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Three-point weekend puts home ice in reach

Joe Meixell | Monday, February 20, 2006

In a weekend series crucial in their quest to earn home ice advantage for the first round of the conference playoffs, the Irish notched a 7-4 win and a 1-1 tie Friday and Saturday, respectively, in games at Bowling Green. The contests boosted Notre Dame three points in the standings and left the Irish in a three-way tie with Alaska-Fairbanks and Ferris State for eighth in the CCHA and the final home ice spot. The Irish (12-16-4, 10-12-4 CCHA) will take on the Nanooks in two games, their last of the regular season, at the Joyce Center this weekend. The Bulldogs face No. 8 Michigan. “Everybody that’s vying for anywhere from fifth to 10th will see their situation change with every game next week,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said of the CCHA’s final weekend.Friday’s contest between the Falcons and Irish featured 11 goals, 14 penalties and a wildly bouncing puck.”It’s like playing pinball, with pucks bouncing all over the place,” Jackson said of Bowling Green’s home arena. “They have partitions in the glass and the corners are kind of square. The boards are pretty lively, too.”Jackson credited the wild play to two emotional teams playing a very important game.”Friday’s game was really emotional, really high intensity,” he said. “Sometimes their emotion got them in trouble, and sometimes our emotion got us in trouble.”The Irish won Friday’s wild shootout thanks to three goals from forward Mark Van Guilder who, after a position switch, lit the lamp for the sixth, seventh and eighth time this year.”We moved him to center, where he’s handling the puck more,” Jackson said. “He was generating chances off the rush and taking advantage of it.”The seven goals scored by the Irish were the most since Nov. 10, when they scored nine in a home game against Bowling Green.”[The Falcons] were really wide open and we took advantage,” Jackson said of Friday’s contest. “They put their goal keeper into an awkward position with their penalty killing and some of the odd man rushes we had.”Notre Dame junior goalie Dave Brown did not play Friday after suffering an illness for most of the week. He was replaced by freshman Jordan Pearce, who started his first game since Dec. 2 and made 34 saves. “[Brown] missed Monday and Tuesday, and he practiced Wednesday but not very effectively,” Jackson said. “It worked out OK, though, because I wanted to give Jordan a game, anyway. Playing all those games in a row, David’s not going to be as fresh when we need him to be.”Brown, who had started the last 22 contests for the Irish, was back in net Saturday, where he made 34 saves and allowed just one goal.Jackson said Saturday’s game was much more subdued than Friday’s, which led to the lower score.”There was more discipline in the game Saturday,” he said. “I also think Bowling Green played a much better defensive game Saturday night. I thought their goaltender [Jimmy Spatt] settled down and played much better.”The Falcons scored first Saturday, off the stick of Falcon forward Jonathan Matsumoto at 8:51 of the first period on a Bowling Green power play.The Irish waited almost two periods to answer before defenseman Wes O’Neill led a breakaway, passing to forward Matt Amado. Amado’s shot was deflected, but forward Josh Sciba pushed in the rebound to even the game up.Notes:u After shortening practices from two hours to an hour and a half a few weeks ago, Jackson will lighten his team’s workload again this week. Today the team will meet but is not scheduled to skate, and Wednesday and Thursday’s practices will be much shorter than previous weeks.”Wednesday and Thursday will probably be under an hour,” Jackson said.u Both games between the Irish and Nanooks next week will be played at the Joyce Center. Friday’s game will begin at 7:35 p.m. and will be televised on Comcast Local television station. Saturday’s contest will face-off at 7:05 p.m.u Notre Dame did not have to make the 4,000-mile trip to play Fairbanks in Alaska this season, The Irish traveled north last season, splitting a two-game series with the Nanooks on Nov. 26-27, 2004.