March 13, 2017
By Dan Colleran
Editor’s Note: After leading the Fighting Irish to a weekend sweep over Providence College, junior goaltender Cal Petersen was named the Hockey East’s Defensive Player of the Week for a third time this season. In the two games versus the Friars, Petersen posted a 1.00 goals against average and a .973 save percentage.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- While every detail of each game is magnified this time of year, one factor, more than any other, can make or break a team when it comes to playoff hockey.
Thankfully for the Irish, Cal Petersen has that covered.
Petersen’s head coach Jeff Jackson, a former goalie who works closely with the junior captain, summed it up after Saturday’s win.
"I said it last night: you don't win without great goaltending and he's given us that. So, now we’ll get to go to Boston."
After pitching a 43-save shutout in Notre Dame’s 5-0 game one win, Petersen followed up by stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced in the 5-2 game two clincher.
“Petersen was spectacular last night and again tonight, I thought he was the difference in the series,” Providence College head coach Nate Leaman said.
The game one win marked the first time Providence had been shutout in a span of 87 games dating back to Feb. 13, 2015.
The goaltender on that day? Petersen, who made 38 saves in a 2-0 Notre Dame win against a Friar team that went on to win the NCAA Championship two months later. That performance during his freshman season was Petersen’s third career shutout, while Friday night’s game one win marked his 11th.
In game two, Petersen made a breakaway stop on Providence’s Josh Wilkins with just under two minutes remaining in what turned out to be a scoreless first period.
That save on Wilkins went a long way in setting the tone in the eventual 5-2 Irish win.
“He’s back there as an absolute rock and you just know he has a chance to make the save on every single play,” sophomore defenseman Bobby Nardella said Saturday night.
Dating back to the middle of January, the Friars went 13-3-1 down the stretch with the three losses and the tie coming to Petersen and the Irish.
“He came up with a lot of big saves and kudos to him, he’s had a terrific year and he’s a heck of a goalie,” Leaman added.
The college hockey season can be a grueling one, beginning in October and extending all the way to April for those that make the Frozen Four. In this weekend’s series alone both teams dealt with in-game injuries, juggling lines and matchups as the physical series wore on.
But, just like the regular season, one thing remains constant for the Irish: Petersen in goal.
A 2017 Richter Award semifinalist, Petersen has now started 86 consecutive games in the Notre Dame net — the fourth-longest streak in the NCAA Div. I records book.
Down the stretch, Notre Dame caught fire to bolster its NCAA hopes while pursuing Hockey East hardware.
Playing pivotal games that felt like playoff hockey once the calendar flipped to February, Petersen and the Irish went 7-1-2 against the likes of tenth-ranked Providence (3-0-1), No. 6/8 Boston University (1-1-0), No. 13/14 Vermont (1-0-1) and at Maine (2-0-0). In those seven games, Petersen posted a sparkling .943 save percentage and a 1.97 goals against average.
“Having great goaltending is the number one factor for winning in the playoffs,” Jackson noted after sweeping Providence. “I’ve been talking all season about how Cal has to be our closer and he’s certainly been that.”
-- ND --
Dan Colleran, associate athletics communications director at the University of Notre Dame, has been a part of Fighting Irish Media since August 2015 and coordinates all media and publicity efforts surrounding the Notre Dame hockey and golf programs. A native of Walpole, Massachusetts, Colleran spent the previous three years working with the men’s hockey and soccer programs at Providence College. Colleran also spent two years as an Assistant Executive Director of Communications & Championships at the Ivy League and is a graduate of Providence College (’06 & ’08G).