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November 24, 2013

Irish swept amidst scoring struggles

Missing four of its top forwards thanks to injury caught up to the Notre Dame hockey over the weekend.

The sixth-ranked Irish mustered just one goal in two games on the road against No. 11 UMass-Lowell, a Hockey East opponent. Both outings turned into losses -- 1-0 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday, respectively.

It’s the first time this season Notre Dame (8-5-1, 2-3-1 Hockey East) has been swept.

Our guys are disappointed in the outcome,” head coach Jeff Jackson told UND.com “We come expecting to win. It’s a little challenging right now. We are missing our second and third line centers and that takes away our wingers’ ability to generate offense. I rotated three centers (Saturday) and they get tired.

“I even rotated a few wingers in there to get them a break. That has a lot to do with our ability to generate offense. That will resolve itself over time.”

Jackson travelled to Lowell with all healthy players in tow. Leading scorer Vince Hinostroza stayed in South Bend with an injury along with fellow forwards Steven Fogarty, Mike Voran and Thomas DiPauli.

Defenseman Eric Johnson also remains sidelined.

Despite those setbacks Notre Dame opened the series with energy Friday, peppering Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebucyk with 40 shots. None of those chances, however, found the back of the net and a Lowell goal scored in the first period proved decisive.

Stephen Buco scored on the power play 15:46 into the game with a backhand move over goalie Steven Summerhays, who made 27 saves overall.

Top forwards Jeff Costello, T.J. Tynan and Bryan Rust took 18 shots combined but couldn’t solve Hellebucyk.

“Those three are our senior leaders and (Friday) they did what they could,” Jackson told UND.com. “We just couldn’t buy a goal. Right now, I can’t consistently play them together because we are missing our second and third line centers, so I have to use T.J. elsewhere. But they and our senior defensemen played well. I can’t fault the effort.”

Lowell (10-4-0, 4-1-0 Hockey East) won its fifth in a row and ninth in the last 10 on Saturday by taking another early lead.

Twice in the first period Lowell converted power plays into goals. Zack Kamrass scored his first of the season at 17:48 and less than a minute later Michael Kapla netted his first for a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Rust cut the lead to one with a power-play goal at 11:36 of the second. Unable to find the equalizer, Notre Dame surrendered an empty-net goal late for the 3-1 final.

Summerhays made 31 saves. Hellebucyk made 34 as the Irish again outshot Lowell in a loss.

“(Saturday) was very similar to Friday’s game,” Jackson told UND.com. “That’s what I expected. It was like a continuation of (Friday). We didn’t seem to be in the right place at the right time for rebounds. We had chances, plenty of opportunities. We had plenty of shots over the two nights and only scored one goal.”

Notre Dame returns to action this weekend as host of the Shillelagh Tournament at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Western Michigan, Northeastern and Alabama-Huntsville are the other participants.

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