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Hockey: Return to the Ice

Sam Werner | Friday, October 9, 2009

After a six-month hiatus, Notre Dame will finally drop the puck on its 2009-10 season Friday night when the Irish take on Alabama-Huntsville.

The last time Notre Dame took the ice, it was in a disappointing first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Bemidji State. Coach Jeff Jackson, though, said that game is behind this team.

“I don’t think about it,” Jackson said. “It’s in the past. This is a new season, a new team.”

This weekend will be Jackson’s first look at this year’s squad in a game situation. He said that a good part of the weekend would be spent analyzing his roster and seeing which players belong where.

“For me, these games are also about giving guys opportunities to see what they can do in different situations,” Jackson said. “I’ve got some set lines going in there, but we’ll be juggling things.”

The two most notable names are freshmen right wing Kyle Palmieri – the 26th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft – and center Riley Sheahan. Jackson said the duo, as well rookie defenseman Sam Calabrese, would play this weekend, but that he was also excited about players who were on the roster last season but didn’t receive a good deal of playing time.

“To me this is more about some of the sophomores than the freshmen,” Jackson said. “We’ve got some guys who were great contributors last year, just not in game situations.”

He specifically noted left wing Kyle Murphy, center Patrick Gaul and defensemen Nick Condon and Eric Ringel.

As for the Charger squad Notre Dame will be facing this weekend, Jackson said he expects to face a well-coached, hungry team.

“I think they’re very hard-working and I think they’ll come at us and play physical,” he said.

Most Irish fans probably remember Alabama-Huntsville from the NCAA Tournament in 2007. The fourth-seeded Chargers took the top-seeded Irish to double overtime before Ryan Thang scored a game-winner to send Notre Dame into the next round, where a tired Irish squad lost to Michigan State.

The Irish also faced the Chargers in 2007, a 4-1 win in the Rensselaer Hockey Tournament. Despite the loss, Alabama-Huntsville’s then-freshman goalie Cameron Talbot made 27 saves, and Jackson said the Irish would have to work hard to get pucks past Talbot this weekend.

“We saw him two years ago in the RPI Tournament when he was a freshman and he stood on his head,” Jackson said.

As far as momentum goes, Jackson said a pair of wins this weekend would be nice, but isn’t the be all, end all of Notre Dame’s season.

“Last year we had some bumps early on, then we went on a great run. But it varies. I always like to see us get off to a good start.”


uJackson announced that senior left wing Ryan Thang would serve as captain for the Irish this season.

“It means a whole lot. It’s something I’ve been striving for since I got here,” Thang said. “To follow in the footsteps of Erik Condra, Mark Van Guilder and T.J. Jindra is just an honor.”

uThe CCHA announced that they will change the point structure this season regarding shootouts. This year, wins in regulation or overtime will garner three points, a shootout win will earn two points and a shootout loss will be worth one point. Previously, all wins, in regulation, overtime or shootout, were worth two points. This way, all games will award three points in some fashion.

“Everybody gets the same amount of points for every game, which is probably a smart way to go,” Jackson said.