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Hockey: ND takes on No. 1 Miami

Douglas Farmer | Friday, December 4, 2009

No. 15 Notre Dame faces the best of the best this weekend in a two-game series against top-ranked Miami (Ohio).

The No. 1 RedHawks (9-2-5, 6-1-3-1 CCHA) have resided at the top of the rankings for eight weeks now. Notre Dame (7-5-4, 4-2-4-2) travels to the Goggin Ice Center knowing the series is one of the more important of the season.

“[The two-game series] should be [one of the most important series] when you play the top team in the country. It’ll be a good barometer of where are on the season,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “If [the team] can’t get up for this, we can’t get up for anything.”

Notre Dame is riding a five game unbeaten streak into the match-up, wining two and tying three. In total, four of the games went into overtime. Jackson said the close games could help the Irish in what should be stiff competition this weekend.

“We’re learning about pressure under fire,” he said. “Hopefully that helps with the times of pressure; we’ll be better in those situations and play a complete hockey game.”

Playing a complete hockey game is something Notre Dame has struggled with. The Irish defense has surrendered third period leads in two of the overtime games during the brief streak.

“We need to do a better job in the third period of those [close] games because we’ve had the lead a couple of times and been unable to sustain it,” Jackson said. “It is disappointing in some ways with the veteran team that we have, especially on the defensive side, we should be making more plays in those situations.”

Notre Dame will need to be on guard for a third period comeback against the RedHawks. Miami has a penchant for tiring teams out throughout a 60-minute game.

“They are a deep team. Our depth is going to be challenged from the forwards to the defense,” Jackson said. “[Miami] can go four lines. Last game [in a 4-4 tie with Bowling Green] was one of the first games where we’ve actually had some pressure from our fourth line.”

To counter Miami’s depth, Notre Dame will hope to continue its recent offensive surge. In two of the last three games the Irish have scored four games, their highest goal totals of the season. In those two games, the line of senior center Kevin Deeth, sophomore wing Billy Maday and junior wing Calle Ridderwall have led the way with a combined five goals and nine assists, including three Ridderwall goals and four Maday assists in the tie with Bowling Green on Nov. 28.

“I think ever since we put together that line they’ve been successful,” Jackson said. “I’ve been able to put that line back together, and it’s pretty solid offensively. It can really generate something.”

Deeth, Maday and Ridderwall will lead the Irish against Miami tonight at 7:35 p.m. and Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.