HOCKEY: Changing the pace
Chris Khorey | Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Notre Dame’s routine is to practice all week and play Friday and Saturday games. But the Irish will be jolted from their routine by today’s trip to Mankato, Minn., for a game against Minnesota State.
The Irish last played Saturday in a 3-0 win over Western Michigan at the Joyce Center. The three-day turnaround between contests is the fastest of the season.
Notre Dame heads into its game against the Mavericks riding a 17-game road winless streak that dates back to last season.
Irish defenseman Wes O’Neill said he is actually excited to play a midweek game as a change of pace.
“It’s back to the junior [level] days where you played every other day,” he said. “It’s a little tough during exams, but we prepare all year for weeks like this.”
Every player on the Irish roster played junior-level hockey before coming to South Bend. Most competed in the United States Hockey League, while three player – right wing Michael Bart-lett, left wing Josh Sciba and left wing Tim Wallace – played for the U.S. Under-18 National Team.
Minnesota State, which plays in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), will be the first non-conference game for the Irish since Princeton on Oct. 29. Notre Dame is 4-9-1 this season and 3-6-1 in the CCHA.
After rotating goalies junior Dave Brown and freshman Jordan Pearce early in the season, Irish head coach Jeff Jackson appears to have settled on Brown.
The junior has played in each of the last seven contests, starting six of them. He recorded his fifth career shutout Sat-urday against the Broncos.
“That’s what we need from Browny,” O’Neill said. “He’s a great goalie.”
The Irish fell behind Western 4-1 midway through the second period of Friday’s 4-3 loss in Kalamazoo, Mich. Con-versely, when Notre Dame was able to get and hold a lead in the second period of Saturday’s contest, the Irish went on to win.
“We’re not a team that needs to be trying to come back night after night,” Jackson said.
After going four games without a point, O’Neill burst back on to the scene against Western Michigan with a goal and an assist. Jackson said he hopes the talented junior can continue his improvement against Minnesota State.
The Mavericks, whose school was formerly known as Mankato State, started this season with six straight losses but have since recovered to go 3-3-3 in their last nine contests.
They went to overtime in two games against Minnesota-Deluth this past weekend, losing 4-3 on Friday and earning a 2-2 tie Saturday.
The Irish and Mavericks will also square off Saturday at the Joyce Center. That game begins at 7:05 p.m.