DiPauli said. “I think there’s nothing we can really do but hope. We’ve worked our butts off this whole season to be in a good spot in 10th place overall. Credit to the boys for having such a good regular season that they gave us a chance even though we didn’t play so well (Saturday) and (Friday) night. Still gave us a chance to make the tournament.”
Notre Dame came into Saturday at 10th in the PairWise rankings, which mostly determines the 16-team field that will compete for a national championship starting in a couple weeks.
But a pair of losses to Northeastern and general poor form down the final stretch of the season leaves the question a little more open than the Irish were hoping. Making it to the Hockey East semifinals at a minimum would’ve solidified the postseason resume.
Now the Irish must lean on regular season accomplishments as a whole, which included a 12-game unbeaten stretch but just a 2-6-5 record against ranked opponents.
“That good stretch that we had certainly helped us,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “The experts out there are saying we’re almost a lock to make the tournament but I wanted to go into the tournament playing with a little bit more confidence than we are.”
Defenseman Luke Ripley gave the Irish their first lead of the series, albeit short lived, at 14:38 of the first period Saturday with his first goal of the season.
Northeastern (20-13-5) answered on the power play at 18:50 through Colton Saucerman, who beat Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen over the glove with a wrist shot. Petersen encountered even more trouble after the intermission.
Kevin Roy scored the first of his goals at 2:26 of the second. Garret Cockerill followed at 3:33 and Dylan Sikura capped off a power play at 5:46 to stake the Huskies to a sudden 4-1 lead.
“I thought we got off our game a little bit by worrying a little bit too much about the aggressiveness, over-aggressiveness,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “I like when our team plays aggressive but I thought we were a little over-aggressive and we were out of sync. In the second period, I thought particularly that goal gave us some momentum and then we got back to our forecheck and establishing (offensive) zone possession time and got pucks to the net and made some plays.
Essentially an own goal provided a brief sign of life — Mario Lucia received credit for a goal with five seconds left in the third period when a failed Northeastern clearing attempt ended up in the net behind Ryan Ruck, who made 25 total saves.
But getting within two goals would prove all the closer Notre Dame would pull.
Northeastern motored to an 11th straight win by padding its lead in the third period. Roy scored his second of the night at 1:12 and Tanner Pond followed at 12:31 to extend the lead to 6-2.
DiPauli scored his 13th of the season at 16:33 and Lucia added another at 19:38 with the end result no longer in doubt.
“It’s a tough one,” DiPauli said. “I think right now the difference between winning and losing is — everybody is working hard, you watch us play, everybody is working their butts off, so there’s no problem there. But I think coming up here this week in practice we’ve gotta focus on, right now everybody is going in separate directions a little bit, working hard. We’ve got to dial in a little bit and just look back at our team identity so we can all in one path start moving forward.”