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Hockey: Record unbeaten streak alive as Irish head north

Matt Gamber | Friday, January 16, 2009

The top-ranked Irish will put their school-record 18-game unbeaten run to the test this weekend at Lake Superior State – the team that two months ago threatened to end the streak at four.

The Lakers (6-9-7, 3-6-5-1 CCHA) played host Notre Dame (18-3-2, 12-2-2-2 CCHA) to a 3-3 draw on Nov. 14 before the Irish won their first-ever shootout. Notre Dame handled the Lakers 5-2 the next night, and the Irish have won 11 of 12 since.

“We’ve played fairly consistently ever since the third week of the season,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We’ve had different types of games – some more defensive-minded, like last week against Alaska, some with more goals being scored, like against Bowling Green. Our team’s adjusted pretty well … and we’ve reached a certain level of consistency defensively and with our goaltending and special teams.”

The Lakers use a similar recipe for success, Jackson said, and are led by sophomore goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson, who boasts a .927 save percentage.

“We’ll have to play smart,” Jackson said. “They’ve got good goaltending and they play a system where it’s tough to generate much offense against them … We’re going to need to generate chances off transition and on the power play. My belief is that we need to try to generate one [power-play goal] a night to be successful.”

The Irish went 2-for-12 on the power play against Lake Superior State in their two games earlier this season, but Notre Dame is just 1-for-14 with the man-advantage over its last three games.

Despite their sub-.500 conference record, the Lakers have remained in eighth place in the CCHA standings because they have gained at least one point in eight of their 14 conference games.

“They’re going to be a home ice team in the [CCHA] playoffs,” Jackson said. “They get fairly balanced scoring from their top three lines and they’re real solid defensively.”

Tonight begins a tough stretch that will see the Irish play five of their next six conference games on the road with several streaks on the line.

Notre Dame’s eight-game road win streak is the best in program history, and the Irish have not lost away from home since its season-opener, Oct. 11 at No. 5 Denver. Senior goaltender Jordan Pearce hasn’t allowed a goal since Jan. 3 against Minnesota-Duluth, covering a span of 161:30.

Protecting those streaks, however, is a secondary priority as the Irish continue to try and distance themselves from the rest of the CCHA pack.

“It will be a challenging second half for us,” Jackson said. “We have eight conference games left on the road … We’ve got to develop that ‘road warrior’ mentality a little bit.”