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Hockey: Three’s a charm

Dan Murphy | Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The USA Today released its preseason College Hockey Poll Monday and for the second straight year Notre Dame is ranked in the top 10. The Irish picked up the No. 3 spot in 2008, behind defending national champion Boston College and Michigan.

Notre Dame finished the 2007-08 season ranked No. 3 after an unexpected run to the National Championship game before losing to the Eagles in Denver.

“Based on our finish in the Frozen Four and that we only lost four guys in our lineup, I figured that people would look at us as a team that should be up there,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said.

Jackson is entering his fourth year as head coach at Notre Dame and has led his team to back-to-back preseason rankings for the first time in program history. The No. 3 ranking is the second highest preseason ranking for the hockey team behind the 1973-74 club, who was ranked No. 2.

Jackson said he had not heard about the ranking yet, but did not take much stock in any polls before anyone had touched the ice.

“It doesn’t have a lot of meaning at this point,” Jackson said. “I hope we learned from the middle portion of the season when things were a bit of a struggle for us and I hope we also gained some confidence towards the end of the season.”

Notre Dame finished last season with a 27-16-4 record and snuck into the postseason tournament as one of the lowest ranked teams. The Irish heated up towards the end of the season and rode their streak all the way to the finals.

This season Notre Dame will have another tough schedule during the regular season because five CCHA teams ranked in the top 15. No. 2 Michigan and Notre Dame are joined by No. 8 Miami, No. 12 Michigan St and No. 14 Northern Michigan.

“It doesn’t surprise me [to have five teams ranked]. Northern Michigan and Ferris State are both teams that looked promising at the end of last season. It is going to be a very tough conference,” Jackson said.

The Irish will play 12 games total against preseason ranked teams including their season opener with No. 6 Denver on Oct. 11 and a Nov. 7 championship rematch with No. 1 Boston College.