Irish look to rebound from skid against Huskies
Brian Plamondon | Thursday, January 15, 2015
Notre Dame will hit the ice Friday at home and Sunday in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for a home-and-home series with Hockey East foe Connecticut.
Notre Dame (9-11-2, 4-2-2 Hockey East) looks to halt a three-game slide, which includes a pair of losses to Western Michigan last weekend. Despite the struggles, Irish coach Jeff Jackson said locker room morale has not dipped.
“The attitude has been good,” Jackson said. “The work ethic’s been good. They want to turn around, too. They don’t want to be where we are.”
The Irish now turn to the Huskies, new to Hockey East for the 2014-2015 season and a first-time opponent of Notre Dame. The Huskies (7-10-4, 4-4-1) are winners of four of their past six games since returning from their mid-season break. During that span, freshman forward Spencer Naas has scored six goals, pushing his season total to nine — second in the nation for goals scored by a freshman, just behind Boston University’s Jack Eichel (10 goals).
“They are a scrappy bunch,” Jackson said of the Huskies. “It’s not going to be quite the same as Western [Michigan] with the size, but the compete level is going to be extremely high.”Connecticut’s most recent outing saw it blank No. 6 UMass Lowell last Saturday, 2-0. The Huskies also sport wins over No. 10 Vermont and No. 17 Boston College, which, in addition to UMass Lowell, comprise three of the top four teams in Hockey East. Beyond the film room, Jackson said he is looking to other ways to scout a first-time opponent and get to know its tendencies.
“[Huskies coach] Mike Cavanaugh is probably going to have them eventually play a similar style to [Boston College] — that’s where he came from, and he was a big part of their success,” Jackson said. “So I expect … he’s probably going to play an up-tempo style. They are going to be hard to play against.”
Part of Notre Dame’s game plan against the Huskies involves getting net traffic in front of Connecticut sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols, Jackson said. Jackson praised the efforts of Irish senior right wing Austin Wuthrich and junior left wing Mario Lucia, while noting that junior left wing Sam Herr has not been getting the opportunities around the crease that he used to get.
“We’re trying to get them to be at the net … trying to get pucks to the net and create traffic situations,” Jackson said.Despite their shortcomings, the Irish sit just two points out of fourth place in the Hockey East standings. Jackson said most of the team’s goals are still achievable if it can make a run in conference play. Still, he believes it will be an uphill battle, especially with bottom-dwellers like Northeastern, New Hampshire and Maine starting to get going.
“Just because we are in conference play, the opponents we’re playing aren’t gonna be [anything less],” Jackson said. “We are going to have to be prepared to compete … for 60 minutes against a lot of good teams in front of us.”
The puck drops between Notre Dame and Connecticut on Friday at 7:35 p.m. at Compton Family Ice Arena, with the Huskies playing host in the second tilt, slated for a 12 p.m. start Sunday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.