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Irish try to leave Happy Valley full of frowns

Michael Bryan | Friday, February 20, 2009

Notre Dame will try to ruin Penn State’s home opener this weekend, as it travels to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions on Sunday.

The No. 8 Irish (1-0) come to town after winning their season opener last weekend over Loyola in dramatic fashion. Senior attack Ryan Hoff scored with 5:29 remaining to give Notre Dame a 10-9 win over No. 17 Loyola in Atlanta.

“If our offense keeps playing the way they have, I think it will be hard for any defense in the country to stop them,” senior defenseman Regis McDermott said.

Junior Grant Krebs led the Irish offense with three goals and one assist. Junior Neal Hicks also netted three goals in a return to his native area. Senior goaltender Scott Rodgers had several key saves down the stretch in his first collegiate start.

Rodgers said the team had stepped up its effort and performance in the offseason.

“We just turned everything up a notch,” Rodgers said. “Our lifts, our conditioning and individuals were insane this fall and winter.”

For the Irish to be successful, the Irish have to improve their performance on faceoffs. The team lost 16-of-22 against the Greyhounds. The Nittany Lions led the Eastern College Athletic Conference in faceoff percentage last season.

Notre Dame is 11-4 all-time against Penn State, and has won six straight games in the series. The Irish defeated the Nittany Lions 15-9 last year in South Bend.

Penn State dropped their opening match last weekend against Robert Morris, losing 12-11 in double overtime. Sophomore Chris Hogan netted four goals for the Nittany Lions, but the Colonials racked up a .414 shooting percentage from the field.

Penn State received significant contributions in the opener from a pair of freshmen. Redshirt attack Jack Forster tallied a goal and three assists, and true freshman Matthew Mackrides had an assist and two goals. Penn State finished 7-7 in 2008, with a 2-5 record in conference play.

The Irish received some good news Thursday, as Hoff was named to the Tewaaraton Trophy watch list. The trophy is presented annually to the most outstanding player in college lacrosse.

Hoff is fifth all-time in goals for Notre Dame with 105 in his career. He became the first player in program history to record back to back 40 goal seasons after scoring 41 last year, barely eclipsing his mark of 40 from his sophomore year.

The Irish and Nittany Lions will face off at 1 p.m. Sunday at Holuba Hall. Notre Dame will then open at home Feb. 28 against Dartmouth.