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Hockey: Irish look to get back in CCHA race against Michigan

Sam Werner | Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Irish have some work to do to get back to the top of the CCHA standings, and there’s no better weekend to start than this one.

Notre Dame (4-4-4-2 CCHA, 7-7-4 overall) sits tied for fifth in the conference, 10 points behind leader Miami (Ohio). The Irish aren’t the only traditional power underperforming this season, though.

Michigan (4-6-0-0 CCHA, 8-8-0 overall) has slid all the way to 10th in the conference. After two wins over Lake Superior State — in which the Wolverines scored 11 total goals — Michigan dropped five straight games against Miami (Ohio), Michigan State and Bowling Green.

Red Berenson’s squad has rebounded to take three of its last four, but the Wolverines need a prolonged winning streak to break back into the CCHA’s elite ranks.

“Michigan’s had some struggles, just like us,” senior center Ryan Thang said. “But they’re very talented offensively. In a way they’re just like us.”

Michigan holds a 66-47-5 lifetime advantage over the Irish in Notre Dame’s longest-running hockey rivalry.

In the teams’ last meeting, though, the Irish took the win on the conference’s biggest stage. Despite trailing 2-0 in the second period, Notre Dame scored five unanswered goals to claim a 5-2 victory in last year’s CCHA Championship at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

The win gave Notre Dame its second conference crown and a 2-1 win in the season series over the Wolverines.

The Irish will face a familiar face between the pipes this weekend in junior Wolverine netminder Bryan Hogan. Despite a wealth of experience, Hogan has struggled this season, posting a 2.71 goals against average, 10th in the CCHA.

Up front, junior Carl Hagelin leads an offensive attack that has averaged 2.6 goals per game in the CCHA season. Hagelin and freshman Chris Brown have each posted 15 points on the season, tops on the team.

Defensively, the Wolverines sport the league’s toughest penalty killing unit, successfully shutting down 90.4 percent of opponents’ powerplays.

“We really need to get the five on five scoring going and maybe get some shorthanded goals,” Thang said.

On the other side of the ice, sophomore wing Billy Maday leads Notre Dame with 15 points on four goals and 11 assists on the season. Junior wing Calle Ridderwall is second on the team with 14 points on 10 goals and four assists. Ridderwall and Maday, along with senior center Kevin Deeth, make up the line that is most likely to bust the Irish out of their scoring slump. Last weekend, in a pair of losses to Miami (Ohio), the Irish failed to score a goal in a weekend series for the first time under Jeff Jackson.

“It’s just a matter of trying to create some chemistry and getting the little things going,” Thang said.

The Irish and Wolverines face off at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Ann Arbor, Mich. and 4:05 p.m. Sunday in the Joyce Center.

“It’ll be fun to get some fans here, get going,” Thang said. “And see if this can help turn the season around.”