Notre Dame’s offense didn’t slow down Saturday. A night after beating Michigan 7-4 the No. 11 Irish hung six more on the Wolverines for its most productive in nearly four years.
Jeff Costello scored a goal and two assists Saturday night against the Wolverines.
The top line of Anders Lee, Bryan Rust and Jeff Costello had another big night, combining for seven points in the 6-3 win after getting nine Friday night. The 13 total goals for the whole lineup is the most Notre Dame has scored since they put up 14 in back-to-back wins over Northern Michigan in February 2009.
That’s small potatoes compared to the 40 years that have passed since the last time the Irish took all four games from their rival in a single season. Notre Dame swept Michigan at Yost Arena in November, giving them a clean sweep in the final year of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association match-up.
“It was a big weekend for us,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We only had four games left at home and now we only have two. We need to get every point we can.”
Costello started the march toward a six-point weekend Saturday by scoring midway through the first period. He took a pass from defenseman Sam Calabrese and, in his own words, “skedaddled” down the left side of the ice before slipping the puck through Jared Rutledge’s five hole for his seventh of the year.
Lee and Rust were up next in the second period. Lee took advantage of a fortunate bounce that hopped off the end boards and on to his stick in front of the net to make the score 2-0. He later set up Rust with an easy tip-in by hustling to track down a loose puck and feeding it across the crease to his junior linemate.
Lee’s goal moved him into a four-way tie with the second most goals in the country this season.
“The whole team played well this weekend and us three had an opportunity to really put the puck on the net and really put some pressure on the defense,” Lee said. “Some weekends you get all the bounces and get all the goals.”
Sophomore Peter Schneider was up next for the Irish. Freshman Steven Fogarty fed Schneider with a pass from behind the net and the Austrian native finished.
Michigan kept the game within reason during the second period with a pair of power play goals from sophomores Alex Guptill and Phil Di Giuseppe. Killing penalties was Notre Dame’s biggest flaw during an offensively explosive weekend. The Wolverines finished 3-for-6 with an extra skater on Saturday.
“We’ve got to clean it up,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to look at adding a few people to it, maybe some different personnel. It’s frustrating because I know how good our [penalty kill] can be. We saw it in the first half of the year. It just has gone totally cold.”
Notre Dame’s offense was there to pick up the slack again on Saturday. Two goals in the first two minutes of the final period all but iced the season-long sweep. Sophomore Austin Wuthrich scored on a long slapshot from the point. Less than a minute later, Junior David Gerths scored his third goal of the weekend and gave Costello his fifth assist in the process.
Wuthrich’s goal chased Rutledge from the game. The freshman allowed 11 goals on his first trip to South Bend and made 17 saves Saturday night. His replacement, junior Adam Janecyk got beat by Gerths on the first shot he saw.
The win gives Notre Dame six crucial points as they enter what basically shakes out to be a two-week round robin stretch to determine the top seed in the CCHA playoffs. The Irish, currently in third place in the conference standings, play two games against first-place Miami next weekend followed by a weekend series at second-place Western Michigan.
“It’s huge,” Lee said. “We’ve been looking forward to this Miami series all year and it’s going to play a pivotal part in how the rest of the season is going to turn out.”
Notre Dame travels to Miami next Friday before playing the RedHawks in Soldier Field Sunday afternoon.