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Hockey: Notre Dame faces familiar foe

Sam Gans | Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Oct. 23, 2010, Notre Dame met top-ranked and defending national champion Boston College at the Joyce Center. With a roster featuring 12 freshmen, the No. 17 Irish had more questions than answers about their future. But when the Irish ended the Eagles’ 16-game unbeaten streak with a 2-1 win, they realized very quickly the potential they had.

“When we look back last year, when we played Boston College, that was sort of our turning point as a team,” Irish junior center Riley Sheahan said. “That’s where we came together.”

Coming off a Frozen Four appearance last season, the expectations will be a bit different when No. 4 Notre Dame (8-2-2, 6-1-2-0 CCHA) faces No. 3 Boston College (9-3-0, 7-2-0 Hockey East) tonight at the Compton Family Ice Arena. The Irish enter the matchup riding a three-game win streak and eight-game unbeaten streak after defeating No. 10 Western Michigan 3-2 on Tuesday.

“Everything is coming together,” Sheahan said. “We’re still not at our peak yet and that’s almost a good thing to know, that we have spots of improvement. We have a great group of guys and everything in the locker room. It’s always a fun time.”

The Irish look to continue generating that enthusiasm on the ice in front of an already sold-out crowd against the reeling Eagles. Boston College is coming off a 5-0 shellacking at the hands of crosstown rival Boston University on Sunday. Despite the loss, Irish coach Jeff Jackson expects the Eagles will be ready.

“[Boston College is] a very good hockey team and they’re going to come in here angry after their game Sunday against [Boston University],” Jackson said. “We have to be prepared for that, too.”

Jerry York, who has the most wins among all active college hockey coaches, directs the Eagles. Boston College features first team all-Hockey East junior defenseman Brian Dumoulin and senior captain and defenseman Tommy Cross.

Despite losing four of their top five scorers from last season, the Eagles currently have six players who have 10 points or more through 12 games, including junior forward Chris Kreider, who leads the team with eight goals and 16 points.

“[Boston College is] very skilled, very talented,” Jackson said. “They have talent on the back end, they have talent up front. They’re explosive. They have one of the best lines in college hockey. They’re just a very fast and skilled hockey team. They do a great job of recruiting to their strengths ⎯ speed and skill. That’s not a bad strength to have.”

Jackson has not yet announced who will start for the Irish in net. After sophomore goaltender Steven Summerhays came in to relieve junior Mike Johnson against Alaska last weekend and led the Irish to a sweep, Jackson put Johnson back in for the win over the Broncos on Tuesday. Jackson indicated he will need to evaluate game tape and performance in practice this week to decide.

Along with the natural excitement a matchup between two top-five teams generates, there will be additional attention at the Compton Family Ice Arena tonight as the building receives its official dedication.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” Johnson said. “The dedication game is going to be really exciting for us to finally meet all the donors and the people that made this place possible. So it’s going to be a really exciting weekend, and I think the game’s going to be exciting as well.”

The Irish and Eagles face off tonight at 7:35 p.m. at the Compton Family Ice Arena.