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ND Hockey: Icers sent to Grand Rapids

Dan Murphy | Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The celebration did not last long for Notre Dame. Less than 24 hours after the Irish raised their championship banner in Detroit, the team was already back in South Bend, preparing for its first-round opponent in the regionals of the NCAA Tournament this weekend. The team met Sunday afternoon to watch the selection show live as a group, where they learned that they would be facing off with the Alabama-Hunstville Chargers in the Grand Rapids, Mich., regional Friday at 5 p.m. The Irish were selected as one of four No. 1 seeds and the No. 2 overall team in the tournament behind Minnesota – and will be joined by Boston University and Michigan State in the region’s other first round game.”It’s one of those situations where at this time of the year it doesn’t really matter, but it is nice to be able to stay in the Midwest,” senior captain T.J. Jindra said. The Chargers, who received an automatic bid to the tournament after winning the College Hockey America conference, are the lowest-ranked in the RPI of the sixteen Tournament teams. The Golden Gophers – who were placed in a tough Denver bracket – were matched up against Air Force to keep the Falcons closer to home in Colorado.Notre Dame has yet to play Alabama-Huntsville, but it did get a close look at them during the Lightning College Hockey Classic in Tampa, Fla. when the Chargers lost 7-5 to Air Force in the first round and then beat Army 2-1 in a consolation game the next day. The only other common opponent the two teams have faced is Robert Morris. Notre Dame split a two-game series with the Eagles in January, while the Chargers beat Robert Morris in a 5-4 overtime thriller to clinch their Tournament berth. “When I found out that Alabama came back and won that game, I was impressed,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. Jackson said his team is excited about its draw, but is making sure it does not overlook any opponents. “College hockey is college hockey and weird stuff can happen on any night,” senior defenseman Noah Babin said. “Everybody is the same amount of threat, so you just have to take people out one by one.”If Notre Dame defeats Alabama-Huntsville, they will face off with the Boston University-Michigan State winner for a shot to play in the Frozen Four April 5 in St. Louis. The Spartans, who finished third in the CCHA tournament, split a home-and-home series with the Irish earlier in the season. Notre Dame won the first game 4-0 at home, but Michigan State came back with a 2-0 shutout on its own ice the following night. “That was then, and this is now – we’ve learned to play a little bit more consistent on the road,” Jackson said in reference to the 2-0 loss at Munn Arena.Michigan State was the only team this season to shut out the Irish offense.Boston University is also a strong defensive team and has made it this far using the same winning formulas as the Irish. The Terriers have jockeyed with Notre Dame all year for the No. 1 defense in the country. Senior goalie John Curry is a Hobey Baker finalist like Irish goalie Dave Brown and has a goals-against average of 1.92.”They’re a concern like any other team, but right now we are looking at the game we play on Friday, and the other game will take care of itself,” Jindra said.