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Hockey

Icers to open regular season at Penn State

| Thursday, October 15, 2015

Notre Dame opens its regular season away from home for the first time since 2012 this weekend, when it pays a visit to University Park, Pennsylvania, to face off against Penn State in a pair of games at Pegula Ice Arena.

The Irish are coming off a pair of preseason contests against Canadian foe Guelph, whom they beat 7-5 Friday, and the United States Under-18 National Team, whom they tied 2-2. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said he isn’t worried about the prospect of starting the regular season on the road.

“It’s good for us,” Jackson said. “I don’t have a problem going on the road [to start the season].”

Jackson described the upstart Penn State team, who like the Irish are starting the season just on the bubble of the top 25, as a physical, hard-checking program — a type of team he thinks his players have struggled against in the past.

“It’s going to be a real tough environment; it’s not going to be an easy weekend,” Jackson said. “We’re going to have our hands full on both ends of the ice. We’re going to play another gritty team a week later, so we have to learn to win games like this. These are games where we’ve had problems against UMass-Lowell in the past, or Northeastern — these are teams that are a little grittier, a little tougher. … We’ve got to learn to get over that hump. I’m not yet sure how the young guys are going to handle that.”

When asked about just how he teaches his new players to adapt to the physicality of the collegiate game, Jackson said his methods change depending on the player.

“It varies from guy to guy,” Jackson said.  “You’ve got a guy like [freshman center] Andrew Oglevie who has been playing junior hockey for three years, so he’s probably a bit more acclimated to it than a guy like [freshman left wing] Dylan Malmquist, who’s coming right out of high school hockey.”

The Irish are beginning their regular season during the first weekend of fall break, but senior captain and center Steven Fogarty did not think the time of year would have an adverse effect on the team’s concentration levels.

“Obviously a lot of guys had tests this week,” Fogarty said. “But come [Thursday] when we get to the rink and pack up the bus and we’re gone, we’ve got to start thinking about Penn State.”

Fogarty said the team has been practicing with raucous crowd noise piped into the ice rink in order to prepare for the hostile environment at Penn State.

“We practiced with the crowd noise and I think that put things into perspective,” Fogarty said. “You’ve got to yell if you really want to get to talking, but you also have to just read plays and see what’s there. That’s when your hockey sense takes over. Everyone on this team is capable of making those plays – it’s just a matter of executing under pressure with that noise.”

Fogarty also said he is particularly satisfied with the way the offense was progressing heading into the regular season, preaching the importance of good execution in their defensive zone to establish presence around the opponent’s net.

“The offense is a product of how we come out of our zone,” Fogarty said. “We’re really hammering that home in practice and I think it’s coming along. Once you get those chances to be creative in the offensive zone, that’s where our skill and talent takes over, and there’s no lack of that on this team.”

That talent will be put to the test Friday when the Irish take on Penn State in the first of back-to-back matchups at Pegula Ice Arena at 7 p.m.

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