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Hockey: Losing streak stretched to five

Chris Allen | Sunday, February 19, 2012

No. 13 Notre Dame came into this past weekend’s series with Miami needing to post a strong performance and turn around a season that is quickly getting away from them. Instead, the No. 19 RedHawks handed the Irish 3-0 and 4-1 defeats and sent them into the last weekend of the regular season on a five-game losing streak.

In strong contention for a first-round bye in the CCHA tournament just two weeks ago, Notre Dame (16-15-3, 11-12-3-0 CCHA) was outscored 15-2 in its last four games and now sits tied for eighth in the conference with 36 points — 17 points behind conference-leading Ferris State.

“It’s just been a consistent frustration as far as the inability to score goals, and especially if we get power play situations, being able to play patient enough not to give up chances against it that lead to goals,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “Right now, it’s unacceptable how we’re playing.”

The Irish controlled the flow of play in Friday’s contest, out-shooting the RedHawks 31-16 on the game. Miami senior goalkeeper Connor Knapp stopped all 31 of Notre Dame’s shots, however, and the RedHawks went up for good on their first shot on goal, as freshman forward Blake Coleman scored just 2:08 into the first period.

Jackson said Coleman’s goal was a game-changer.

“It looked like we were ready to play on Friday night and again the first shot on goal goes in,” he said. “I thought we competed hard for the first part of the game. Then it got away from us, from just not being able to finish and then giving up chances against and all of a sudden now we’re down.”

Saturday’s contest again saw Miami get ahead early in a must-win game for the Irish, as the RedHawks recorded two goals on junior goaltender Mike Johnson in the first period. Johnson received both starts on the weekend, in a move Jackson said was intended to build confidence between the pipes.

“I thought Mike settled down and played well after that first goal on Friday,” Jackson said. “I’ve been going with two different guys, and I thought maybe he didn’t have a ton of work on Friday night, so I thought coming back with him maybe he could start building up some confidence. I don’t think he had much chance on goals on Saturday.

“So it was a little matter of just trying to see if, just like I ran with Steven for several straight games in the first part, I thought giving Mike a chance to play back-to-back again might help him build some confidence.”

Despite the decisions in goal, Notre Dame’s problems on the offensive end continued against Miami, and Jackson said the team must turn around its inability to finish and find confidence headed into the conference tournament.

“I can’t control their confidence. You can try to do things to instill confidence but confidence comes from within and right now it’s just a matter of taking care of the things we can control,” Jackson said. “We can control our effort level, we can control our discipline, we can control our execution and if we take care of those things, if we just focus on the details, then everything else will take care of itself.”

Notre Dame will attempt to turn around its colossal struggles in the regular season’s final weekend against Michigan State at Compton Family Ice Arena, needing a strong performance to secure home-ice for a first-round CCHA series to be held the following weekend. The puck will drop at 8:35 p.m. on Friday night and Saturday’s contest will begin at 7:35 p.m.

 

Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu