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Hockey: Must-win series

Casey Karnes | Friday, January 25, 2013

After a rough start to its four-game home stand, Notre Dame will aim for a sweep of defensive-minded Ferris State this weekend to gain some momentum before going back on the road.

The Irish (15-9-0, 11-5-0 CCHA) were swept last weekend by Alaska in narrow fashion, with both losses coming by a single goal. It continued a recent trend of poor play, as the squad is 1-5 in its last 6 games. One recent bright spot was freshman forward Mario Lucia scoring a goal in both weekend games.

Junior goalie Steven Summerhays said the team has to avoid pressing to break the losing streak.

“It’s tough, everyone tries to put more pressure on themselves during these slumps … to help the team out,” Summerhays said. “Everyone wants to do everything they can to get out of the slump.”

The current Irish four-game skid is their longest since last February, but the veterans have learned the key to recovery is to avoid panic.

“Every team has their rough spots,” junior defenseman Kevin Lind said. “It’s early and we’re still in first place, so no panic yet.”

In fact, the Irish see the losing streak as an opportunity to learn and improve.

“We can now see a lot of different problems arising that maybe weren’t noticed … when we were still winning games,” Summerhays said. “It really puts an emphasis on the little mistakes when you’re only scoring one or two goals a game.”

The Irish will need to correct those mistakes in order to stop a hot Ferris State team.

The Bulldogs (12-9-3, 10-7-1 CCHA) have won five of their last six and are closing in on the Irish in the CCHA standings. The struggling Irish offense will face a challenge in the unique defensive style the Bulldogs play. 

“They have four or five guys trying to play goalie, blocking shots,” Lind said, “We may have to win 1-0, as good defensively as they are.”

Working in Notre Dame’s favor is a full week of practice since its last game. The extra time has allowed the Irish to focus and recover from their long road trip. Rather than adding any new wrinkles to their game plan, the Irish have been working on perfecting what they’ve been doing all season.

“When you’re in a slump, you just want to focus on getting back to the basics,”

Summerhays said. “We don’t want to try and change what we’ve been doing throughout the year, because what we did had a lot of success.”

The Ferris State series also marks the debut of new jerseys designed to support the charity Defending The Blue Line. Senior left wing Nick Larson is leading Notre Dame’s support of Defending The Blue Line, and the jerseys Notre Dame wears this weekend will be auctioned off in support.

“[Defending The Blue Line] supports military families … by helping keep their kids in [hockey],” Larson said. “Basically they’re there for monetary support for families in need.”

Donations can also be made online, and a silent auction supporting the charity will occur during games this weekend.

The Irish look to finish up their four-game home stand on a positive note this Friday against Ferris State at 7:35 pm at Compton Family Ice Arena. The teams will also square off Saturday at 7:05 p.m.


Contact Casey Karnes at wkarnes@nd.edu