BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Notre Dame senior defenseman Robbie Russo recorded a hat-trick to lead the Fighting Irish past the UConn Huskies 3-1 Sunday afternoon in a Hockey East match-up from Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. The Huskies got their lone goal from freshman Kasperi Ojantakanen (Helsinki, Finland) in the loss.
The Huskies drop to 7-11-5 overall and 4-5-2 in Hockey East with the loss while Notre Dame improved to 10-11-1 overall and 5-2-3 in the league. The Huskies closed out a five-game schedule at the Webster Bank Arena on Sunday, finishing 2-3-0 playing in Bridgeport this season.
UConn grabbed a 1-0 lead at 16:16 in the first period as Ojantakanen gave the Huskies the lead with a power play goal. Sophomore Brent Norris (Nepean, Ontario) cycled the puck to Ojantakanen who carried into the high slot and whipped a wrist shot through traffic, off the post and in for his second on the year and a 1-0 lead.
The Irish were able to answer before the first period ended as Russo struck for his first of three goals on Sunday to start a run of six-unanswered goals. Sam Herr fed the puck to Russo at the point and the senior defenseman unleashed a wicked slap shot that found its way past a screened Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas).
Notre Dame tacked on two more goals in the second starting at the 12:33 mark. The Irish forced a turnover along the boards in the UConn zone and the puck deflected off of Ben Ostlie's skate to Joe Aiken in the right circle who beat Nichols with a wrist shot for his first collegiate goal. Notre Dame closed out the period with a power play goal at 18:59 as Mario Lucia took a pass at the right post and banged in a rebound of his own shot for a 3-1 Irish lead.
Russo gave his team a 4-1 lead with his second goal at the 2:55 mark of the third. Fellow defenseman Jordan Gross fed Russo in the point for a one-timer that he blasted just under the bar for a 4-1 advantage. UConn looked as if they might cut it to 4-2 just seconds later but a apparent tip-in goal by Evan Richardson (Nanaimo, British Columbia) was waved off for a high stick. The play was reviewed and the call stood.
The Huskies pulled Nichols after Aiken was called for a cross check at 12:56 looking to get a spark with a 6-on-4 power play. To no avail as Russo completed the hat-trick but firing into the empty net at 13:09 to give his team a commanding 5-1 lead. It was Russo's 11th goal on the season. The Irish tacked on a sixth goal at 17:05 coming from Justin Wade, his first collegiate goal.
Notre Dame outshot the Huskies 41-29 in the win while both teams finished 1-of-5 on the power play. The five goals given up by Nichols matched his career-high for goals allowed. Freshman Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) saw his goal streak end on Sunday at five-straight games.
The Huskies will be back in Hockey East action next Saturday, January 24th when they travel to Boston College. Opening face-off is slated for 7:05 pm.
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