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Hockey: Notre Dame to open homestand with series against Alaska

Sam Gans | Thursday, November 10, 2011

After two straight weekends on the road, the No. 7 Irish return to the friendly confines of the Compton Family Ice Arena for a two-game series with Alaska this weekend.

Notre Dame (5-2-2, 3-1-2-0 CCHA) is looking forward to playing its first series in its new home, after debuting in the building with a 5-2 victory over RPI on Oct. 21.

“We’re all excited [about playing at home again],” Irish sophomore center Anders Lee said. “I think the fans are, too, [and] the community. It will be fun to get back here at home and play only our second game here in the new arena, so we’re real excited about that and Alaska’s a good team. It will be a fun weekend.”

The Irish will also be looking to get their first win in three games after a pair of ties at Northern Michigan last weekend, results that Irish junior goaltender Mike Johnson said were frustrating for Notre Dame.

“We’re not satisfied from last weekend,” Johnson said. “It’s disappointing to go on the road and play two pretty good games and not get a win. So we obviously wanted to get back at it this week and have a good performance throughout the week [in practice] so we could have a good performance on Friday to redeem our weekend.”

Though the Irish could not get a victory, they did earn a lot of scoring chances in Saturday’s game. They peppered Wildcat senior goaltender Reid Ellingson with 45 shots, but only got one past him. However, Lee said Notre Dame is not particularly concerned with the lack of pucks in the net.

“Northern’s a good team and Ellingson played really well both nights,” Lee said. “We’re getting the opportunities and the bounces — sometimes they don’t go in. This weekend, hopefully those will go our way.”

The emergence of Johnson as the clear No. 1 goaltender is also a new development. While Johnson entered the year as the starter, a broader gap has grown in recent weeks between the junior and sophomore back-up Steven Summerhays.

“I’ve been mostly just focusing on worrying about one shot at a time,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to go out there and not think at all, just going out and playing and reacting … [The team gave] me a lot of confidence with the way they’re playing defense right now.”

The Nanooks (3-5-2, 0-4-2-0) enter the contest led in scoring by junior center Nik Yaremchuk and sophomore left wing Colton Beck, who have seven points apiece. Though Alaska has not won in its last six games and is on a three-game losing streak, Johnson said the Irish are prepared for a worthy opponent.

“[Alaska is] a very good team,” Johnson said. “They play very good defense and their power play is pretty solid, as well. They’ve got guys that can skate and they work really hard and it’s going to be another battle this week, much like the last two weeks have been.”

The Irish and Nanooks face off at the Compton Family Ice Arena for a two-game series this weekend. Tonight’s game begins at 7:05 p.m. and the puck-drop Saturday is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu