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February 9, 2013

Scoring outburst nets victory

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Somewhere, perhaps snowed in, Matt Rust watched on television as his younger brother took down his alma mater and former team with a virtuoso effort.

Bryan Rust, who broke the family pipeline to Michigan to join the Notre Dame hockey three years ago, registered four points on two goals and two assists as the Irish captured a 7-4 victory Friday in front of a sold out crowd at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Line mates Anders Lee (two goals) and Jeff Costello (three assists) helped Rust avoid ribbing at the hands of his brother, who had a standout career with the Wolverines, and his father, also a Michigan graduate.

“A lot of guys on that team I played against growing up and a lot of guys on that team I know through my brother,” Rust said. “It kinda brings a little bit more edge to me because my dad went to Michigan, my older brother went to Michigan. It’s kinda like, if I lose this game I’ve gotta deal with that in my ear for the next however long until we play them again.”

Fortunately for Rust, when No. 12 Notre Dame (17-11-1, 13-7-1-1 CCHA) skates out against Michigan tonight to finish the series it will be going for a season sweep.

Earlier this season the Irish took two games in Ann Arbor.

Lee helped put them in position to win all four games with the first of his two goals just over a minute into the first period. Not quite 15 minutes later David Gerths made it a 2-0 lead with the first of his two goals. Michigan (10-17-2, 7-14-2-2 CCHA) cut it to a 2-1 lead at 18:32 of the period with a power-play goal from Jon Merrill, a sign of Irish special teams woes to come.

Wolverines center Boo Nieves tied the game at two goals apiece 37 seconds into the second period, setting the stage for Rust.

“If there was a real positive tonight it was the ability that we came back and responded almost every time,” head coach Jeff Jackson said.

Rust answered the Nieves goal at 6:29 before the Notre Dame special teams became balky. Andrew Copp came up with a short-handed chance 10 minutes later, put a shot on goal then stuffed the rebound past goalie Mike Johnson, who left the puck right in front.

Johnson finished with 18 saves.

Before the second period ended, however, the Irish recaptured the lead with a second goal from Lee. He now has 16 on the season. All told the Lee line combined for nine points.

“We had a really good week in practice,” Rust said. “We just try to be as relaxed as possible out there. We try to have as much fun as we can. We kinda got the bounces tonight and we were able to find each other and score goals.”

Breathing room arrived in the third period in the form of three goals to Michigan’s one.

Defenseman Eric Johnson scored for the first time in his career at 7:05 of the third period on a slap shot from the point at even strength. Thomas DiPauli and T.J. Tynan picked up the assists. Fellow defenseman Kevin Lind earned a takedown in celebration.

“I was expecting a hug and then I saw him take off,” said Eric Johnson, the younger brother of Mike. “That’s a big, 220-pound body coming at me. All that landed on my head. That’s just icing on the cake I guess.”

Gerths made it a 6-3 lead just over a minute later with his second goal of the game and sixth of the season.

Michigan cut back into the lead with a second short-handed goal, this one from Derek DeBlois after a Stephen Johns turnover led to a clean breakaway. Rust put in an empty net goal with 15 seconds remaining to conclude the scoring.

All together the Notre Dame special teams units let up three goals: Two with the man advantage and one without. Jackson noted it as the biggest area of concern as the teams prepare to reconvene at 7:05 p.m. tonight for the series finale.

“We’ve got to clean up our special teams right now,” Jackson said. “That’s the next biggest issue.”

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