Irish look to redeem hard losses
Justin Schuver | Friday, January 30, 2004
The Irish (12-9-3, 8-8-2 in CCHA) will try to put a disappointing weekend behind them this Friday and Saturday as they face off against Alaska Fairbanks in a pair of games at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame dropped a pair of one-goal games to Northern Michigan last weekend to fall to eighth in the CCHA.”We really played very well on Saturday night last week,” Irish coach Dave Poulin said. “I think we played well Friday night as well, but the way the league is set up – it’s so tight that if you start worrying about everyone else, you’re going to be in real trouble.”We’re playing a team that’s right with us in the standings this weekend, and we’ve just got to play and win.”The Nanooks (12-12-0, 11-9-0) currently have 22 points and sit in fourth place in the league. Notre Dame has 18 points, but has an advantage with two games in hand over the Nanooks.Alaska Fairbanks has been a thorn in the heel of the Irish for the past two seasons, winning four straight games against Notre Dame. In their last trip to South Bend, in the 2001-02 season, the Nanooks came away with 7-5 and 6-5 victories over the Irish.Despite the recent history of the series, the Irish are still looking to finish out the year strong, playing six of their final 10 games at home, where Notre Dame is 7-1-1 so far this season.”The Joyce Center has been so good to us this year,” Poulin said. “It’s going to be a huge factor in our last ten games, because this is a home-dominated league right now and we have to protect our turf.”In their recent four-game road trip, the Irish collected a 1-2-1 record, which included a tie and victory over then-No. 4 Wisconsin. A reason for the poor performance on the road has been an offense that has struggled as of late.Only three players, forwards Mike Walsh, Rob Globke and Aaron Gill, scored for the Irish on that road trip. Seniors Globke and Gill combined to score seven of the eight goals.This trend is consistent throughout the season, as the trio has also scored exactly half of Notre Dame’s 66 goals this year. Globke has 15, while Gill and Walsh each have nine.”We’ve got to score goals,” Poulin said. “And Mike Walsh, Aaron Gill and Rob Globke can’t be the only ones scoring goals. We’ve got to get some guys scoring here; we’re fully capable, we’ve just got to look to shoot the puck more.”Despite an inconsistent offense, the Irish have remained competitive due to a dominating defense. Notre Dame’s scoring defense of 2.38 goals per game is first in the CCHA and ranked tenth nationally. Take out the Dec. 5-6 weekend against Western Michigan, where the Irish allowed a combined 14 goals, and the number drops even lower.”We’ve played well defensively all year, and weekends like Western are going to happen every now and then,” Poulin said. “We’ve got to play smart in our defensive end this weekend against a very potent offensive team.”Alaska Fairbanks is a high-risk, high-reward team that scores many goals but also gives up its fair share. The Nanooks average 3.42 goals a game, but give up an average of 3.57 goals per game. The team is led by a trio of high-scoring forwards in Kelly Czuy (eight goals, 12 assists), Ryan Campbell (eight goals, 11 assists) and Curtis Fraser (10 goals, eight assists). The Nanooks have eight players in double-digit scoring figures so far this season.Keith Bartusch and Preston McKay have shared the responsibilities in net, with each putting up relatively average numbers in front of a team that is not the most responsible defensively.Bartusch has a record of 4-5-0 in 11 games, with a 3.43 GAA and an .882 save percentage. McKay has a record of 5-6-0 in 12 games, with a 3.77 GAA and an .889 save percentage.Face off Friday is scheduled for 7:35 p.m., and Saturday’s game is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.