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Hockey: Jackson anxious to face Bowling Green after bye week

Allan Joseph | Friday, February 11, 2011

Sitting one point behind first-place Miami in the CCHA standings, No. 10 Notre Dame begins the final six-game stretch of the regular season this weekend by welcoming Bowling Green to the Joyce Center.

The Irish (16-9-5, 13-6-3-2) took last weekend off after an emotional series against the RedHawks, and Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson is somewhat concerned that his team will take some time to get its aggressiveness flowing again.

“Their competitive edge after a bye week is always a factor, especially early in the game,” Jackson said. “We’ve done a lot of scrimmage situations to try to simulate playing, and we try to make sure that our practices are game-like to make sure we don’t lose that edge.”

For his part, senior captain Joe Lavin doesn’t think the Irish will have trouble.

“We shouldn’t be flat, we had a week off,” he said. “It was good for us. We had some fun, we got to loosen up a little bit, but we worked extra hard in practice.”

Senior forward Calle Ridderwall thinks taking some time off was good for him and his teammates.

“Being able to get an extra week’s rest was great,” he said. “Guys have been working hard for a long period of time, so getting that weekend off is important especially coming into the playoffs.”

Ridderwall thinks early aggressiveness will be key for the Irish.

“We need to play smart,” he said. “We need to come out early on and feel that we’ve still got it. A couple hits early wouldn’t hurt — being aggressive early would be huge.”

Notre Dame traveled to Bowling Green (8-19-3, 3-16-3-1) in November and was disappointed to split a pair of games.

“It was a little bit early in the season,” Lavin said. “We just have to keep to our game plan. We’re working hard — as long as we do that and have fun, we should be fine.”

Jackson said the primary focus of the weekend will be to keep pace in the CCHA race.

“It’s not a matter of revenge,” he said. “We just have to play well. There’s a lot at stake as we move through the last three weeks of the season.”

The Falcons will test the Irish with their speed.

“They’re a very hardworking team [and they create] a lot of puck pressure,” Jackson said. “They’ve given a lot of people problems this year, and they haven’t gotten rewarded for it.”

Lavin says he and his fellow defensemen will be the key to picking up six points in the conference race this weekend.

“We just need to play good defense,” he said. “When we play good defense, we translate that to good offense.”

Ridderwall will make his full return from a lower body injury after he saw limited time in the Miami series. In addition, sophomore goaltender Mike Johnson will split time with freshman goaltender Steven Summerhays. Jackson had not made a decision on his starter as of Thursday night.

Despite the Falcons’ struggles, Ridderwall expects a fast, physical series.

“I can only imagine they’re going to be hungry and want to go out there and prove themselves every game,” he said.

“They’re going to be fast, they’re going to come at us. I think it’s going to be pretty quick. I’m very excited.”

The Irish host Bowling Green at 7:35 p.m. Friday night in the Joyce Center and return to that same venue at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night.