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Hockey

Irish take on Engineers in season opener

| Friday, October 10, 2014

Notre Dame opens its regular season as host of the 18th annual Ice Breaker Tournament this weekend at Compton Family Ice Arena.

The Ice Breaker Tournament officially commences the college hockey season. Four teams across four different conferences will compete today and Sunday for the tournament title. No. 12 Notre Dame of Hockey East welcomes rivals No. 1 Minnesota of the Big Ten, Minnesota Duluth of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and Rensselaer (RPI) of ECAC Hockey.

Notre Dame plays RPI in the first round today at 7:35 p.m., while top-ranked Minnesota battles in-state rival Minnesota Duluth earlier today at 2:05 p.m.

The last time the Irish and Engineers met was Oct. 21, 2011 — the first game ever played at Compton Family Ice Arena. Notre Dame protected its new home rink with a 5-2 victory over RPI.

Irish senior defenseman Robbie Russo awaits a pass during Notre Dame’s loss to Waterloo on Sunday at Compton Family Ice Arena.Caitlyn Jordan

Irish senior defenseman Robbie Russo awaits a pass during Notre Dame’s loss to Waterloo on Sunday at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Now in 2014, the Irish look to defend their rink once again. The team opened the 2014 exhibition season with a 5-4 loss to Waterloo on Sunday. Notre Dame led 3-1 in the first period, but Waterloo rallied with two goals late in the second period to tie the game. The Warriors went on to score two more goals in the third period to clinch the win. A young squad, the Irish said they have taken their preseason setback with a grain of salt and look forward to the start of their regular season.

“We are going to be facing much higher-quality teams and that’s going to expose any deficiencies we may have,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “The only saving grace for me is that [Sunday’s game] was an exhibition game and maybe it wasn’t taken as seriously as it should have been.

“It was meant to be a warm-up game, but we had expectations to win, so in that regard, it was disappointing.”

The Irish lead the overall series with RPI, 4-3-0, and lead 2-1-0 at home. With the hopes of making the series record 5-3-1, Notre Dame will face the winner of the Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth game Sunday at 3:35 p.m.

All time, the Irish lead Minnesota Duluth, 21-14-4, but stand behind Minnesota, 24-14-3. The Irish have fostered strong rivalries with both out-of-conference Minnesota teams, and Jackson said they look to carry that spirit of competition through the weekend.

“We recruit in Minnesota, so we want to continue to play Minnesota teams,” Jackson said. “We like the way they play the game, so that always impacts who we play in that conference, so we want to play similar style teams that will challenge us, and hopefully we will challenge them.

“We have good relationship with Duluth, so we hope to continue that.”

Notre Dame graduated 11 seniors last season and enter its first regular-season game boasting one of the youngest rosters in the nation. The 10 freshman nearly outnumber the 12 upperclassmen, made up of six seniors and six juniors. Continuing the process from Sunday’s exhibition game, the Irish will look to sync pairings on the ice, Jackson said.

“We are trying to get combos with the defensemen,” Jackson said. “I’m just trying to get that level of confidence [in the freshmen] by playing them with the returning guys. I actually like that [senior] Robbie Russo played with [freshman] Jordan Gross, [and] I like [freshman] Luke Ripley with [junior] Andy Ryan.

“And right now it’s a matter of who’s going to play with [senior] Eric [Johnson] on a consistent basis — it’s between two freshmen and [sophomore] Justin Wade, probably on a rotating basis until we see what we’ve got.”

The Irish look to mature their young squad as they open regular-season play against Rensselaer at the Ice Breaker Tournament tonight at the Compton Family Ice Arena. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. The Irish will then play Minnesota or Minnesota Duluth on Sunday at 3:35 p.m.

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About Kit Loughran

My name is Kit Loughran, and I am a senior at the University of Notre Dame. I am a Marketing major and Journalism minor. I write for the Sports Department of The Observer and cover Men's Soccer, Lacrosse, and Golf.

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