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Hockey: Irish looking to make late surge

Justin Schuver | Friday, February 11, 2005

The motto of the Irish right now might as well be “better late than never.”

With just six CCHA games remaining in the regular season, the Irish (5-19-6, 3-14-5) still have a chance to move up a few spots in the conference standings going into the playoffs. Notre Dame will begin that task this weekend as it takes on Ferris State (9-17-4, 4-14-4) in a two-game homestand at the Joyce Center.

The Irish currently sit in 12th place in the CCHA standings with 11 points. But they are only one point behind Ferris State and two points behind Western Michigan. And with every conference win worth two points, Notre Dame still has enough time left to make a move to close out the season.

“We need a win for our confidence, we need a win for our psyche and we need a win to move up in the standings,” Irish coach Dave Poulin said. “We can make our own noise and our movement here – we don’t need help from anyone else, we’ve got to do it ourselves from where we’re sitting right now.”

In their games last weekend against fourth-place Nebraska-Omaha, the Irish played neck-and-neck with the talented Mavericks for five of the first six periods. Notre Dame tied Ne-braska-Omaha 1-1 on Friday and had a 2-2 tie going into the third period of Saturday’s game before falling apart in the final frame and losing by a final score of 6-3.

The Irish allowed the Mavericks to score four goals, the first time this season Notre Dame has allowed more than three goals in a period. The breakdown was indicative of a season-long trend, in which the Irish have been outshot 39-13 in the third period.

“I wish I knew [why we don’t play as well in the third period],” Poulin said. “If you take Saturday night’s game, we played really well and with six minutes left we have a great chance at one end and it doesn’t go in, so they come right down and score.

“I think it is a little mental now – we’ve tried different things and tried to address it in different ways, but the bottom line is we’ve got to win a game to get some of our confidence back.”

Notre Dame took some much-needed steps toward getting back into the win column Saturday, scoring three goals in a game for the first time since Dec. 10. More importantly, the team got goals from forwards Cory McLean and Mike Walsh, who have struggled to find the net all season.

McLean scored his fourth goal of the season, and Walsh scored his second – by comparison, McLean had 10 goals in the 2003-04 season and Walsh had 12 tallies.Also, the team has managed to produce shots on goal of late, something that has been difficult for the team all season. Notre Dame has outshot its opponent just 10 of 30 times on the year, but in their most recent stretch of games the Irish have outshot their opponent in three of four matches.

“Not only have we outshot our opponents, but we’ve also outchanced them,” Poulin said. “We’ve gotten to the front of the net a lot better. It was clear from watching video that we weren’t doing a good job of getting to the net and into that high-rent district.

“We made a conscious decision to go to the net more, and we need to get more goals from in close like that.”

Notre Dame faces Ferris State Friday at the Joyce Center at 7:35 p.m. and Saturday at 7:05 p.m.