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Hockey: Solid finish would move Irish up in the CCHA

Justin Schuver | Friday, January 28, 2005

While they may be in last place in the CCHA at this point in the season, the Irish are certainly not out of postseason contention.

Currently, Notre Dame sits in 12th place with 10 points, with the sixth-place team, Bowling Green, only six points ahead. That’s just a three-win difference, and as Irish coach Dave Poulin knows, Notre Dame still has a chance to have a hot streak heading into the last 10 games of the year.

“We can do whatever we want to do,” he said. “I talked to our guys and told them that every team I’ve been associated with here at Notre Dame has had a roll where things happen for you, and you get that confident roll and your energy level picks up.

“That hasn’t happened for us over a stretch of time, yet, and I think it’s ahead of us for this final stretch.”

Notre Dame will hope to start a winning streak this weekend as they take on Bowling Green in a home-and-home series, with the Irish meeting the Falcons on the road tonight and returning home to the Joyce Center to close out the series Saturday night.

The Irish are currently mired in a six-game losing streak, dating back to a 2-1 victory against Rennselaer on Jan. 2.

Notre Dame has also failed to score a single goal in its last 156 minutes, 50 seconds – dropping two 2-0 shutouts to No. 5 Wisconsin last weekend.On the season, the Irish are averaging just 1.50 goals per game, the second worst average in all of Division I (Army is last with a 1.39 goals-per-game average). In the 26 games Notre Dame has played to date, the Irish have scored one goal or fewer in 15 of them.

“We’re trying to focus on the simplicity of not talking about goals,” Poulin said. “We’re trying to talk about completing a pass, completing two passes in the neutral zone, getting our feet moving, being in better position for our teammates.

“We’ve sort of gone back to the fundamentals of hockey and not focused so much on the topic of goal scoring.”

If the Irish can manage to get a few goals per game, they should have a good chance of finishing the season on a roll. Notre Dame’s goaltending has been phenomenal, even if the final records don’t show it.

Irish senior goalie Morgan Cey has been strong all season, but especially in the month of January, where he has a 2.23 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. His record during that month was just 1-6-1 however.

“Our defense has been really good all season,” Poulin said. “Our goaltenders played well both games [against Wisconsin] and our penalty kill was especially strong. Three of the four goals were rush goals, and Wisconsin has some guys that can finish plays.

“We did play well defensively in that series and we have to keep that up over the last part of the season.”

Notre Dame has already faced Bowling Green this season, losing to the Falcons 3-1 on Nov. 4 and tying 4-4 on Nov. 5. That tie was perhaps the best offensive output all season for the Irish, with the team putting 54 shots on net against goalie Jordan Sigalet.

The four goals are also a season high.

“This is a team that we’ve had 50 shots at against this year, and that’s the kind of effort it’s going to take against one of the top goaltenders in the country,” Poulin said.

Notre Dame faces off against Bowling Green Friday at 7:05 p.m. in Bowling Green, and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Joyce Center.