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Hockey: Notre Dame prepares for No. 3 Wolverines

Chris Khorey | Friday, November 4, 2005

After earning its first win of the season last Saturday, Notre Dame will face a tough challenge this weekend in its Central Collegiate hockey association opener, a home-and home-series against No. 3 Michigan beginning tonight at 7:35 p.m. in the Joyce Center.

The Irish are 1-3 and are coming off a split with Princeton at the Joyce Center last weekend. The Tigers won 5-3 last Friday, but Notre Dame bounced back behind a shutout from freshman goalie Jordan Pearce to win 2-0.

Pearce was named CCHA rookie of the week for his 27-save performance against the Tigers.

The Wolverines will be the third top-10 team Notre Dame has played this year.

The Irish faced No. 10 Denver and No. 1 Colorado College in a western road trip Oct. 21 and 22.

“We’ve picked them all, haven’t we?” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said. “It seems like every team we’ve played has been No. 1 at some point.”

Jackson said the experience of playing the Colorado schools will be a positive against the Wolverines.

“Playing teams like Denver and Colorado College can only help us,” he said. “Michigan’s probably most similar to Denver in the way they play.

“They have a lot of speed and they play an aggressive style. They have an aggressive penalty kill and an aggressive power play, which concerns me because that’s where we broke down against Denver.”

The Wolverines are 5-1-1, having tied No. 10 Michigan State and lost at Alaska-Fairbanks 4-2.

Michigan led by junior Matt Hunswick, who has racked up 10 assists already this season and sophomore Kevin Porter, who has found the back of the net six times.

Pearce’s shutout Saturday left him in serious contention to replace incumbent junior Dave Brown.

Jackson said he has yet made a decision about a permanent starter.

“Right now I’m looking to maintain a rotation until I feel like one of them is ready to become ‘the guy,'” he said.

“If somebody plays two or three good games in row, they’ll probably get the fourth start.”

As for Friday’s game, Jackson said he will not pick a starter until after the team’s morning skate.

Jackson said he hoped the student section would reach the level of excitement found at Notre Dame’s regular season home opener against Princeton.

“The student section was awesome last Friday night,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t quite as good on Saturday night. If we can get the students like they were last Friday night on a regular basis that helps our team immensely.”

Jackson, whose previous college head coaching job was at Lake Superior State, praised the Notre Dame Pep Band for its role in contributing to the Joyce Center environment.

“I can’t say enough about our pep band,” he said. “We’ve got one of the best fight songs in the world, if not the best.”

Both Friday’s game at the Joyce Center and Saturday’s game in Ann Arbor will face off at 7:35 p.m.

The Irish return home to face Bowling Green at the same time Thursday.