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Hockey Commentary: Irish fans need Hockey 101

Dan Murphy | Monday, November 13, 2006

With two impressive victories this weekend, Notre Dame will most likely jump to No. 8 when the USA Today poll is released this afternoon. On a campus already overflowing with sports tradition, Irish coach Jeff Jackson and his club seem poised to add hockey to a list of nationally contending teams.

Only 10 games into a 36 game season, it is much too early to tell if the Irish will still be in the top 10 in March. If the young team continues to develop at this pace, however, it has the potential to play in Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA championship.

And it’s starting to win student support. Despite a busy weekend on campus, 4,230 fans donned their gold and filled the Joyce Center on Friday and Saturday night.

“The crowd was awesome – I was really happy to see that,” said senior goaltender Dave Brown. “It really helps a lot. I just hope we can uphold it for the rest of the year.”

But just as the team has plenty of work left to do, the hockey IQ around campus needs a boost before the Irish can compete with the big boys at Maine and Minnesota.

So for those of you who base your knowledge of the sport on a trilogy starring Emilio Estevez, break out the notepads and pencils and we’ll start with a few of the basics.

No matter how effective the “Flying V” looked on the big screen, it doesn’t fly on the ice. Instead a team will use a breakout play to move the puck out of its own zone and up the ice. The breakout consists of the defense corralling the “biscuit” – hockey’s answer to the “pigskin” – behind the net and moving it along the boards to the forwards who clear the zone.

Friday night, sophomore Erik Condra received a breakout pass from defenseman Dan VeNard. Condra pushed it forward to freshman Ryan Thang, who scored Notre Dame’s second goal of the game in a well-executed breakout.

Secondly, as fun as Zamboni is to say, there are many more important words in the rink vernacular.

Any opposing goalie is a sieve, which he should be reminded of on a regular basis throughout the game. Other reminders about the sieve’s style and quality of play are also good to throw in throughout the game.

The penalty box can also be called the “sin bin,” and much like the goalies, any opponent headed toward the sin bin can be heckled by the conveniently placed student section.

When a Notre Dame player heads to the box, attention should be drawn to one of the three referees – the Three Blind Mice – but this situation is a little more delicate than when heckling players.

Which brings us to penalty calls. Common penalties in hockey include hooking, tripping, crosschecking, roughing and holding. Each of these is rewarded with a two-minute trip to the sin bin, not 10 yards and a replay of the down – which a student was overheard yelling during Friday night’s game.

The call, which came 4:57 into the first period, was against Irish defenseman Wes O’Neill. O’Neill was called for holding onto an opponent’s stick in front of the net in an effort to clear him out of Brown’s way.

There is no better way to get into the swing of things than showing up for a game and experiencing the excitement firsthand, and there is no better time than Friday night when No. 5 Michigan State comes to town.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily of The Observer.

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