Notre Dame hacked and hacked through the first 50 minutes of an uphill battle Friday night before finally taking the knees out from beneath Lake Superior State. The Irish scored four goals in a seven-minute stretch in the third period to carry them to a 6-3 win at Compton Family Ice Arena.
Junior Austin Wuthrich scored twice Friday night in a 6-3 win over Lake Superior State.
Sophomore Sam Herr scored twice during the late onslaught, including the game-winner with 5:45 to play, and junior Austin Wuthrich added two goals of his own to snap a long scoreless streak. Notre Dame’s offense has come to life since the team started the second half of the season in January. The Irish have won their last three games and scored 18 goals in the process.
“We finally got out feet moving,” head coach Jeff Jackson said about the third period scoring burst. “It’s was like a light switch went on.”
Wuthrich opened the floodgates with his second of the game midway through the period. Lake Superior State goalie Kevin Murdock made an initial save of freshman Vince Hinostroza, but the puck bounce loosed to Wuthrich waiting on the doorstep.
Murdock and the Lakers defensive-minded game frustrated the Irish through the first two periods. He finished the night with 43 saves, 38 of which came before Wuthrich’s goal.
“He played well tonight," said Herr. "Give him credit, but we weren’t really getting in front of him on the shots so he saw a lot."
Jackson jump-started Herr’s late surge by double-shifting him for much of the third period in an effort to get him into a groove. It worked. Herr pickpocketed a Lakers defenseman at the far blue line to start an odd-man rush on his first goal. He and T.J. Tynan played a give-and-go pass on the rush before he snuck it through Murdock's five hole.
Two minutes later, Tynan sprung Herr on a breakaway and he fired a low shot past Murdock from the top of the face-off circles.
Sophomore Mario Lucia sandwiched a goal between Herrs' to keep the momentum rolling. That play started when Hinostroza intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and sprung Lucia with a pass at the blue line. Hinstroza finished the game with three assists to bring his season total to 14 in 17 games.
“He can make plays,” Wuthrich said of his rookie linemate. “He’s our playmaker. If you get open for him he’s going to find you.”
Hinostroza found Wuthrich with a backhanded pass threaded through traffic on a power play in the first period, and Wuthrich tucked into the top corner to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. That goal came during a five-minute major for a knee-to-knee hit and was one of two power play goals for Notre Dame on the night. Wuthrich’s second goal came just seconds after another Lake Superior penalty expired in the third.
While Notre Dame struggled to find the back of the net in the first two periods, Lake Superior State built a 3-2 lead. Colin Campbell tied the score at 1-1 late in the first period by stuffing home a rebound during an odd-man rush. Freshman Ian Miller scored through the wickets of Irish goalie Steven Summerhays(19 saves) to give the Lakers their first lead of the game in the second period.
Miller hit a post later in the second, which drew Summerhays out of position and gave defenseman Kevin Czuczman an empty net to hit from the blue line. Czuczman’s goal put the Irish behind 3-2 after controlling most of the first two periods.
“You’re just being patient and then once you get your opportunity you kind of pounce on it,” Herr said.
Notre Dame’s offensive explosion gives the team its longest win streak since October at a time when the Irish are in need of momentum. They rose to 13-8-1 on the season. They face the Lakers once more Saturday night (7:05 p.m.) start before closing out the season with 11 consecutive Hockey East league games.
Junior defenseman Robbie Russo didn’t play Friday night for academic reasons. Russo doesn’t have the grades to remain eligible after the first semester. Russo is Notre Dame’s leading scorer on defense and is third on the team with 11 assists.
Jackson said he is working to try to get a grade changed, which could make him eligible as soon as next weekend. If the grade doesn’t change, he could miss the rest of the season.