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Hockey: Physical play a hallmark of previous matchups

Chris Khorey | Friday, March 3, 2006

With 3.7 seconds left in Notre Dame’s 4-1 victory over Alaska-Fairbanks Friday, as fans stood up to leave, an altercation broke out near the Nanooks goal. Almost every player on the ice was seemingly nearby and, while players and coaches from both teams said they couldn’t see what happened, the referees called five penalties on the play – including a game misconduct on Irish defenseman Chris Trick.

The near-brawl at the end of the game was the result of 60 minutes of hard hitting and emotional play that typified the two-game, season-ending Notre Dame-Alaska-Fairbanks series and should return when the Irish and Nanooks square off again to open the CCHA playoffs.

“Familiarity does breed contempt,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said. “There’s a reason that’s a quote. But if we let that contempt come before our ultimate goal, it’s going to hurt us. We can’t take cheap shots or we’ll be killing penalties and giving up goals. The same is true for them.”

Friday’s game featured 17 penalties and 45 penalty minutes, including 21 minutes handed out for the skirmish at the end of the game. No one was immune from the rough play, as Notre Dame goalie Dave Brown was knocked into his own net several times.

“[The Fairbanks players] told me all game they would be gunning for me,” Brown said. “I’m not afraid of anybody.”

Saturday’s 2-1 Nanooks win was significantly cleaner, with the two teams combining for just four penalties, but the importance of the contest could be seen on the ice nonetheless. “Last weekend was like a playoff weekend for us and it was like a playoff weekend for them,” Notre Dame captain T.J. Jindra said. “If anything, what it’s like is that we have two playoff weekends in a row.”

Both coaches took their teams to task after Friday’s contest, imploring them to focus their emotion and energy on scoring and not on hitting opposing players.

“We have a young team and the guys have some energy. … They have to learn to channel it,” Fairbanks coach Tavis MacMillan said.

Jackson said the importance of the contests made it especially key to keep penalties to a minimum.

“There’s too much on the line,” he said. “There’s too much at stake to take stupid penalties.”

Jackson also said it is crucial for the Irish to avoid overdoing the physical play because the Nanooks are bigger at most positions.

“They average 10-15 pounds per man more than our team,” he said.

MacMillan said he knows the Nanooks have a size advantage over most of their opponents and that he does game plan accordingly, but that he would never condone intimidation or dirty play.

“We’re a big team,” he said. “But I don’t like stuff after the whistle. I like spirit, I like energy. You’ve got to get into the game, be [passionate] and just play hockey.”

Despite amassing 27 penalty minutes as a team in Friday’s victory, the Irish are still the second-least penalized team in the CCHA, averaging just 16:18 of penalty time per game. Fairbanks is ninth in the twelve-team league, averaging 22:06 per game.

Brian Aaron was the referee for both Friday and Saturday’s games, assisted by John Philo and Mark DesRosiers. Referees for this weekend’s playoff series have yet to be announced.