Hockey: Icers set for CCHA home series
Dan Murphy | Friday, November 30, 2007
No. 7 Notre Dame plays its final home series of the semester this weekend when it takes on Nebraska-Omaha in the Joyce Center tonight and Saturday.
The team will travel to Princeton next weekend before a three-week hiatus at the end of the month.
The Irish (12-4-0) come into the game riding a five-game winning streak. Their last loss was on Nov. 10, to No. 1 Miami on the road.
“I think we’ve made good progress, but I want us to get better,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “This will be a big test for us this weekend. We’re facing a pretty good hockey team.”
Notre Dame is 8-1 in November and can set or break the program record for wins in a month this weekend.
A big part of Notre Dame’s recent success has come from defensemen pushing forward and making plays on offense.
“I put more emphasis on it because our system needs to be successful 5-on-5,” Jackson said. “It’s about confidence and making sure that the guys with the puck don’t make mistakes with it.”
Senior defenseman Dan VeNard has scored more goals (three) in the first 16 games this season than in the first three seasons of his career (two). Sophomore Kyle Lawson has a three-game point streak, which includes a game-winning goal against RPI in the holiday tournament championship game.
“I definitely feel more confident since the beginning of the year,” Lawson said. “As the season progressed, we’ve become more comfortable and that leads to individual success.”
The Michigan native was named the CCHA’s defensive player of the week the past two weeks.
Jackson said Lawson’s work ethic has improved his play and the entire defensive unit so far this year.
“He plays with his heart on the sleeve, hard all the time. He leads by the way he does things on the ice,” Jackson said. “He’s a catalyst offensively because he can make things happen, he has good vision and he has confidence to do all of the things we talk about.”
Lawson and the rest of the defensemen will have their hands full this week with the Mavericks, who average more than three goals a game. Senior linemates Bryan Marshall and Mick Lawrence lead the way with 14 and 10 points, respectively. Marshall has 11 assists on the season, and Lawrence leads the team with seven goals in 10 games.
“They have always been a great offensive team, so we’re going to have be on top of our game defensively this weekend,” Lawson said.
Nebraska-Omaha (5-5-1) began the year with four straight losses in back-to-back weekends on the road against No.1 Miami and No. 2 Michigan. Since then, it has lost only one game to Ferris State on Nov. 16.
“I expect them to be as good as any team we see this year from an offensive standpoint,” Jackson said. “They started off a little bit slow but part of that was because of their schedule, we started off a little slow because of our schedule too.”
Notre Dame had a pair of two-game series with top-five teams Miami and Denver. The Irish won the first game of both series, but lost the second each time.
Notre Dame plays Nebraska-Omaha tonight at 7:35 and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in the Joyce Center.
u Jackson announced Thursday that three players signed letters of intent to join Notre Dame next fall: forward Patrick Gaul and defensemen Sean Lorenz and Eric Ringel. The three signees will join forward Billy Maday, who deferred his entry into the program until 2008.
“We’re excited about this class of players from both an offensive and defensive perspective,” Jackson said in a statement released by the athletic department. “Although they are young, as a group, they all stand to become great college hockey players.”