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Hockey: ‘Fresh start’ for team at conference tournament

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, March 4, 2010

The buzz words have finally changed.

For the past two months the Irish (13-1-5-8, 9-12-7-2 CCHA) have spoken of “momentum” and “talent in the locker room,” but, no matter what the week’s catchphrase was, the weekend held a disappointment of some order — disheartening losses or another injury to the already depleted lineup.

Heading into the first round of the CCHA playoffs at Ohio State (12-16-6, 10-12-6-4) this weekend, Irish coach Jeff Jackson and senior alternate captain Kyle Lawson both spoke of a “fresh start” in the “second season.”

“Our team is capable of doing big things,” Jackson said. “It’s just a matter of them believing it right now. I think going into this second season, it is important for us to recognize that it is a fresh start.”

Notre Dame last met the Buckeyes on Halloween weekend. The Irish won the first game of the two-game series 3-1, and fell in a shootout the second night. Jackson said facing a team they met so long ago should help the Irish.

“You have to [forget about the regular season],” he said. “That is why I think playing a team we haven’t faced since the very beginning of the season will benefit us. It’ll be more a fresh mindset.”

Along with that fresh mindset, Jackson said he hopes the playoffs bring the Irish a new style.

“We’re going to have to be a different team going into the playoffs,” Jackson said. “We’re going to have to play really good defensively, get good goaltending and make sure we do a good job with the puck.”

The good goaltending will start with freshman goaltender Mike Johnson, who has anchored the Irish defense with 12 consecutive starts since January 15, and Lawson will lead the defense, as he has for the past four years, with a disciplined approach.

“This time of year, you can say what you want, but it’s just everyone is going to show up and put their best effort on the ice,” Lawson said.

“Whoever is going to have the discipline to come out and best execute their system, that’ll be huge.”

Lawson has moved up to fourth in Notre Dame history in games played with 159 in his career, and while he knows any weekend could hold the last games of his college career, Lawson said he wouldn’t put it past this Irish team to make a run.

“It’s almost a relief in a sense with the type of year that we’ve had,” he said. “Obviously the year didn’t go completely the way we wanted it to, but it’s not over yet. Now we have a chance to make a run and make something special happen.”

Lawson and the Irish will try to start a special run Friday at Ohio State at 7:05 p.m. The Saturday and Sunday games — Sunday only if necessary — will also be at 7:05 p.m.