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HOCKEY: Irish drop pair of games to Badgers

Bobby Griffin | Monday, January 24, 2005

Following Friday night’s loss to the fifth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers, the question remained as to what was colder, the blizzard outside the Joyce Center or the Irish offense inside of it.The Irish (5-16-5) dropped both games to the Badgers (19-6-1) this weekend, losing 2-0 in each game.To say that the Irish have had trouble scoring goals lately would be an understatement. It is becoming a team wide epidemic where players are simply tentative about shooting the puck.Notre Dame had their chances all weekend, but could not get it done despite numerous opportunities on the power play.”I think what happens is it’s a self defeating thing, its almost psychological,” Irish coach Dave Poulin said. “You want to bring a power play doctor in here and say okay it’s fixed. I just think the word power play is almost freezing them up right now.”Friday night’s game was defined by Notre Dame’s inability to capitalize on the power play.The first quarter opened with two quick back-to-back penalties on Wisconsin.The first came at 3:03 when Ryan MacMurchy was whistled for boarding. Notre Dame had several chances to take an early lead but could not seem to get the puck past Brian Elliot in Wisconsin’s goal.At 5:16, Kyle Klubertanz was called for roughing. On this power play, Notre Dame had its best chances of the entire night to score, but again, could not seem to finish.The period ended scoreless, with both teams playing very well on defense.The scoring drought did not last long, however, as Wisconsin’s Robbie Earl scored at 5:30 in the second. Notre Dame defenseman Luke Lucyk found himself pinned against the glass in the Wisconsin zone, and Earl picked up the loose puck. Earl easily beat Irish goalie Morgan Cey for his 12th goal of the season.Both teams played an extremely physical game, which was exemplified by a fight that broke out behind the Wisconsin net at 7:00 in the second period.An Irish player was pushed onto the net, and the goal collapsed on Elliot. From there, chaos ensued, as both teams took out their frustrations in a fight that lasted for about two minutes.For the Irish, Chris Trick, Joe Zurenko and Matt Amado were called for roughing after the whistle. For Wisc-onsin, John Funk, Josh Engel, Matt Olinger and A.J. Degenhardt were penalized.The Irish had the 5-on-4 advantage, which was quickly moved to a 5-on-3 when Jeff Likens got two minutes for checking from behind.Poulin called a timeout to set up a play, but again, the Irish were unable to score.Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Wisconsin did not have that problem in the third period, as they tacked on another goal at 5:30.Likens fired a shot from the point, which deflected off MacMurchy’s skate into the net. The goal was MacMurchy’s 11th of the season.Following the loss, Poulin was at a loss for explanations. He stressed the fact that his players are having a lot of trouble scoring goals and their confidence is beginning to weaken because of it.”You saw at the end, no one wanted to take the shot. They’re forcing it, they are doing uncharacteristic things because of how difficult it is right now,” Poulin said.The Irish continued to struggle on offense Saturday night, as they made the hour and a half drive to Chicago’s Allstate Arena to suffer another 2-0 loss to Wisconsin.Robbie Earl scored again for the Badgers, giving him a two-goal weekend.Earl’s goal came at 13:39 in the first period, as he skated in from the blue line with the puck and beat Cey for the second straight night.Matt Ford scored the Badgers’ second goal at 17:43.From that point forward, Morgan Cey recorded 27 saves, finishing the game with 34 total saves. It was another impressive outing for Cey in an Irish loss.”Morgan’s been good and, I don’t know what the total numbers are, but I bet we’ve had 15 games when we’ve scored one or zero goals,” Poulin said, following Friday’s loss.The Irish played well defensively all weekend. Wisconsin came into the game as the 2nd best team on the power play in the nation, and the Irish did an impressive job on the penalty kill – killing 13 of 13 on the weekend.”We held them in check pretty well, I thought we did a very good job killing their penalties and they have a great power play,” Poulin said on Friday. “As frustrated as the players are and as frustrated as we are, we just have to keep going.”The Irish will play a home-and-home series with Bowling Green this weekend. The Irish travel to Bowling Green on Friday night and will return to the Joyce Center on Saturday.