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HOCKEY: Irish will match wits with Tigers

Kyle Cassily | Friday, October 28, 2005

The CCHA season slate is a grueling and cutthroat marathon with the likes of perennial powerhouses Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State contending for a title every year. But before the Irish must face these rivals, they have one more tune-up to get a feel for each other.

The Irish will host a two-game non-conference regular season series with the Princeton Tigers today and Saturday at the Joyce Center. The puck will drop at 7:35 p.m. and 7:05 p.m., respectively.

Notre Dame (0-2-0) last played Princeton in 2001 in New Jersey and came home with two wins, by margins of 2-1 and 4-2. The lifetime series between the two schools stands at a 9-2 Princeton edge.

The Irish are coming off a tough western expedition last weekend, where the icers faced No. 4 Colorado College and No. 9 Denver, losing 3-1 and 6-3.

Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson wants to see his team focus this weekend on its special teams game. The team gave up two shorthanded goals to defending national champion Denver, but went 2-for-8 on the power play, an excellent 25-percent conversion rate.

Jackson felt Denver picked apart the Irish penalty kill and has worked to fix the unit in practice. He hopes to see his team create a more successful flow on these man-down and man-advantage situations. Puck control and protection remains a key tenant in Jackson’s mind for dealing with the Tigers.

“Princeton is a real feisty team that is going to play really hard,” he said. “They’re a bit of a transition team, where they will force you into making turnovers. They’ll trap you in the turnovers and then they’ll be explosive coming back at you.”

Luckily for Jackson, his team is starting to form to his preseason expectations.

The first-year coach has found a role model for the rest of the team in the line of freshman Erik Condra, sophomore Evan Rankin and junior Josh Sciba. Condra had three assists and Sciba scored in the 6-3 loss to Denver. The trifecta has run Jackson’s system to perfection, and in his opinion has fared the best for it.

“The Sciba line has an identity to it,” he said. “They skate, they pass, they’re very tenacious, they read off of each other very well, and they execute the system real well.”

Notes:

The Irish took to the ice last weekend in Colorado wearing gold helmets for the first time since the 1975-76 season. The helmets are painted with the same gold metallic paint found on the helmets worn by the football team. Irish equipment manager Dave Gilbert worked out a deal with Bauer to produce the Golden Dome-tinted hardware. They will feature a white cage and an American flag on the back portion.