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Hockey: Irish to close out Joyce Center with Ohio State

By Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, October 13, 2011

For the 2011-2012 Irish squad, the curtains will come down this weekend – the blue draping curtains that line the Joyce Center that is.

In the final games played at the Joyce Center, No. 2 Notre Dame will host Ohio State in each team’s opening pair of CCHA games.

“There’s a lot of tradition, a lot of good players have come through here and we want to go out on the right note, leave this building on a good note,” senior defenseman Sean Lorenz said.

Last weekend, the Irish (1-1-0) split a pair of games against defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth. Notre Dame dropped the opener 4-3 before rebounding to win 5-3 the next night. Lorenz said the Irish learned from their loss.

“We have to be grittier,” Lorenz said. “I think Friday night, everybody knows we weren’t gritty enough. We weren’t jamming like we should have been and I thought we came out Saturday night and we were doing that. We were taking the man instead of going for the puck and I think the whole tempo of the game picked up for us.”

Irish coach Jeff Jackson said other parts of Notre Dame’s game could also use improvement.

“We have to be much more consistent with our decision making with the puck and making plays with the puck especially at the offensive and defensive blue lines,” Jackson said.

Sophomore center T.J. Tynan and sophomore forward Anders Lee both picked up where they left off last year, when the duo combined for 98 points. Tynan, last year’s National Rookie of the Year, has already piled up a goal and three assists while Lee has two goals and an assist.

“[I] tell them to keep on working, don’t get comfortable, don’t get complacent,” Lorenz said of the sophomores. “Already in the first weekend, all of our sophomores are doing a good job. They’re keeping a level head.”

Another sophomore, goalie Steven Summerhays, has contributed as well, starting the second game last weekend after senior goalie Mike Johnson garnered the season-opening start. Summerhays made 21 saves in the win; Johnson, 27 in the loss.

Jackson said he could still see the two net-minders splitting time between the pipes.

“I’m not opposed to playing two different guys,” Jackson said. “I thought both of them were okay. I didn’t think either one was exceptional. Until one of them shows [he] can be exceptional on a consistent basis, I’m willing to look at both of them.”

The Buckeyes (1-1-0) enter the weekend having split a pair of one-goal games to Quinnipiac. Ohio State has allowed nearly 35 shots a game but has only given up a mere five goals.

“A lot of those shots may have been perimeter shots,” Jackson said. “We’re obviously going to take this game as seriously as we need to as far as improving on our game. It’ll be more about what we do than what Ohio State does.”

Lorenz likened the Buckeyes to last year’s Irish — young and talented — and said Ohio State’s energy could be a threat.

Ohio State freshman forward Ryan Dzingel leads the Buckeyes with team-highs in goals (two) and points (three). Senior goalie Cal Heeter started both contests for Ohio State but was replaced by junior Brady Hjelle during Saturday’s 4-3 loss after allowing three goals in less than 12 minutes.

“In my estimation, it’s not like [the Buckeyes] aren’t good hockey players. They have some good young recruits, so I think they’re going to be a real challenge for us,” Jackson said.

After the Ohio State games, the Irish will next face Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the opening game at the new Compton Family Ice Arena.

“It’ll be weird to walk out of that locker room for the last time,” Jackson said. “We joke about it not being very nice, but it’s been a serviceable home. It’s going to have an impact emotionally for me, and I’m sure a lot of people, walking out of there for the last time.”

The Compton Family Ice Arena, a sparkling $50 million, 5,000 seat project, will replace the Joyce Center as the home of Irish hockey beginning with the RPI game.

“There’s been all kinds of little idiosyncrasies of this new building that we don’t even know what they are yet,” Jackson said. “We’re extremely excited to play in a building that’s something to be proud of.”

The No. 20 Engineers are following a 4-1 win over Minnesota State-Mankato and will play Ferris State this weekend. Sophomore forward Brock Higgs and freshman forward Ryan Haggerty lead RPI (1-1-0) with two points apiece.

“RPI is going to be a good game, but right now the focus is on sending out the JACC on a good note,” Lorenz said. “When the time comes to move into the new building, we’ll be excited for it.”

The Irish close out the Joyce Center with games against Ohio State on Friday and Saturday, both at 7:05 p.m. A week later on Oct. 21, Notre Dame will host RPI at 7:35 p.m. for the much anticipated unveiling of the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu