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Hockey: ND begins grueling 5-game stretch

Dan Murphy | Friday, November 16, 2007

No. 10 Notre Dame kicks off a very busy holiday week tonight with a home game against Western Michigan at 7:35 p.m. in the Joyce Center.

The Irish will play a home-and-home series with the Broncos this weekend, and a Tuesday night game against Bowling Green before heading to Troy, N.Y., for the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament. When all is said and done, the team will have played five games in a span of only nine days.

“I’m a little nervous about it, but we have the best strength coach in the country so I know we are in good shape physically,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We’ll probably take a day off in the next week but we have to get through these first two games. These will be up-tempo games.”

Notre Dame is already coming off of an emotionally draining weekend in Oxford, Ohio, where the Irish split a two-game series with No. 1 Miami on the road.

“We’re all excited to get back on track after a tough weekend against Miami,” junior goaltender Jordan Pearce said. “We saw a lot of positives and they kind of exploited some of our weaknesses, too.”

Pearce turned away 64 of 68 shots last weekend against the most potent offense in the country, with 40 goals in their first eight games.

“There was such a great crowd and atmosphere, it’s tough to not get up for a game like that,” Pearce said.

Despite its 3-5 record, Western Michigan has the potential to fill up the net.

Jackson described the Broncos offense as “high-flying” and said his team needed to improve its forechecking to slow down the fast-paced attack. The speedy Broncos are led by playmaker Patrick Gallivan. The right wing has 10 assists and a goal eight games into his junior campaign.

“He’s a very skilled player. He’s got great instincts, he thinks [through] the game extremely well,” Jackson said.

Gallivan is averaging 1.38 points per game, which is good enough for third in the CCHA behind Nebraska-Omaha’s Bryan Marshall (1.57) and Michigan State’s Tim Kennedy (1.5).

The highest Notre Dame player on that list is junior right wing Erik Condra, with ten points through the first 11 games for the Irish. Four of those points have come as a part of the streak Notre Dame powerplay.

Notre Dame has been deadly at times with the man advantage, but at other times it has failed to produce. In last Saturday’s loss to Miami, the Irish had two key powerplays early in the third period that could have tied the game, but the Irish failed to convert.

“We’ve been all or nothing it seems like,” Jackson said. “One of the keys is not losing our emotion. It’s not a matter of how many powerplay goals we score, it’s a matter of when we score them.”

Jackson said part of that will go away as the young unit gains experience on the ice. The Irish currently play four sophomores and a junior on their No. 1 powerplay line and two freshmen on the second unit.

But the young Irish should get plenty of experience over the next nine days.