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Hockey: Home series gives ND a chance to move up

Michael Blasco | Friday, January 29, 2010

Notre Dame hosts conference foe Nebraska-Omaha in a crucial pair of games at the Joyce Center this weekend.

The Irish will need to pick up at least three points to vault fourth-place Lake Superior State in the CCHA rankings; the top four seeds receive a bye in the first round of the conference tournament.

“I’ve been trying to tell [my team], let’s just focus on the game at hand,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We need to get points every weekend. This team we’re playing is a pretty good hockey team. You look at the [CCHA] standings, there’s six teams in the mix, anywhere from third to tenth. We’re going to have to play our best, considering the circumstances.”

The Irish (11-10-7, 7-7-6-2 CCHA) come into the series after picking up four points against Lake Superior last weekend.

The sometimes-anemic Notre Dame offense exploded in a 6-1 road victory against the Lakers on Friday, with junior wing Callie Ridderwall notching his second hat trick of the season in the win.

The Irish picked up another point in a shootout loss Saturday night. Freshman goalie Mike Johnson kept Notre Dame alive with an outstanding 45 save effort in the 1-1 contest.

“[Johnson] has been the guy since the end of the first half,” Jackson said. “As long he’s playing like he is, he’s going to keep getting starts.”

Absent in the 1-1 tie was the Irish’s power play, going 0-for-4 as Notre Dame could only muster 27 shots against the Lakers’ 46. The Irish have not converted a power play in their last 10 opportunities.

“Between penalties and injuries, we’ve had a tough time keeping units together,” Jackson said. “There’s been guys playing on the power play who’ve never even practiced it because we’ve had guys who were in the penalty box or guys who were injured.  When you take guys that are power play specialists out of the lineup, your continuity changes.”

Notre Dame will struggle with injuries again this weekend, with five players listed on the injury report against Nebraska-Omaha (12-11-5, 8-10-2-1 CCHA). In total, Irish skaters have missed 51 games this season due to injuries.

“I’m really proud of how this team’s played over the last couple of weekends considering,” Jackson said. “The team itself is a wounded warrior. This team is overcoming all kinds of stuff to compete on a nightly basis, and that’s all that matters right now.”

Notre Dame will play Nebraska-Omaha on Friday and Saturday at the Joyce Center, with the puck-drop at 8:05 p.m. each night.