Oct 22, 2012, 4:16 PM EDT
During Notre Dame’s second-half skid last season, head coach Jeff Jackson often pointed to the team’s lack of secondary scoring and consistent goaltending. Nearly 30 percent of last year’s goals were from T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee, and Irish goalies posted an .893 save percentage on the season.
For the start of 2012-2013 at least, it appears Jackson’s squad is well on its way to reversing those trends.
After splitting a two-game home series this weekend with Minnesota-Duluth, the Irish are 3-1-0 with a couple virtuoso performances from Steven Summerhays. The junior goaltender is currently third in the CCHA with an impressive .943 save percentage.
“He’s had two weeks in a row now that he’s played really well,” said Jackson after Friday’s series finale. “Last night (Thursday) there wasn’t a whole lot he could do at times. It wasn’t his fault that we had the breakdowns we did, but it was important for him to come back tonight.
“I saw some pretty good goaltending.”
Summerhays has had the benefit of a more diverse scoring attack than Notre Dame could muster last season. The Irish have nine goals in their first four games – scored by eight different players.
“When I start seeing guys like [Mike] Voran and [David] Gerths scoring goals, that’s a good sign for our team,” Jackson said. “Because last year that hurt us. Those guys are really important to our team. They play valuable minutes, but when they contribute like that, that’s going to make us a much better team.”
Despite dropping Thursday’s game 3-1, Notre Dame came out more disciplined and energetic on Friday. While the Bulldogs took advantage of Irish mistakes in game 1, the home team returned the favor for a 4-1 victory the next night.
The opening period of the series saw five power play chances for Minnesota-Duluth, who scored the first goal on a 5-on-3 with 2.1 seconds left. While being outshot 30-20 during the game, the visitors came out with the win because of turnovers and penalties.
It was a different story in the second game, though, as Tynan converted a takeaway into a breakaway goal in the first and Voran’s forecheck led to a turnover and a Jeff Costello goal in the second. Robbie Russo was also able to convert on a power-play chance in the middle period.
“Tonight, every time they made a mistake, it was a scoring chance from the back of the net. I think that’s something that this team’s pretty good at,” Russo said. “We love this building and we want to play well here. [Jackson] said last night we’re getting too cute trying to make a fancy play, unlike on the road where we’re getting pucks to the net and grinding out hard. If we play like that here, we’re going to be hard to beat.”
The ninth-ranked Irish begin CCHA play with a two-game series at Northern Michigan on Friday and Saturday, before returning home to face Western Michigan next week.
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