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ND looks to learn from last year

Matt Gamber | Thursday, December 11, 2008

If ever a top-ranked team were to know that with 18 games remaining on its regular season schedule, it is far from reaching the proverbial promised land – it’s the Irish.

After a 15-4 start and a nine-game win streak a year ago, Notre Dame went 6-8-4 after final exams, plummeting in the polls and barely reaching the NCAA tournament.

“There are a lot of similarities right now. It’s a little concerning to me if anything”Irish coach Jeff Jackson said.

After losing its first two CCHA games at home to Miami (Ohio), Notre Dame (12-3-2, 8-2-2-2 CCHA) has reeled off a 12-game unbeaten streak that includes 10 conference wins (two in shootouts). With a home-and-home series with Bowling Green this weekend – in Ohio Friday, at the Joyce Center at 7 p.m. Saturday – the Irish will have a chance to overtake Miami, who they trail by three points with two games in hand, in the conference standings.

“The standings are pretty important for us. One of our objectives is to finish in the top four of the standings, so we put a little bit for emphasis on that than the national standings,” senior goaltender Jordan Pearce said.

Pearce has been a big part of the Irish streak holding opponents to 1.36 goals per game throughout the past month.

Two of those wins came in impressive fashion against this weekend’s opponent, the Falcons. Bowling Green(5-8-3, 4-5-1-0 CCHA) fell to the Irish 5-1 and 9-1 on Nov. 21-22. Bowling Green hasn’t won since sweeping a series with struggling Northern Michigan on Nov. 14-15, but that doesn’t make the Falcons any less of a formidable opponent, Jackson said.

After this weekend’s games, Notre Dame will have a three-week break before starting the daunting second half of their schedule. The Irish face two-game series with Michigan, Nebraska-Omaha and Alaska, all three of whom are in the Top 25.

“Our second is half is just like last year. People wonder why we went into a little bit of a slump last year and part of it was our schedule,” Jackson said. “We have a tough road schedule and even our home games are going to be challenging.”

Notre Dame’s power play has been dominant at times – it was against the Falcons, when the Irish went 8-for-18 over the two nights – and has been a major factor in the Irish dominance of late. Special teams were a major concern a year ago, and Jackson said they could separate this team from his last.