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Hockey: Two return from injuries

Douglas Farmer | Friday, February 19, 2010

With only two weekends left in the regular season and Notre Dame looking up from 10th place in the conference standings, the Irish are simply seeking momentum, beginning in a two-game series this weekend at Bowling Green.

Notre Dame (12-13-7, 8-10-6-2 CCHA) was tied for fourth in the CCHA when it headed up to Western Michigan two weeks ago. A Broncos sweep and a week of inaction dropped the Irish to third from the cellar in the conference, and a first round bye in the conference tournament was all but ruled out, a fact senior defenseman Kyle Lawson could not help but acknowledge.

“Over our week off, we sat down and it is what it is. We’ve realized where we’re at,” the alternate captain said. “We know we aren’t going to get a first round bye. We realize we aren’t in the national tournament right now.”

Despite these dire facts, the Irish refuse to throw in the towel on the season. With sophomore wing Billy Maday and junior defenseman Ian Cole finally returning to the lineup after more than a month injured on the bench, Lawson said the team sees potential for a late run.

“We are going to approach these next four [games] like we are playing for everything, because after these four games our lives are on the line,” Lawson said. “We’re just looking to get some momentum, get some guys back in the lineup, and hopefully build some continuity and some chemistry.”

Before his injury, Maday was the team’s leading scorer, and the Irish have missed the scoring potential he brings to the ice.

Without Cole keeping Lawson company on the defensive line, forwards have needed to fill in on the back line, further depleting the offensive firepower, but, hopefully, with added bodies, these tendencies will finally break, Irish coach Jeff Jackson said.

“We have to find a way to score goals, whether it is off face-offs or the power play,” Jackson said. “There have been times where it looked really good, but then you take guys like Cole and [junior defenseman Teddy] Ruth out of the lineup, and you are only playing with four defensemen.”

This weekend may be the ideal weekend for the Notre Dame offense to break loose once and for all. Bowling Green has given up the most goals in the CCHA by 13, and have also scored the fewest goals. Nonetheless, Jackson will not let his team underestimate the Falcons.

“They are tenacious, they work extremely hard,” he said. “Their record isn’t great, but they are going to play confident, intense at home. … They will not sit back and let us beat them.”

Yet Jackson knows what is at stake by now for the Irish. Two wins could spark some momentum, while anything else will leave the team stalled in 10th.

“This weekend is about trying to start getting some sort of momentum going into the playoffs,” Jackson said.

The puck will drop in Notre Dame’s second-to-last weekend of the regular season at 7:05 p.m. Friday night and 5:05 p.m. Saturday night.