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Hockey

Northeastern comes to Compton on hot streak

| Thursday, January 23, 2014

No. 15 Notre Dame will look to cool down one of Hockey East’s hottest teams when No. 11 Northeastern visits South Bend for a two-game series this weekend.

Sophomore left wing Mario Lucia looks to receive the puck during Notre Dame's 6-3 victory over Lake Superior State on Jan. 17.Michael Yu

Sophomore left wing Mario Lucia looks to receive the puck during Notre Dame’s 6-3 victory over Lake Superior State on Jan. 17.

 

The Huskies (14-7-3, 7-4-1 Hockey East) have been on a tear in 2014, grabbing wins against then-No. 6 Providence and then-No. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell before splitting a series with Vermont last weekend. That run has pushed Northeastern to second in the Hockey East standings, leading the peloton that’s chasing No. 2 Boston College, the runaway conference leader.

Based on the recent film he’s seen, as well as Notre Dame’s 3-2 loss to Northeastern on Nov. 30, Irish coach Jeff Jackson said he expects an elite challenge from his team’s opponent this weekend.

“We’re playing a very good hockey team this weekend,” Jackson said. “There’s parts of me watching film that thinks that they may be the team to beat in that league. [Boston College is] extremely good. Lowell, Providence, they’re all good teams. But Northeastern’s certainly one of the top few teams in the country.”

Notre Dame (14-8-1, 3-5-1) will enter the weekend’s action on a hot streak of its own, following weekend sweeps of Alabama-Huntsville and Lake Superior State. While the unranked Chargers and Lakers may not have posed the same challenge as a conference foe like Northeastern, the Irish feel they’ll be ready for the challenge this time around, senior defenseman Kevin Lind said.

“The last four games weren’t against the greatest opponents, but if you watched tape and watched the games, we did a lot of good things,” he said. “These are two huge games. We’ve played them three times since I’ve been here — all at the Compton — and they beat us all three times. So they have our number.”

Notre Dame will have to solve Northeastern’s stout defense this weekend, and it will have to do it without one of its biggest weapons. Junior Robbie Russo, who leads the team’s defensemen in both goals and assists, will miss the rest of the year after being declared academically ineligible earlier this week. Russo can still practice with the team, but Jackson said the team will look to a combination of players like freshman Ben Ostlie, sophomore Andy Ryan and junior Eric Johnson to pick up some of the slack on the blue line.

“All we need is [stability] back there,” Jackson said. “We don’t need star power, we need stable, good defensive play, good one-on-one play and smart, safe decisions. If our defensemen just play the game simple, make the easy play and get the puck to our forwards, that’s the key.”

In the spirit of taking care of first things first, Jackson also emphasized the importance of getting points and wins on home ice. After a stretch of over two months without a true road game, Notre Dame will head back out to New Hampshire next weekend, with challenging trips to Providence and Boston College looming at the end of the schedule, as well.

With that in mind, and the Irish sitting in eighth place in the Hockey East standings, Jackson said getting the full slate of points at home is important as ever.

“We have to have success here at home, because it’s gonna be hard to win games on the road with the teams that we’re playing,” he said. “We need to get points on the road and we need to be really good at home. And if that happens, I think we have a chance to be a top-four team, and that’s what we should aspire to.”

The Irish will host the Huskies at the Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend, where the puck will drop at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

 

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu

 

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