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HOCKEY: Irish welcome struggling Huskies

Justin Schuver | Tuesday, January 18, 2005

With the kind of season Notre Dame is having, three games in five nights might be just the kind of boost the Irish need heading into the final half of the CCHA season.The Irish (5-13-5) kick off a three-game non-conference stretch of games tonight, traveling to Green Bay, Wis., to face Michigan Tech (2-17-1). Notre Dame will finish that stretch with a two-game series against Wisconsin this weekend.The Irish go into tonight’s game desperate for a win. Notre Dame has not won a game since its last non-conference match, a 2-1 victory over Rensselaer on Jan. 2. Since that win, Notre Dame has played four CCHA games, collecting a 0-3-1 record. Irish coach Dave Poulin said tonight’s game should be a good chance for Notre Dame to step back from the pressures of conference play.”I think the timing is good for this game, not just because it’s a non-conference game but also because of where it falls during the week,” Poulin said. “Sometimes you can get into a bit of a rut when you have the same routine, so this should help break that up a bit, and it always helps to play a team you’re not used to seeing to break up that routine a bit.”The Huskies come into tonight’s game having split their last series to defending national champion Denver on the weekend of Jan. 7-8.”Their record is misleading just as much as our record is misleading,” Poulin said. “We’ve been in nearly every game we’ve played this year, and they’ve also played all their opponents close.”I think this is going to be a game between two teams who want to prove there’s still a lot of hockey to be played this year.”Tonight’s meeting between the Huskies and the Irish will be the first time the two teams have played since the 1993-94 season, when Notre Dame lost 8-6 on Dec. 30 at the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit.Prior to the 1980-81 season, Notre Dame and Michigan Tech were both members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Huskies and Irish both moved to the CCHA after the 1981-82 season, but Michigan Tech decided to return to the WCHA following the 1983-84 season. Notre Dame and Michigan Tech have met five times on neutral ice, with the Huskies holding a 3-2-0 advantage in those games.The Irish faced CCHA opponent Ohio State last weekend in a two-game series at the Joyce Center, falling to the Buckeyes 4-1 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday. Notre Dame currently sits in last place in the 12-team CCHA with 10 points but is only one point out of a tie for eighth place.Following this weekend’s games against Wisconsin, the Irish close out their season with 10 CCHA games in a row, so Poulin knows the importance of getting his team’s confidence and winning mentality back on track.To get back in the win column, the Irish have to score goals, and that might prove difficult tonight against Michigan Tech goalie Cam Ellsworth.Ellsworth stopped 76 of 77 shots in the Huskies’ split against Denver, leading his team to a 3-0 shutout of the Pioneers on Jan. 7 and losing a 1-0 heartbreaker on Jan. 8. For his efforts, Ellsworth was named the InsideCollegeHockey.com Player of the Week for Jan. 10-16.The Irish face off at the Resch Center tonight at 7:35 p.m.