Hockey: Squad hopes to break out of slump in regular season finale
Allan Joseph | Thursday, February 23, 2012
No. 18 Notre Dame started the season ranked No. 1 in the country. This week, the Irish (16-15-3, 11-12-3-0 CCHA) fell out of the USA Today poll on the heels of a five-game losing streak that began nearly a month ago.
Now, the Irish host No. 14/13 Michigan State in the last series of the regular season. They’ll look to break out of their slump heading into the CCHA tournament with home ice in the first round on the line.
“We’re definitely looking at the standings a little bit, and trying to do some math problems with it all,” senior captain Billy Maday said. “But I think it makes our game a little simpler to look at one game at a time, because we know what we need is just to accumulate wins one game at a time. So right now, we’re just focused on Michigan State, and we’ll worry about playoffs later.”
The Irish have particularly struggled at the beginning of their contests, falling behind in 20 of their 34 games this season. In the first period this season, Notre Dame has been outscored 37-22.
Sophomore wing Anders Lee said the Irish haven’t scored the first goal very often this year.
“It would be huge to get a big momentum goal to start off this game, and get the crown back into it, and set us up great for the rest of the game,” Lee said.
While Notre Dame has struggled to score in its last few games, especially at full strength, the Irish believe they have the ability to regain their scoring touch.
“Right now it’s kind of all on us,” sophomore center David Gerths said. “We have to get our confidence back and start believing in ourselves again. Pucks will start going in, and after that first one I’m sure the floodgates will open and we’ll start feeling better.”
Lee said his team is close to a breakthrough.
“Everyone just seems a little bit off,” he said. “We’re playing well, we’re clicking, everyone’s on the same page. Right now, we’ve just been scattered a little bit. It’s been a good week of practice, and we’re getting alright here.”
Gerths said a fresh mindset heading into the regular-season finale will help the Irish defeat the Spartans (18-12-4, 13-10-3-2).
“We just have to kind of put everything behind us,” he said. “We have to learn from mistakes throughout the season — stuff that we’ve done wrong as a team and individually — and put that behind us, and just move on and believe in ourselves again.”
The Spartans, however, will pose a stiff challenge to Notre Dame.
“[Michigan State] is playing pretty good right now,” Gerths said. “They’re a pretty hot team right now, so we’re pretty excited for the challenge.”
The Irish host Michigan State Friday at 8:37 p.m. in a game televised by CBS Sports Network and again Saturday night at 7:38 p.m. Both contests will take place in the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Contact Allan Joseph at [email protected]