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January 19, 2013

Major penalty keeps slide going

After dictating play and taking a lead Saturday the Notre Dame hockey team couldn’t get out of its own way. Again.

Mario Lucia staked the Irish to a 1-0 lead at 11:50 of the first period with his seventh goal of the season before, not quite three minutes later, Thomas DiPauli took a major penalty that turned momentum in the opposite direction.

Alaska scored twice on the ensuing five-minute power play en route to a 2-1 victory, sweeping the series. Notre Dame (15-9-0, 11-5-0-0 CCHA) has now lost four in a row five of six since returning from holiday break.

“I thought we were playing real well,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “Then a five-minute major, especially to one of our top penalty killers, we’re already down one, and then losing him was a bit too much. I’m disappointed for our guys because I thought we were heading in the right direction tonight.”

Lucia scoring in the first period marked the third straight game where the Irish have scored first only to lose. Prior to that they had been 13-0-0 when netting the first goal.

Defenseman Stephen Johns ripped a slap shot from above the right circle that Alaska goaltender John Keeney stopped. But the rebound popped right in front of the net and Lucia deposited it in between Keeney’s pads for the goal.

Shayne Taker notched the secondary assist, his seventh of the season. Johns has nine assists. Keeney made 19 saves total.

DiPauli committed his major penalty for hitting from behind at 14:46 of the first period after plowing Nanooks defenseman Josh Atkinson into the boards when his back was turned. Officials sent DiPauli to the dressing room with a game misconduct, putting Notre Dame down another forward.

Jeff Costello, Mike Voran and Sam Herr missed both games of this series with injuries or illness.

“I know Mike’s two or three weeks away,” Jackson said, “but Jeff is always in the day-to-day realm of things. It’s hard to really evaluate that. We’re down to the bare minimum. We have no available forwards left. Hopefully Sammy Herr is gonna have a week of practice here and be closer to being ready.”

Alaska (10-8-4, 8-7-3-1 CCHA) maintained it’s 2-1 lead through the second period and fought off Notre Dame opportunities on the power play in the third period.

Nolan Youngmun took an elbowing penalty at 3:38 of the final period, setting up what turned out to be a critical Irish power-play chance. It became even more important when Kaare Odegard went off for cross checking to set up a two-man disadvantage for the Nanooks.

Jackson took a timeout to give his power play units some rest but little of that advantage time resulted in quality scoring chances, let alone a tying goal.

“I was just looking for a rest,” Jackson said. “I was just trying to give them a breather so I could keep them out there. They give us the best opportunity to score.”

After eliminating that chance Alaska salted away its fourth victory in a row. Notre Dame managed just a 1-5 record while playing those six games in 12 days since returning from break. Ferris State rolls into the Compton Family Ice Arena for a two-game series next week.

“We’ve got a day off,” Jackson said, “we’ve got a good week of practice. We ended this one hell of a horrid stretch of, what, six games in 12 days? Rest, back into a normal routine with school (and) practice and then we just have to wait until we get some guys healthy and hopefully we get that chemistry back. That’s what I’m expecting.”

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