Notre Dame, Ind. - It wasn't quite the first-half ending that the Notre Dame hockey team was looking for.
Playing their final game before a 28-day break for finals and the Christmas holidays, the Irish were looking to head into the holidays with another victory in the win column. The Massachusetts Minutemen had other ideas.
Senior center Adam Phillips' power-play goal with 2:47 left in the game snapped a 2-2 tie and gave UMass its second lead of the night on the way to snapping an eight-game winless streak (0-7-1) with the 3-2 win. Branden Gracel and Joel Hanley also scored for the Minutemen.
Sophomores Sam Herr and Mario Lucia paced the Notre Dame offense with one goal each as the Irish out shot Massachusetts, 35-22, on the night. UMass goaltender Steve Mastalerz finished with 33 saves in the contest while Notre Dame netminder Steven Summerhays made 19 stops.
The loss drops the #11/#13 Irish to 10-7-1 overall and 3-4-1 in Hockey East action. Massachusetts goes to 4-11-2 on the year and 2-7-2 in conference play. Notre Dame will next be in action on Saturday, Jan. 4 when the Irish travel to Boston to face Boston College at Fenway Park.
"This was a disappointing loss," said head coach Jeff Jackson.
"I thought we played better tonight and we lost the game. We had the chance to score a couple of goals in the first period and we couldn't finish. That was the difference in the game."
"This was a frustrating game to lose," said Irish captain Jeff Costello.
"We played one of our better games in this stretch lately and it's frustrating to lose on a goal that late in the game. Everyone battled tonight and it came down to me making a stupid play at the end that cost us."
Notre Dame picked up where it left off on Friday night when the Irish scored five goals as they got on the board just 3:16 into the opening period. Herr got the goal, his second of the weekend and eighth of the season when he deflected a shot from the right point by defenseman Andy Ryan to give the Irish a 1-0 lead.
Massachusetts got the equalizer at 11:18 when Gracel's shot from the right circle found its way over Summerhays shoulder to even the score at 1-1. Conor Sheary set up Gracel with a pass from the right corner as Gracel notched his seventh goal of the year.
The Irish out shot the Minutemen, 15-6, in the opening period but could get just one past Mastalerz.
Penalties raised their ugly head again for the second night in a row, as Massachusetts would score a pair of power-play goals in six attempts.
The first came at 2:27 of the second when Hanley's long shot appeared to go off an Irish penalty killer attempting to block it and beat Summerhays to his stick side just inside the left post for Hanley's second of the season and a 2-1 lead for the Minutemen. Ray Pigozzi and Troy Power picked up assists on the goal.
The score stayed that way until 18:28 when Lucia came late on a line change and took a feed from Vince Hinostroza in the slot and one-timed a shot past Mastalerz to tie the game at 2-2. The goal was Lucia's team-high ninth of the season and third on the weekend.
At 15:42 of the third period Jeff Costello was called for slashing the goaltender as he raced in on goal to try to bang a rebound past Mastalerz. On the scoring bid, he fanned on the puck and whacked the UMass goaltender across the pads and was whistled off.
"There was a shot from the point and I went to the net," explained Costello, the Notre Dame team captain.
" I saw the puck laying there and I took a hard stride and whacked at it. Apparently I hit the goalie and the ref called the penalty. I was upset with the call, because I didn't see the goalie go down, I was focused on the puck. The ref saw what he saw and made the judgment call and I ended up hurting the team there."
Phillips would convert at 17:13 when his long shot from the left point made its way through a screen in front and went under Summerhays' pads for the eventual game winner. The goal was the third of the year for the senior center with Hanley and Pigozzi picking up assists.
Mastalerz nursed the lead the remaining 2:47 as the Irish were called for too many men on the ice at 18:27. They got Summerhays off the ice for a fifth attacker with 50 seconds left in the game put could not score.
The Irish finished the night, 0-for-5 on the power play.
The break comes at a good time for Notre Dame, as it will give injured players a chance to continue to recover for the second half of the season.
"There's no poor start in the second half for us this year," said Jackson.
"We are going to have to have a better second half. There were just a lot of inconsistencies in the first half, regardless of how they happened. I thought we had some really good games early on and we can see the potential of this team and how good it can be. Putting games together back-to-back is the next step. We need to show consistency."
** IRISH NOTES**
** Sophomores Mario Lucia and Sam Herr lead Notre Dame in goals at the break with nine and eight respectively. Lucia now has 21 goals in his career in 50 career games.
** Defenseman Andy Ryan now has points in three of his last four games and has two goals and three assists on the season for five points.
** The loss was just the third at home for Notre Dame since last January 26. In that span, the Irish are 14-3-1 at the Compton Family Ice Arena.