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Irish have struggled

Justin Schuver | Thursday, February 12, 2004

After a 2-0 loss at Miami of Ohio last Saturday, a game in which the Irish played well enough to win but were bested by a freshman goaltender making his first career shutout, Irish head coach Dave Poulin had some positive words.”There were tremendous chances all game,” he said. “Those are going to go in eventually, and they’re not going in right now for us, but we’re going to have a great finish this year and have a great finish down the stretch.”Notre Dame has played on the edge all season, but its lack of offensive output may be the team’s Achilles heel. The Irish have scored just 73 goals in 28 games.An average offensive production is fine when you have great goaltending and defense like the Irish do this year. The team is second overall in the CCHA in goals against with 68. Still, there will be games when that defense will falter.Ironically, the last time Notre Dame scored four goals or more in a game – Jan. 9 against Bowling Green – the result was a loss, 5-4. Notre Dame’s highest offensive output this season, six goals against Western Michigan on Dec. 5, was also a loss (8-6).It’s hard to tell where the Irish would be right now if they had a powerful offense as well as the stellar goaltending of freshman David Brown and junior Morgan Cey. Michigan currently sits in second place in the CCHA and has the best defense in the league with only 65 goals against. Pretty similar to the Irish, right?But the Wolverines have scored 99 goals this season in just 20 games. It’s not hard to see that even with all the defense in the world, there still needs to be some offense to pick up the slack.Poulin has often said that his team sometimes relies on the goalies too often to bail them out of a difficult situation. While Brown and Cey have certainly stolen their share of games in which the Irish were badly outplayed but still got a point or two, there’s only so much a net-minder can do.Earlier this season, the Irish were as high as first place overall in the CCHA. The team currently has a sub-.500 conference record (9-10-3) and sits in eighth place in the 12-team league. The conference awards home ice at the end of the season to the top six teams. If Notre Dame wants to host the first round of the CCHA playoffs at the Joyce Center, some of those pucks are going to have to go in the net, starting with this weekend against Ferris State.It’s not as bleak as it sounds. With the CCHA as competitive as it has ever been, Notre Dame’s 21 points is currently only three points behind Ohio State and Western Michigan, who are tied for the sixth place position.But if the Irish are to make any real jump up the standings over their last six conference games, their sleeping giant of an offense is going to have to wake up.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not neccessarily those of The Observer. Contact Justin Schuver at jschuver@nd.edu.