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Hockey: ND prepares for midweek showdown with Broncos

Matthew DeFranks | Monday, November 14, 2011

Just three days after completing a two-game sweep over conference foe Alaska, No. 4 Notre Dame will turn its attention to No. 10 Western Michigan today for a rare midweek game.

The Irish (7-2-2, 5-1-2-0 CCHA) won both contests over the weekend with goals in the last minute — Friday’s in regulation, Saturday’s in overtime.

Sophomore defenseman Stephen Johns atoned for a five-minute major penalty by blasting in the game-winner during Friday’s wild 5-4 win.

Senior center Billy Maday benefitted from a coaching decision that placed him on a line with sophomore center T.J. Tynan and sophomore left wing Anders Lee. The change enabled Maday to score the winning goal in overtime during Saturday’s 3-2 win.

“I think the recent position change for me at center will stick from here on out,” Maday said. “It was just a late coaching move by [Irish] coach [Jeff] Jackson. He saw an opportunity by putting us three together and late in the game, it paid off.”

Lee and Tynan — two of Notre Dame’s dynamic playmakers — lead the nation in goals and assists, respectively. Lee has notched 12 goals this year while Tynan has racked up 16 assists in just 11 games.

“[Tynan] has just kind of taken off from where he finished last year,” Jackson said. “It’s more than just about points. He’s doing a pretty good job penalty killing, and before he got hurt, he was doing a pretty good job about face-offs.”

Jackson utilized his two main goalies over the weekend as well. He pulled junior goaltender Mike Johnson after Johnson gave up four first-period goals Friday night and inserted sophomore Steven Summerhays. Summerhays played the remainder of the contest, then started his third game of the season in Saturday’s win.

Jackson was still unsure Monday who would start in goal against the Broncos.

“[We] could go either way on it,” Jackson said. “In the near future, I’m going to need to get Mike back in here. My intent was to give him a break this past weekend anyways. It turns out that he got a game and a half off instead of just one. He should be ready to go.”

Notre Dame is riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, winning five games and tying two during the stretch. Maday, however, said the Irish have potential to be an even better team.

“We know we’re going to be able to score goals,” Maday said. “I think the biggest thing is tightening up our defensive play. We need to make sure we value the puck a little bit more and not have as many careless turnovers. When we fix that, we’ll be able to limit the scoring opportunities for the other teams.”

The Broncos (6-3-3, 4-3-1-1) will enter the contest losers of three games straight, despite opening the season unbeaten for the first nine games of the year.

Sophomore forward Chase Balisy leads the Broncos with four goals and eight assists for a team-high 12 points. Junior defenseman Luke Witkowski anchors a Western Michigan defense that gives up just two goals per game.

“We need to match their work ethic and probably exceed it if we want to come away with a win on Tuesday,” Maday said.

Jackson said Western Michigan is one of the tougher opponents in Notre Dame’s conference.

“They had a tough weekend this weekend [against Michigan State] but they’ve been on roll,” Jackson said. “They’re very deep up front. The thing that impresses me is that they’ve improved their back end. They’re a little younger in goal. They have one dynamic line and their second line is no slouch. They’re a good hockey team. They compete hard and they skate well.”

 

Contact Matthew Defranks at mdefrank@nd.edu