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Hockey: Breaking the ice

Chris Allen | Thursday, October 14, 2010

Notre Dame will open its final season in the Joyce Center tonight with a two-game series against Lake Superior State to kick off the CCHA season.

The Irish (1-1-0) come into the contest fresh off of a second-place finish in the season-opening Warrior Ice Breaker Tournament in St. Louis, defeating Holy Cross 6-3 but falling to Boston University 5-4 in the tournament’s championship.

Freshman left wing Anders Lee shined in both games, netting a hat trick against the Crusaders and adding an assist in the last minute loss to the Terriers. For his play, Lee was named CCHA Rookie of the Week. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson expressed confidence in his young winger.

“I think he’s a mature kid, physically and mentally. He had a great year in the USHL last year, which allowed him to come here with a lot of confidence,” Jackson said. “The one thing about freshmen is if they have great instincts and they’re physically strong enough, generally they can make an impact.”

Lee was one of a handful of Irish freshmen who made an impact during the opening weekend, as freshmen T.J. Tynan, Bryan Rust and Shayne Taker all joined Lee in netting their first collegiate goals. With a number of young playmakers supplementing an experienced core led by senior defenseman Joe Lavin and senior left wing Calle Ridderwall, Jackson said he was beginning to get a sense of where the multitude of Irish freshman fit into his lineup.

“As we watch our team play, and as we get more feeling for some of these young guys — where they belong, where they fit and what their strengths and weaknesses are — then we’ll focus on those things to work on improving,” Jackson said.

Like Notre Dame, Lake Superior State (0-1-1) participated in a showcase tournament to begin the season. The Lakers tied the opener of the Superior Showcase 6-6 against Minnesota-Duluth before falling 6-2 to Michigan Tech. Jackson said that although the Lakers are a work in progress at this point in the season, they would present a challenge to his defense.

“They’ve got some guys that are good hockey players — smart, gritty hockey players, and they’re a big team,” Jackson said. “They’ve got real big forwards.”

Though the Irish have gone through their typical pregame routine as far as scouting in preparation of their first conference game of the year, the team has taken a more simplistic approach to game preparation in the hopes of turning around last year’s sub-.500 campaign.

“We’re trying to focus our preparation more on ourselves and what we need to work on in practice,” Lavin said. “Last year I think we got away from that a little bit.”

An Irish win would be the 300th of Jackson’s eleven-year career at the Division I level, spanning stints at Notre Dame and, coincidentally, Lake Superior State, where Jackson won national championships in 1992 and 1994. The coach was quick to deflect praise to his players and fellow coaches, however.

“I would never take responsibility for any success we’ve had here. I’ll take responsibility for the failures,” Jackson said. “I’m not going to take responsibility for the success we’ve had here or my prior opportunities because it was my entire coaching staff, it was our entire support staff, it was a bunch of great kids.”

The two-game set will be played on Thursday and Friday nights at the Joyce Center with the puck dropping at 7:35 p.m. both nights.