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Late second period explosion propels Notre Dame past Maine

Notre Dame took three of four points on the weekend from the University of Maine at Alfond Arena.

Notre Dame freshman forward Anders Bjork had a goal and an assist Saturday in his team's 5-1 win at Maine.
Notre Dame freshman forward Anders Bjork had a goal and an assist Saturday in his team's 5-1 win at Maine.
Matt Dewkett

ORONO -- The game changed in just 84 seconds. That was the amount of time it took late in the second period for Notre Dame to score three unanswered goals to give the Fighting Irish a 4-1 advantage heading into the second intermission.

The offensive outburst at the end of the middle frame propelled Notre Dame to a 5-1 road victory at the University of Maine on Saturday night. It allowed the Irish to leave Alfond Arena and head back to South Bend with three of four points in their back pockets.

"Tonight was the most consistent we've played for 60 minutes," said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson, who hopes this weekend is a springboard for the stretch run.

Austin Wuthrich got the flurry going with a one-timer from the left half wall. Robbie Russo fed the puck to Jordan Gross who sent the cross-ice feed to Wuthrich. The tally, with 1:49 to play in the second, came right after a few missed swipes at loose pucks in front of the Maine crease.

"We had good puck possession that whole shift. A couple things opened up and we were finally able to capitalize. I popped over to the dot and shot it on net. It was a good shift by our line," said Wuthrich.

Vince Hinostroza snuck free from the pack and picked up a feed from Anders Bjork who had poked the puck free in the neutral zone before sending the touch pass over to his linemate. Once Hinostroza got the puck he took a few steps and beat Maine goaltender Matt Morris to the short side with a high snap shot.

"Bjork made a nice play. He passed it to me and I pretty much had a breakaway. I saw the goalie sliding and I just tried to put it short side over his glove. I think he got a piece of it, but it still went in," commented Hinostroza.

The dagger in Maine's heart came with 25 seconds left in the second to give Notre Dame the three-goal cushion heading to the third period. After picking up a pass from Connor Hurley, Jake Evans brought the puck on net. His centering feed glanced off a Maine defender's skate and went through the pads of Morris.

"I think we stuck with it. We've had spells this year where we can't maintain it and it ends up biting us. Tonight we sustained it and didn't get away from it," said Jackson.

It was a disastrous 1:24 stretch for Maine, who took just one of a possible four points in the series for a second consecutive weekend.

"It wasn't very good. We came out kind of flat. We fell apart in the second period and we dug a hole we couldn't climb out of," said Connor Leen, who scored Maine's lone goal on the evening. "When you're letting up goals back-to-back-to-back it can be really de-motivating."

"We didn't start the game well. We didn't play the second period real well," commented Maine coach Red Gendron. "We just weren't sharp. We didn't execute and that's on me."

As poor as the end of the second period was for Maine, the game didn't start out too much hotter. The Black Bears allowed a quick goal to open the game on a defensive lapse that saw to Irish players get a crack at a centering feed from just on top of the goalmouth. Hinostroza's centering feed found its way right through the Maine crease to Mario Lucia whose shot was stopped, but freshman Anders Bjork was right there for the rebound to put the puck in the net.

"It was Bjork's first time playing with us so I think he just wanted to work hard. He was the reason our line played so well this weekend. He created a lot of scoring chances for us," said Hinostroza, who added an empty net goal to bring his weekend total to two goals and four assists.

Leen evened the score just over three minutes later as he caught Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen off guard. Coming around the net left to right Leen spun around whipped the puck off the inside of the far post and in from a nearly impossible angle.

Despite allowing a somewhat ominous goal in the first period, Petersen shut the door from then out, making 33 saves for his seventh win of his freshman campaign.

"That first goal was a little bit concerning, but he did a much better job. He made some big saves when we needed it. That's what we have to have out of our goaltender," said Jackson, whose team will host Providence in a two-game Hockey East series next weekend.

Maine heads to Merrimack for a pair in a battle of two teams currently tied for ninth place although the Warriors will have a chance to pick up points on Tuesday night at UConn.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.