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Hockey: Irish travel to face Ferris State

Sam Werner | Friday, December 5, 2008

On March 14, Ferris State skated off the Joyce Center ice with a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal series against the Irish. Notre Dame came back, though, and won the next two do-or-die games to advance to the CCHA semifinals and, eventually, the NCAA championship game.

Tonight, the Irish will head to Big Rapids, Mich. in the first meeting between the two teams since a 6-3 Irish win shut the door on the Bulldogs’ 2007-2008 campaign.

“Anytime you end a team’s season, they’re going to come back and seek revenge,” Notre Dame center Christian Hanson said. “We did it against Boston College this season, and two years ago we did it against Alaska.”

Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said the key to spoiling Ferris State’s bid at revenge would be adjusting to the Bulldog’s unique defensive trap style of play.

“Their system is built to create turnovers,” Jackson said. “And if you turn the puck over, then they transition pretty well.”

Jackson said the team has been working on puck control during the week, specifically making better plays off the boards.

“We just have to be a lot more patient with the puck and pick the chances that we take,” Hanson said.

The Bulldogs have received balanced scoring so far this season, with five players notching over 10 points on the year. Ferris State is led on defense by sophomores Zach Redmond and Scott Wietecha.

“They’ve got three good lines of forwards and one of the best defensive pairs in the conference,” Jackson said.

The Irish will try to counter with some scoring of their own, most notably from freshman phenom Billy Maday, who Tuesday was named the CCHA Rookie of the Month for November. Maday is tied with Hanson for the team lead in goals with nine, and has totaled 15 points on the season.

“When you lose a kid like Mark Van Guilder, you want to replace him with someone who’s at least as good,” Jackson said. “And thus far Billy’s been as productive as Mark, and that bodes really well for us for this year and the future.”

Jackson also said, though, that Maday would have to adjust if he wanted his success to continue.

“One of the dangers of playing as well as he had is that teams are going to start focusing on shutting him down,” Jackson said. “That’s something he hasn’t seen yet, and it’s coming his way.”

Friday night’s game will also mark Notre Dame’s first game as the No. 1 team in the country since the 2006-2007 season. Hanson said he expected opponents to step their game up in an attempt to take down the Irish.

“We have to realize that team’s are going to give us their ‘A’ game every night,” he said.

This weekend’s series also comes on the heels of the announcement that Irish sophomore defensemen Ian Cole and Teddy Ruth were selected to the U.S. Junior National Team, and will play in the World Junior Championships in Ottawa Dec. 26-Jan. 5. Cole will be making his second appearance with the team, but it will be Ruth’s first time playing for the red, white, and blue.

“I’m just really happy for [Teddy] because he’s perfect for playing in the World Juniors in Canada on the NHL sheet,” Jackson said. “He’s one of those blood-and-guts guys, those warriors, that every team needs to have.”