Something about the making a push toward the playoffs brings out the best in Bryan Rust, if the last two seasons are any indication.
Even if Rust rejects the notion, numbers bear it out. Over the last 11 games the senior winger has scored seven goals, including one in each game of Notre Dame’s three-game Hockey East quarterfinal series victory against top seed Boston College last weekend.
Last year Rust went on a similar run: He scored nine goals over the last 15 games of the season as the Irish went from on the NCAA tournament bubble to a No. 1 seed.
“I don’t consider me the ‘money guy’ by any means,” Rust said. “It’s more just over the course of the year I get more confidence. I try to find the right spots on the ice. Obviously, I’m playing with unbelievable players. Last year I played with Anders Lee, who’s had however many points in his last however many games in the NHL. Then Jeff Costello. This year I’m with Sam Herr and T.J. Tynan, who are also unbelievable players.
“It’s kind of I’ve been in the right spots at the right times. I guess I’m in those spots more in playoff times.”
Others are not so willing to concede an uptick in goal-scoring prowess is mere coincidence and line mates.
Rust scored perhaps two of the most critical goals this season when the Irish snatched a 3-2 victory from Maine in early February to salvage a series split. He tied the game at 18:52 of the third period with an extra attacker on the ice. Twenty four seconds later he carried the puck and scored again.
“Our team kinda realized we’ve gotta do things the right way for an entire 60 minutes as opposed to one or two minutes and that’s how we’re gonna win games,” Rust said. “I think it was that entire weekend that showed we can kinda come back together and find our roles, find our confidence. It just kinda went from there.”
Since then Notre Dame is 7-1-1 and come Friday will play Massachusetts-Lowell in the league semifinals at TD Garden in Boston thanks to its road upset of Boston College.
Rust proved a thorn in the side of Boston College with three goals - a single marker in each game - during the quarterfinal series. Head coach Jeff Jackson sees something in the Novi, Mich., native putting himself in position to help his team on the score sheet again this season.
“That’s a God given ability,” Jackson said. “I think it says something for his character though. When a player elevates at crunch time that usually says something about the type of person they are. Bryan’s proved that. He’s had those big moments. I can’t say that it’s something I would’ve predicted.
“As a person, he’s the first guy ready for practice every day. He works hard every day. Bryan had a little bit of a tough time in his sophomore year but other than that he’s been maybe the most consistent player that we’ve had out of that whole group showing up every day game or practice.”
Hinostroza makes all-rookie team
Freshman center Vince Hinostroza was named to the Hockey East all-rookie team, the league announced Wednesday.
Hinostroza is second on the team in scoring with eight goals and 24 assists, good for 32 total points. Only Tynan has more assists. Four times this season Hockey East named Hinostroza its Rookie of the Week. He was Rookie of the Month in October.
“Coming into the year you obviously have goals and that was one of my goals, to be on the all-rookie team,” Hinostroza said. “Playing throughout the year, you just try your best and you don’t really think about that goal. At the end of the year it’s nice to be rewarded with that, so it’s pretty cool.”
Hinostroza missed six games this season with a knee injury.
Home sweet Boston
Notre Dame players, coaches and support staff must be quite familiar with Boston at this point.
Three times in the last four weeks the Irish have played in Beantown, beginning with its regular season finale. This will, however, be their first trip to TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals as a new member to the league.
Previous league playoff runs ended at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit as part of the CCHA.
“From what I hear and from what I think it’ll be a very similar situation,” Rust said. “We obviously had our fair deal of experience at the Joe. We had a tough freshman year, didn’t make it our sophomore year then we won last year. We’ve learned how to play in those environments. And obviously me growing up, I always went to the Joe and watched those games. My older brother was there I think at the Joe all four years and won two or three times (while playing for Michigan). So being able to see teams win and being a part of a team that won, you learn from that.”