Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

ND takes 3 points off No. 10 Providence

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame couldn’t drop many points this weekend and stay near the top of the Hockey East standings. One win and a tie against No. 10 Providence later, the Irish can clinch a league playoff bye next week.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Given the time of year, Notre Dame couldn’t afford to drop many points in a two-game series against No. 10 Providence.

Veteran scorers made sure that didn’t happen. Anders Bjork scored twice Friday in a 4-1 win, then the Irish rallied from a one-goal deficit three times Saturday for a 3-3 tie, taking three points from the Friars while keeping their top four position in the Hockey East standings.

“A three-point weekend against that team is pretty good,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “I’m not gonna complain. It would’ve been nice for that extra point to kind of secure home-ice (and) a bye in the first round. But there’s still that opportunity ahead of us and we control our own destiny.”

Notre Dame (18-9-5, 11-5-4 Hockey East) exits the weekend in third place with 26 points. Boston College (29), Boston University (27) and UMass-Lowell (25) round out the top four.

Maintaining a top four position after the final regular season series next week means a bye through the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. One point at Boston University next week will clinch the Irish a week off.

Their weekend against Providence made it possible.

“We’ve noticed playing a simple game is going to take us a long way,” said center Jake Evans. “Guys have to just buy in. I think we know where we are and we know what’s at stake. Guys are doing whatever it takes right now. It’s showing against these top teams.”

Two goals from Bjork in the third period Friday put away a close series opener.

Jack Jenkins gave Notre Dame a lead at the first intermission with a goal 17:34 into the game. Providence drew level with a goal from Anthony Florentino in the second period. But the third proved pivotal.

Cal Burke scored the game-winner 59 seconds into the third period. Bjork followed with a short-handed goal at 14:18 and a power-play tally not quite two minutes later, stretching the lead to 4-1.

Goalie Cal Petersen made 33 saves, including 11 in the final 20 minutes. Defenseman Dennis Gilbert had a pair of assists.

“It was a great game,” Jackson said. “There wasn’t a lot of ice out there (Friday), wasn’t much space. It was like a playoff game. There wasn’t much space for either team and we were fortunate to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Providence (18-9-5, 10-7-3 Hockey East) did its best Saturday to split the series.

Three times the Friars took a one-goal lead only to see it disappear, including a 2-1 lead after the first period. Shane Kavanagh and Niko Rufo scored with a power-play goal by Notre Dame defenseman Bobby Nardella in between.

Evans scored his 10th of the season with 25 seconds remaining in the second period, making it a 2-2 game and stealing some momentum after Providence put 14 shots on Petersen while allowing nine.

“It was huge,” Evans said. “We could’ve gone into the locker room kind of down. Down one and not feeling as optimistic. But I think that goal helped us out a lot. The positivity really grew in the locker room. They scored right away but I think throughout the whole game our positive attitude and resilience really helped us.”

Providence did go right back into the lead with a goal from Erik Foley at 5:35 of the third. But again the Irish rallied as Cam Morrison redirected a Tory Dello shot for a 3-3 tie.

Notre Dame mustered three shots while allowing one in overtime but didn’t score. Petersen finished with 39 saves.

“It was a big point for us,” Jackson said. “It never fails, especially with a real good team, they’re gonna come back with a better effort than (Friday) night and they did. They put us on our heels a little bit early on. But I am proud of the guys for coming back each time. Early in the year that might not have happened. That’s a good sign that we’ve grown, we’ve matured as a team.”


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