NOTRE DAME, Ind. - It wasn't pretty but it got the job done.
Goals by Bryan Rust, Jeff Costello and Peter Schneider and 25 saves by goaltender Steven Summerhays were just what Notre Dame needed as the Irish knocked off Boston University, 3-2, on Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
The first-round Hockey East win advances Notre Dame to the best-of-three quarterfinals next weekend, March 14-16 against top-seeded Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Boston University battled Notre Dame from start to finish and got goals from Evan Rodrigues and Robbie Baillargeon in the loss. Goaltender Matt O'Connor stopped 26-of-29 Irish shots in the game.
The win extended Notre Dame's winning streak to five straight games and unbeaten run to seven games (6-0-1) while the overall record improves to 21-12-2 for the year. The Irish entered the game ranked 12th in the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine poll and 11th in the USCHO.com rankings.
Boston University saw its season come to an end with the loss as the Terriers finished with a 10-21-4 record.
For the Notre Dame senior class, it was their final game at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
"It was a fitting way to go out," said senior captain Jeff Costello.
"The class we had here, we enjoyed every game we had, the Joyce and here. It was definitely exciting to get the win."
The Irish got on the scoreboard first and improved to 18-3-1 when they get the first goal of the game. Rust notched his 13th of the year at 6:28 on a pretty passing play between with his linemates T.J. Tynan and Sam Herr.
Herr, the sophomore left wing forced a turnover at the BU blue line and moved it ahead to Tynan with Rust joining on the 2-on-1. Tynan waited until the defender played him and slid the puck ahead to Rust who beat O'Connor with a nice move in front to give Notre Dame the 1-0 lead.
The score would stay that way until midway through the second period when Costello fired a wrist shot through a screen, beating O'Connor at 9:25, through his pads for his 12th of the season.
With an Irish power play winding down, Tynan moved the puck from the left boards to defenseman Shayne Taker at the center point. Taker passed the puck to Costello as he curled from the right boards to the top of the right circle. The senior captain looked up and fired a low wrister through a defenseman and O'Connor for the 2-0 Notre Dame lead.
"He (Jeff Costello) has been awesome here for the last couple of months," said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
"He's put this team on his back in many ways. I wish he would get rewarded a little more with goals. He got one tonight and hopefully it's one of more to come."
Boston University wasn't going to roll over for the Irish and answered at 16:04 with its first goal of the year against the Irish as Rodrigues banged his own rebound past Summerhays to cut the lead to 2-1.
Rodrigues and Baillargeon forced a turnover in the Notre Dame zone and carried the puck into the Irish zone. Baillargeon left the puck for Rodrigues coming off the right boards. He fired a shot that Summerhays stopped but the rebound came right back to him and he flipped it past the senior goaltender for his 15th of the season to get BU back in the game.
"In the second period we started turning pucks over and they scored," said Jackson.
"Then obviously giving them the 5-on-3 is not a healthy thing. Other than that, I though we had good control of the game for the most part."
"I thought we were sitting back on our heels a little bit once we got the lead," said Costello.
"They pressured us hard and came at us hard, which caused some turnovers. They were getting chances off that. We can't do that when we have that 2-0 lead. It's the worse lead. You have to keep going forward and attacking."
Schneider would get the eventual game winner at 3:07 of the third using his speed and hustle to beat the Terrier's defense to a loose puck before ripping a shot from the right circle that beat O'Connor high over his stick and inside the far post to make it 3-1.
Off a face off in the neutral zone, the puck went back to Kevin Lind who passed across the ice to Stephen Johns. The senior defenseman flipped the puck through the neutral zone and into Boston University territory. A Terrier defenseman stepped up to play the puck but Schneider beat him to it and moved around him before unleashing his humming howitzer of a shot. The goal was his sixth of the season.
"We won a face off and we ran a neutral zone break out," explained Schneider.
"Johnsie (Stephen Johns) didn't see an open play, so he made the right choice and flipped the puck in the air to let us get into it. Their D kind of read the situation wrong and I was able to get to the puck first and chipped it over his stick. I just tried to shoot far side, post in and I was lucky enough and it went in."
The Terriers weren't done though. They would get a 52-second, five-on-three power play late in the period and, while the Irish killed off the first penalty, BU scored with the man-advantage at 14:22 as Baillargeon beat Summerhays with a shot from the high slot to cut the lead to 3-2.
Defenseman Ahti Oksanen fired a shot from the top of the right circle that was blocked by Lind. The loose puck ended up behind the goal where Garrett Noonan retrieved it on the left side. His pass found Baillargeon at the top of the left circle and he drilled it home for his 10th of the season to cut the lead to one goal.
From there, the Summerhays and the Irish defense stiffened to hold off the Terriers. O'Connor was pulled for a sixth attacker with just over a minute left in the game but Boston University could not score.
On the night, Notre Dame had a 29-27 edge in shots on goal. Boston University was 1-for-4 on the power play while the Irish were 0-for-3.
Next up for Notre Dame is Boston College as the Eagles had a first-round bye. The Irish knocked off then, top-ranked BC on March 1 at Conte Forum by a 2-1 score in overtime. Times for the best two-of-three series have not been announced.
"Boston College is going to be a challenge. They've had two weeks to think about us," said Jackson.
"It was a challenge going in there last week and it's going to be a bigger challenge to go in there for a two-out-of -three series. We played them tough, but we just have to go in there and play a smart game the way we played them last time. That's the biggest key."
** Going back to last year's CCHA playoffs, Notre Dame has now won five straight conference playoff games. The Irish defeated Bowling Green in two quarterfinal games before wins over Ohio State and Michigan in the final CCHA Tournament.
** Boston University went 136:04 (two-plus games) against the Irish this season before Evan Rodrigues' second period goal.