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Irish look to right the ship

Joe Meixell | Friday, December 2, 2005

After enduring three losses and a tie in its last four games, the Notre Dame hockey team is looking to get back in the win column at least once in this weekend’s home-and-home with Western Michigan.

“I’m just hoping we can get back on track – last weekend was probably the worst hockey we’ve played all season,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said of last week’s 4-1 and 5-2 losses to Ohio State at the Joyce Center, which left Notre Dame 3-8-1 on the season.

The Irish lost to and tied Miami of Ohio the week before. Jackson said he is avoiding comparisons to last year’s disastrous, season ending 22-game winless streak, which left the Irish psychologically fragile heading into this season.

“If the players are letting it effect them, that’s their mistake,” he said. “But I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure we play well tomorrow night [and Saturday].”

After averaging 3.7 goals per game through their first nine contests, the Irish have scored just 5 in their last four outings. They have scored none without at least a man advantage.

“We haven’t scored a five on five goal in four games,” Jackson said. “We just have to do the small things that allow for goals to be scored, like going to the net hard, fighting for ice in front of the net, making sure we’re shooting when we get into the scoring areas rather than make a nice play or a pass, face offs, and power plays.”

After splitting time with freshman Jordan Pearce for most of the season, junior goalie Dave Brown has started the last four games. Pearce played in backup duty Saturday against Ohio State, but Jackson said Brown will start against the Broncos.

“I want [Jordan] to stay fresh because I think we’re going to need him this season,” Jackson said. “David’s played well this season and I’d like to see him continue to play well, but I don’t want to have Jordan get too far away from playing.”

Western Michigan comes into the contest with a record of 3-4-1. The Broncos took No. 11 Colgate to overtime twice last weekend, tying 2-2 in one game and losing 4-3 in the other. They are led by forward Brent Walton. Despite standing only 5’9″ tall, Walton was sixth in the NCAA in scoring last season and has four goals and four assists in the last five games.

The Irish will be looking for their first road win when they travel to Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo for Western’s half of the home and home Friday. Jackson said the feat will be made easier by the fact Kalamazoo is only a short bus ride from South Bend.

“When we’re only an hour and a half away, that’s a positive,” he said. “It should be, just because of the location, something of a rivalry.”

Due to impending final exams and some accumulated fatigue, Jackson shortened this week’s practices to only an hour and a half each.

“I don’t want to think fatigue is a factor, but school is getting real heavy this time of year with finals and all that,” the coach said. “I want them to get rested and mentally prepared and get their schoolwork in line.”

The Irish and Broncos will drop the puck at 7:35 Friday in Kalamazoo and 7:05 Saturday in South Bend.